Scott Brown, conservative Republican of Massachusetts, known to his supporters as the superhero, Naked Man, trounced a lackluster, decidedly unheroic Attorney General Martha Coakley to win a seat in the United States Senate, a crippled institution of little apparent value to the people of the United States.
Brown’s win was not what the Democrats expected or wanted, but they stuck themselves with it.
The Lion gives credit to the Republican campaign machine, which ran a moneyed, skilled campaign to elect another mediocre candidate to join their stable of mediocrities and nutcases already in Congress.
Now the nation is being inundated by pundits and politicians all spinning Brown’s win in ways that push their own agenda. The Republicans, led by the ever more senile Senator Mitch McConnell, proclaim that the voters elected Brown to send a message that the Democrats and the Obama administration should stop everything they’re doing and let the country sink back into the morass that the Great Republican George W. Bush-Cheney led the United States. Stop everything except the wars, and let’s have more useless wars to match the useless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: that’s the Republican spin.
The Democratic spin? Some are running for the hills, crying, “Apocalypse, apocalypse, Armageddon. I’m a conservative, I’m a conservative, we were wrong, we were wrong.” They belong to the Clown Dog wing of the Democratic Party.
Others are saying they’ll just work around the whole filibuster thing. But, as the Prime Prophet Jon Stewart noted, they’ve got an eighteen vote majority in the Senate, so how could they possibly accomplish anything.
Others are saying, “It’s not our fault the voters in Massachusetts are crazy. Just a blip. Just a glitch. No problem.”
Still others who have some tenuous grasp on reality are thinking that maybe they need to tweak the policies they’ve been pushing and that will make everything okay. Or that they need to get out there and really ‘sell’ health care reform.
Democrats, as usual, missed the blaring headline. Once again they failed to understand the emotional content of politics, the power of symbols, the power of simplicity. After all, the electorate is not really very smart. They don’t study policies. They don’t dig into facts and figures. How could they? They’ve resented every tax dollar that went into schools and schooling, and the result is basically an electorate with the mind of a three-year-old child.
But they do get the emotional thing, they do get the symbol thing.
It goes like this:
After eight years of an incompetent Republican regime that brought the terrorist attacks of 9/11 down on us by ignoring intelligence; that brought an unfunded educational mandate down on the states, a mandate that ensured a further dumbing down of students; that brought two unnecessary and useless wars, at least one of which was illegal, and both of which funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into war-profiteering corporations friendly to Bush and Cheney; that told the wealthiest people in America that they pretty much didn’t have to pay taxes anymore; that borrowed so much money that creditors could reduce the United States to an entity poorer than Haiti; that put hacks and losers in charge of key government agencies and then claimed that government could do nothing right; that tortured and murdered prisoners of war and cooked up justifications in a Justice Department that they had already corrupted; that violated the wiretap law thousands of times by listening in on Americans’ communications without even seeking warrants; after all that along came Barack Obama, an intelligent black man, a skilled orator, an accomplished politician, a leader who promised ‘Change’ in Washington.
Naturally people thought all the talk about change meant that Obama would actually change the foul and corrupt culture and practices the Republicans had brought to Washington, and the people were mightily relieved at the thought, so they voted for him.
And then he betrayed them.
He said the torturers, the despicable Americans who tortured and murdered prisoners, should not be brought to justice; instead the nation should look forward, not backwards. In effect he said that America tortures and murders and that that’s okay. That was a betrayal of the common decency of Americans, and it was a betrayal of American law and the American Constitution.
Obama promised health care reform, and immediately took health care reform off the table and replaced it with health insurance company support programs. He cozied up to the insurance industry and the drug industry, two of the most despised industries in the country. He told the American people that he would force them to buy health insurance from the same despicable firms that had been robbing the people blind for decades, indeed, had been killing many of them in order to increase profits. The Great Democrat, the black man, the first black President of the United States, the symbol of freedom and accomplishment, the symbol of the success of Martin Luther King’s long struggle, now proposed to enslave all Americans to a rapacious, greedy, cruel set of masters, the insurance companies. That was betrayal on a profound level.
Then there was the economic disaster the Republicans handed Obama. Hundreds of thousands of jobs lost every month. Credit frozen, banks failing, major investment banks on the verge of collapse. The Bush Republicans, a demonstrably venal and incompetent lot to begin with, decided to hand the Treasury over to the big Wall Street companies that had brought this disaster down on the country, indeed, on the world. The people in charge were Wall Streeters and their minions. It was all very chummy and the people were getting screwed again.
Obama, sensing the urgency of the catastrophe, got all the best minds he could around him to advise him on solutions. All Wall Streeters and their minions. Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were handed over to the greedy barons of Wall Street in order to save their bacon and their companies (which, by the way, created nothing, manufactured nothing, produced nothing, contributed nothing to the country), and the barons of Wall Street proceeded to hand themselves handsome bonuses, some even bigger than before the catastrophe, with taxpayer money. And Obama saw that it was good. Meanwhile, the people on Main Street got lip service and lost their homes and their jobs. And the people saw that it was a betrayal.
And even more galling, even a more profound betrayal, Obama turned to the Republicans, expecting a bipartisan effort to heal the country’s ills. No matter that the Republicans bluntly and openly said they would not help, that they would fight him all the way, that they hoped he would fail and fail big; no matter that some of them simply lied and pretended to be interested in helping, when their real goal was to delay and undermine; no matter that the Republicans were still wedded to the destructive policies of the Bush administration. No matter how many times they slapped Obama in the face, he went back for more. That was one more betrayal, perhaps the deepest cut of all, against the people who fought so hard to elect him to the Presidency.
Now anyone can come along and quibble with the facts in these narratives, but to do so misses the point. The electorate doesn’t much care about the facts. The voters generally aren’t smart enough, aren’t informed enough, don’t care enough to get informed enough to make informed decisions. But they do get the emotional symbolism of these narratives, whereas the Democratic leaders do not.
The voters see the Democrats selling them out to the corporations, to the bankers, to the rich people who have gotten a free ride on the backs of the working classes. The voters see their tax dollars going into the pockets of wealthy financiers, into corporate coffers from which those dollars will flow back to the politicians who will vote to crush the working classes, drive them into bankruptcy, take their homes, destroy their jobs, all to satisfy the rich people who give money to politicians.
That’s the Obama’s America the voters see. That’s the America they voted against yesterday in Massachusetts by sending a mediocre man of limited intellect who promised nothing more than to drag them back into the Bush years of corporate favoritism, torture and murder, spiraling debt, and provide nothing for their tax dollars but war and more war, fear and more fear. All the voters heard was “I’ll cut taxes” and “I drive a pickup truck.”
It’s not Alice in Wonderland irrationality that prevails in American politics. It’s Alice in the Asylum madness. And the Democrats don’t get it.