(Bill Pascoe) – [Editor’s Note: This column was written BEFORE the results of yesterday’s U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts were known] Yes, the voting’s still in progress.
But from here it looks as though Republican Scott Brown’s on his way to a smashing victory in today’s Massachusetts Senate special election — and it’s not, as many would have you believe, simply the result of a poorly run campaign by his opponent.
Nor is it merely the latest manifestation of the smoldering anti-Washington resentment that’s already shown itself in Virginia and New Jersey.
It’s not even attributable primarily to a rejection of the national Democratic Party leadership’s shenanigans as it attempts to reform the nation’s health care system.
These are all important parts of the climate that make up Brown’s perfect storm, but none of them would have made any difference without the key ingredient — the selection of Martha Coakley as the Democrats’ nominee.
Brown’s victory over Coakley will be an affirmation of an axiom propounded most cogently and compellingly by Michael Barone in his decades as one of the nation’s foremost political analysts and historians — that, ultimately, America’s political wars are not about the economy, they’re about the culture.
Begin with the fundamental point that’s been totally overlooked in virtually all the discussion about the race: Massachusetts is not primarily a liberal state … it is a Democratic state.
There’s a huge difference between the two.
In Massachusetts, while it may — may — be true that the majority of liberals are Democrats (traditionally, Massachusetts Republicans have been more progressive than Massachusetts Democrats — think Ed Brooke, or William Weld, or even Mitt Romney ca. 1994) — it is definitely true that the majority of Massachusetts Democrats are not liberals.
The difference can perhaps best be demonstrated by this clip from “Good Will Hunting.” Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are Democrats; the pony-tailed Harvard undergrad is a liberal.
Or look at it this way: There are two kinds of Democrats in Massachusetts — there’s the Mike Dukakis Democrat, and the Tip O’Neill Democrat.
The former is upper crust, elite, intellectual, thinks Sunday was made for watching talking heads on TV, and would think holding the Ryder Cup at The Country Club would be proof that he’s died and gone to Heaven, if he believed in Heaven; the latter is blue collar, ethnic, Catholic, thinks Sunday was made for worship, and is scared to try to transfer his old VHS tape of the “Hail Flutie” to DVD, for fear that that new-fangled technology might end up just eating his only tangible memento of the greatest game in Boston sports history.
The former believes politics is a noble calling, an American manifestation of noblesse oblige; the latter believes politics is about potholes, and schools, and social services.
The former believes politics is about policy; the latter is convinced it’s about people.
The former is worldly; the latter is parochial.
The former ordered Boston in 1974 to bus black children to schools in all-white neighborhoods in order to enforce the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education; the latter formed Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR) and offered the nation’s strongest resistance to busing.
The former voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Massachusetts presidential primary; the latter voted for Hillary Clinton. (Clinton, by the way, won — 56-41 percent — despite Obama’s having been endorsed by Sen. Edward Kennedy.)
Martha Coakley is a married woman who chose not to take her husband’s name. To a certain and significant element of the Democratic base in Massachusetts, that is odd, and is culturally out of step.
She was born in Pittsfield, and grew up in North Adams, both in western Massachusetts, which, for a candidate running for statewide office, is not the right place of origin: The last senator to hail from the region was Frederick Gillett, elected in 1924. (The last Massachusetts governor to hail from western Massachusetts was Foster Furcolo, elected in 1956.)
She seems to think working the crowd at a Boston Bruins ice hockey game is a waste of her time, and anyone who would suggest it wasn’t must have rocks in his head. She seems to have no idea who Curt Schilling is, and one can only wonder if she recognizes the name “Doug Flutie.”
She suggested to a radio interviewer that while of course emergency room workers enjoy freedom of religion, if they’re really opposed to abortion, perhaps they shouldn’t be working in emergency rooms — in a state with eight Catholic hospitals, 16 Catholic nursing facilities, and another 19 Catholic-sponsored health organizations (hospice, home health care organizations, etc.), with an untold number of nuns who work as nurses.
She is as culturally out of step with Massachusetts Democrats as would be a Rockefeller at a Louisiana Fish Fry.
Keep that in mind tonight when you watch the bloviators “explain” that it’s all about her rotten campaign, or health care, or even a rejection of Obama. This one was baked in the cake the night Coakley won the primary
(Mr. Pascoe is a GOP strategist and former press secretary for the Republican National Committee)