This week the President and the Democratic leadership were handed a huge blow in Massachusetts with the seat once held by Senator Kennedy, who passed away in August, now going to Scott Brown, the former Cosmopolitan “sexy man.”
I think that the Democrats took it for granted that Senator Kennedy was holding this seat warm for them from his grave for the past four months and made a serious miscalculation. Furthermore, the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley left a lot to be desired as a campaigner. She seemed to have an “entitlement mentality” that this seat would just magically become hers after she had won the primary. Nobody likes an “entitlement” mentality. Jerome Karabel, in a piece for the Huffington Post, listed 4 big Coakley offenses:
“1. exuded overconfidence and more than a whiff of entitlement from the moment she won the Democratic primary of December
2. went on a vacation after the primary while her opponent was criss-crossing the state in a pick-up truck
3. did not appear in public a single time during the entire period between December 23 and December 30
4. when asked by a Boston Globe reporter about suggestions that she was being too passive, Coakley bristled, saying “As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?” in an apparent reference to an online video of Scott Brown doing just that.”
Contrast the Coakley approach with Kennedy style campaigning, which is highly energetic and full of meet and greets and other appearances. Coakley had the perfect model for how to engage with the public in the man whose term she sought to finish, but she did not rise to the occasion.
The loss of this seat does represent a warning for Democrats and to a certain extent for Latinos who hinged their hopes on health care and immigration reform. Pretty much everyone can agree that Senator Kennedy was a big advocate for both of those issues, and now that he’s gone and Scott Brown is in his place, we have an opportunity to forge a new relationship and/or re-group. So far Scott Brown has indicated the following from his campaign website regarding immigration and health care:
“I recognize that our strength as a nation is built on the immigrant experience in America. I welcome legal immigration to this country. However, we are also a nation of laws and government should not adopt policies that encourage illegal immigration. Providing driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrant families will act as a magnet in drawing more people here in violation of the law and it will impose new costs on taxpayers. I oppose amnesty, and I believe we ought to strengthen our border enforcement and institute an employment verification system with penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants.”
“I believe that all Americans deserve health care coverage, but I am opposed to the health care legislation that is under consideration in Congress and will vote against it. It will raise taxes, increase government spending and lower the quality of care, especially for elders on Medicare. I support strengthening the existing private market system with policies that will drive down costs and make it easier for people to purchase affordable insurance. In Massachusetts, I support the 2006 healthcare law that was successful in expanding coverage, but I also recognize that the state must now turn its attention to controlling costs.”
As for immigration, it doesn’t sound like Brown will even be supportive of the DREAM Act, which is something that many people hoped we would see for undocumented youth. He basically espouses the tough on immigration line without considering the relative benefit to the economy that immigrants have been proven to bring.
And on health care, it appears that Brown is for “more of the same” without articulating which private market policies will help bring down costs. I’m among the many who have been absolutely shocked that health care costs have risen as they have, while the options and services have been cut or whittled away in recent years. I have also noticed pharmaceutical companies increase their profits, merge, and advertise incessantly on TV. A recent poll shows that Latinos have expressed “massive support” for health care reform.
Given the relationship that our community had with Senator Kennedy, I think that it will be more difficult to warm up to Scott Brown, but it certainly is worth continuing to lobby him on the issues we care about.
Worth noting, Angelo Falcon wrote a piece, Latinos and the Political Earthquake in Massachusetts, for New America Media this week. I would recommend reading it, especially the last paragraph, where he asks some rhetorical questions. Frankly, I think that Latinos everywhere are going to have to be more politically engaged and tuned into the issues so that we can leverage beyond the two party system as Falcon questions. Additionally, we are going to have to try to bring those who don’t care about elections or what happens in places like Massachusetts into the fold and explain to them why these special elections matter.