A richly deserved humiliation

by Alexander Cockburn

Republican Scott Brown takes over a seat held by theKennedy family for over half a century and the dark cloudalready hovering over Obama’s White House thickens. By anymeasure, the energetic Brown’s emphatic defeat of MarthaCoakley, believed only a month ago to be a sure thing as TedKennedy’s replacement, is a disaster for the Democratic Partyand for President Obama.Coakley, a former prosecutor and attorney general ofMassachusetts, ran a dumb, complacent campaign, allowingBrown, a state senator, to charge that she seemed to believeshe had an inherent right to the seat. Coakley ladled out platitudes;Brown, pelting about the commonwealth in a manlyGMC truck, made the Democrats’ health reform bill his primeissue, a strategy that was scarcely rocket science since peopleof moderate income accurately believe that “reform” is goingto cost them money, with zero improvement in overall service.A year after his inauguration, Obama has disappointed somany constituencies that a rebuke by the voters was inevitable.Tuesday, it came in Massachusetts, often categorizedas the most liberal in the union. This is entirely untrue. It’s adisgusting sinkhole of racism and vulgar prejudice, as fi veminutes in any taxi in the state, listening to talk radio or readingthe local newspaper will attest.Brown’s achievement is not novel. His type of Republicanhas been elected governor inMassachusetts three or fourtimes in the last 18 years bythe real “majority party” —which is the “unenrolled”independents who are 1-1/2times the size of Democrats in number among registeredvoters and tower over the Republicans, of whom less than 12percent are registered as such.Steve Early, a labor organizer in the state, reminds me thatBrown is in the mold of two recent Republican governors ofMassachusetts: William Weld and Paul Cellucci, the latter actuallybeing backed by later Change to Win local affi liates likeHERE Local 26 and the Teamsters. These were genial, likeable,clean-cut jocks, presenting themselves to independentvoters as a much needed public rebuke to “an increasinglycorrupt, arrogant or personally screwed up Beacon Hill cliqueof Democrats (see recent spate of House and Senate member/leader indictments, jailings, and/or resignations pending trial).A lot of folks, at the moment, are again just plain pissed aboutthe self-serving political class of Democratic donkeys whorun our one-party state, including the now unpopular Obamapre-cursor, Deval Patrick.”Because the Democratic majority in the US senate is now reduced to 59, the common prediction is that the Democrats’ health reform bill is doomed since it takes 60 votes to override a filibuster, which the Republicans would mount to kill the bill. More likely is that the insurance companies (which dictated the basic terms of the “reform” and stand to gain millions of new customers who will be forced by law to take out health insurance) will be loath to throw away months of successful lobbying and will dictate some new “compromise” that will allow both Republicans and Democrats to claim victory. Obama will delightedly sign any insurance bill landing on his desk bearing the necessary label, “reform.”

Certainly, Coakley’s resounding defeat is grim news for Democratic politicians limbering up for the midterm elections this coming fall. The parallel is with the midterms of 1994, when voters, furious at the bumbling failures of Clinton’s first two years, handed both the Senate and the House to Republicans for the first time in decades. Obama has caused fury and disillusion across the spectrum. The nutball right bizarrely portrays him as a mutant offspring of the Prophet Mohammed and Karl Marx, demonstrating that cretinism flows more strongly than ever in Uncle Sam’s bloodstream. The Republican small-business crowd trembles at the huge deficits. The independents see no trace of the invigorating change pledged by Obama. Working people in the labor unions who supplied the foot soldiers for Obama’s campaign see no improvement in their economic condition. Everyone knows that Obama is the champion of bankers, not bankrupts. The liberals morosely list 12 months of disasters, from a wider war in Afghanistan, to major betrayals of pledges to restore constitutional restrains after eight years of abuse by Bush and Cheney.

Obama richly deserves the rebuke from Massachusetts. Armed with a nation’s fervent hopes a year ago, he spurned the unrivalled opportunity offered by economic crisis to do what he pledged: usher in substantive change. He’s done exactly the opposite. Wall Street has been given the green light to continue with business as usual. The stimulus package was far too weak. The opportunity for financial reform has passed. Trillions will be wasted in Afghanistan.

A final note on Coakley: She rose to political prominence by peculiarly vicious grandstanding as a prosecutor, winning a conviction of 19-year-old child minder Louise Woodward for shaking a baby to death. An outraged judge later freed Woodward, reducing her sentence to less than a year of time served. Then Coakley went after headlines in child abuse cases. Innocent people are still rotting in prison as a consequence of Coakley’s misuse of her office. For this alone, regardless of the setback the Democrats richly deserved, I rejoice in her humiliation.

Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St.

Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. Copyright 2010