By reading news accounts on Massachusetts voters electing Republican Scott Brown to the Senate, it appears as if the world has just experienced a tectonic shift. In fact, theday.com labeled the victory as such. But even mainstream news outlets couldn't resist the Level 11 News Alert. For them, Brown's victory was a seminal news-making event: equal to the ending of World War II and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Newspaper headlines were certainly grave: "GOP Victory Upends Senate," screamed the Wall Street Journal. In the New York Post, Charles Hurt (we get it) wrote a column, "Bam, wake up & smell the disaster," (really classy headline, Charles, considering what's going on in Haiti).
CNN, MSNBC, and Fox (of course) were playing along as well. The morning shows treated the election as perhaps the biggest news story since... well... since Barack Obama won the presidency. No, sorry. For them, it was BIGGER.
Time for a rundown of myth versus reality.
Myth: The election of Scott Brown proves the power of the Tea Bag Movement. An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor blared "Scott Brown: the tea party's first electoral victory." Reality: The tea baggers, who boast their movement is directionless and rudderless, had absolutely no effect in the Massachusetts Senate race. In fact, if anything, their antics likely turned off Republican voters and could have given Martha Coakley a few more votes than expected.
Myth: The Democratic Party has lost its way with voters. Reality: Let's see, by last count there are 57 Democratic Senators, one Reliable Independent (Bernie Sanders), one Total Asshole (Joe Lieberman), and now, with the election of Brown, 41 Republicans. Come November more Republicans, six, are stepping down or retiring than Democrats. No matter how hard Republicans try to spin it, they have zero chance of winning back the House or Senate (even loose cannon Michael Steel, RNC chairman, admits as much). The Democratic Party, while clearly in need of a shakeup, is still firmly in control of the legislative agenda.
Myth: Due to Brown's victory, it'll be almost impossible for Democrats to pass legislation in the Senate. Reality: See "Total Asshole" above. Joe "I'm as Needy as Kim Jong-il" Lieberman has been veering hard right for the last few years, and as we all know campaigned vigorously against Obama. To assume Lieberman will vote lock step with Democrats is nonsense. He openly loathes the Democratic Party, and flirts with becoming a Republican. Thus, Brown's victory doesn't move the needle. The Democrats barely got 60 votes on the health care bill; even had the Democratic candidate won last night in Massachusetts, reaching 60 votes with Connecticut's Senator Numnuts was pretty much impossible.
Myth: The stock market would rise on the election of Scott Brown. Investors would be cheering that the health care bill is dead! Fact: The Dow, S&P, and the NASDAQ all dropped over 1 percent the day after Brown's victory, their worst one-day decline in month. And the financial markets continue to tank.
Myth: Brown's victory is proof that Democratic Party domination in Massachusetts is over. Reality: Scott Brown is a conservative. He's opposed to health care reform; he's positively James Inhofe-like in his dismissal of man-made global warming. Let's not forget that Brown is up for reelection in 2012. And assuming that Obama turns the economy around (which is likely), Brown is going to have an awfully hard time running as a Mitch McConnell conservative in a liberal state. Either Brown does a one-eighty and awakens his inner liberal or he loses.
Also, let's not give Martha Coakley a pass. She was a dreadful candidate: Almost a Democratic, female version of John McCain, oozing boredom and status quo. She assumed the seat would be handed to her with little or no campaigning needed. In a "blue" state, shouldn't it have been possible to come up with a dynamic Democratic candidate? Brown's victory is due mostly in part to Coakley's incompetence (see the Fells Acres Day Care Center case that she badly handled as a prosecutor).
Myth: The Republican Party is back (baby)! Reality: Again, the Republicans nominated a candidate whose platform was "no, no, no." Brown has no ideas and no serious plans for fixing the economy—other than tax cuts for the rich. (And we all remember how well that worked under George W. Bush.) His victory only further proves the Republican Party is shiftless and bereft of ideas.
Myth: The election is a referendum on President Obama and proves he's unpopular. Reality: Rasmussen has Obama's favorable rate in Massachusetts at 57 percent. Nationally, Obama's favorables hover north of 50 percent—amazing considering the flaming economic turd pie handed him by George W. Bush.
Are voters angry? Yes, that's not in dispute. To whom should their anger be directed? Paul Krugman has it right when he argues the Obama administration has been far too timid in explaining how we got in this economic mess in the first place. Blame lays squarely at the feet of George W. Bush; Obama is simply trying to dig us out.
Apparently, the vast electorate demands instant action from Obama: By now, they argue, the economy should be humming along and the eight years of economic misery should be but a memory. People who think that shouldn't be allowed to vote. Grow up, douchebags voters.
In 1980 when the country was facing a punishing economic climate, Ronald Reagan verbally pummeled Jimmy Carter. And guess what? The American people bought it. Why can't Obama do them same and insulate himself and his administration from the brunt of the criticism? The Blame Game is one to be played, not shunned.
Yawn... So Scott Brown won in Massachusetts. Come November, when the Democrats retain control of Congress, I don't suspect many people will give a hoot.