The 'White Obama': A Massachusetts Senate Election Primer

Scott Brown, Republican candidate for Senate from Massachusetts, has conservatives in absolute rapture. The phrase "white Obama" has been introduced. Hell, if he wins today, Brown just might be the GOP candidate for President in 2012.

Brown's opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, sort of pissed this one away, but honestly, most of the factors that could end up leading to a Brown victory were outside her control. (Like: Ted Kennedy died.)

And this Brown guy, he is getting people so excited!

For Republicans in Massachusetts, the comparison between the Brown campaign and the election of the first African-American president isn't so strange. In conversations with TWI, some echoed the terms that African-Americans used to describe Barack Obama after his victory in the Iowa caucuses. They never thought the day would come. They're nervous about how the other team could still take it away. Some Brown supporters re-appropriated Obama's slogans in their signs, writing "Scott Brown: Change We Can Afford" or even "Change We Can Believe In." (There were some less kind signs, such as "Kick Martha in Her Left-Wing Mass" and "Beat Martha and the Dementedcrats.")

So. Because a vague-but-charming political natural ran an "insurgent" campaign against a mistake-prone attorney general who neglected to actually campaign (and, frankly, it was worse when she did campaign), we won't get any health care (or financial regulation or cap-and-trade or immigration reform or etc. etc.), because that is how the Founding Fathers wanted things to work.

And you know what? What is worrying, if you happen to be liberally inclined, is that the morons basically did figure out how to win this one: Brown didn't run as a white resentment-fueled paranoid teabagger. The white populist rage-addict paranoid teabaggers make up his base, and they raised all his money, and they turned out for all his rallies, but Brown did not sound like Those Nuts when the cameras were on. He didn't even actually run as a Conservative. He ran as, literally, a Kennedy, maybe the next John Kennedy, who was also sick of those Kennedys thinking the Kennedy seat was the Kennedy seat. (Whatever, coherency is not actually a virtue in any political campaign.)

The whole point of the slow, miserable collapse of the GOP into warring factions looking to expel various traitors from the tent was supposed to be that they wouldn't fully capitalize on this perfect once-in-a-decade confluence of pro-opposition party factors. 'Cause, you know, they would run a whole bunch of Jim DeMints and Michele Bachmanns in Purple Districts, scaring grandma and anyone else who isn't convinced Obama is going to arm Haitian refugees and train them in disarming and enslaving White Folks.

But no, the Teabaggers repressed their natural instincts to support the craziest available candidate, and instead settled on a tall, handsome naked guy who is able to stand on a truck and say pleasant things.

Here are some other things that happened!

  • Coakley allowed herself to be "defined" as a lazy, gaffe-prone "machine candidate" who thought she'd waltz into the seat without a fight. Which, to be fair, she did make a lot of "gaffes" and she also was perfectly justified in thinking she'd waltz into the seat without a fight. But once that narrative gets going, there is not much you can do to stop it. Because similarly idiotic things said and done by your opponent just don't register, and because the national media smells blood and shows up to pick up on all the local stories about this train-wreck.
  • Once that happened, the race ceased to have anything to do with policy. Which helps a guy who's very quietly running way to the right of most Massachusetts residents.
  • Brown did a good job of hiding the crazies.
  • Sigh. Anyone heard from Organizing for America, the Obama campaign juggernaut that consumed the DNC last year? Maybe they are getting out the vote, right now! They did ask for some money! (Oh, look, they did finally start in on that email list.)
  • The fact that Democrats control all of Massachusetts is actually a negative for Coakley, not a positive. And it is also not so much of a shock that a Republican could win a state-wide election in Massachusetts, in any year. The other senate seat belonged to Republicans up until 1978. The state gave us Mitt Romney. State parties in one-party states tend to produce shitty machine candidates who end up losing high-profile elections to someone with a pulse. (As New Yorkers and Californians know all too well.)
  • Democrats attempted to rouse support late by inducing panic (that is why you saw a terrible "internal poll" leak out from the Coakley campaign), but that depresses turnout just as often as it energizes the base.

Of course, the Democrats have a voter turnout machine in place, and the Republicans are relying on out-of-state phone banks and literal paid temps, so it is not actually over yet. In fact, Zogby predicts a Coakley win. And if Zogby predicts it, she's screwed. We hope you enjoyed all four magical months of your supermajority, Democrats! You certainly took advantage of it.