“Get off your butts,” implored Boston Democrat Mayor “Mumbles” Menino. Thus spake the inarticulate mayor at the desperate rally featuring Barack Obama last Sunday before the special Senate election in Massachusetts. Mumbles was savvy enough to recognize that the Democratic base in Massachusetts, the only state to vote for George McGovern, was deeply disappointed in Obama and the Democrats.
Why did I vote for Republican Scott Brown? It took some persuasion. In the end it was my Democratic Party friends and activists who convinced me. Let me explain. It was clear that the special Senate election in Massachusetts was a referendum on Obama and the Democrats who control the entire federal government – Congress and the Presidency.
I must admit that my first instinct was to vote for a third Party candidate, a Libertarian. (There was no Green or other independent in this race.) After all, the Libertarian, a guy named Kennedy, agreed with me on opposition to wars and empire and in support of civil liberties. In contrast I knew damned well that when push came to shove the Republicrat candidates would be on the other side on all these issues – no matter what they said now in the heat of the campaign and desperate for votes. And of course all three candidates were against single-payer health care, a passion of this writer for twenty some years. So my first instinct was to vote for the Libertarian and get someone who agreed with me 70 per cent of the time versus 0 per cent
Would I not risk the failure of the Obama health care bill if the Democrat did not win? But I do not want the Obama health care bill to succeed. It is little other than a formula for permanently handing our entire health care system over to the sector of finance capital known as the insurance industry, for taxing decent health care plans and for putting off to the indefinite future comprehensive, egalitarian, universal health care. Dr. Marcia Angel, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and long-time crusader for single-payer, has taken the position that it would be far better to have no new law than the Obamanation known as the Democrat Party “health care reform.” I agree with her on that, and so do many of my colleagues in Physicians for a National Health Program, although that is not our official position. So on the issue of health care, it made little difference which candidate I would vote for.
But why then not stick with the Libertarian? Why vote Republican? This is where my Democrat Party friends came in. Whenever I went to vote for Nader or a Green, they would explain that I was wasting my vote on a third Party candidate. Was I not doing the same here by voting Libertarian? Suddenly I realized that the Democrats were right. If I wanted to protest the lies of the Obmacrats and “send a message” to the Democrat Party elite, I should not waste my vote on the Libertarian. And so they convinced me to vote Republican. And so Scott Brown, the Republican, won in Massachusetts with my vote and that of many others pissed off at the betrayal of the Democrats.
Of course the Democratic operatives are now blaming the disconsolate and bewildered loser, Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley, for running a “poor campaign.” But in what did the poverty of her effort consist? She merely assumed that the Democratic voters and the independents here in Mass who are by and large a pretty progressive lot had nowhere else to go. They had to vote for her, and so she did not need to campaign very hard after the primary. The Democrats were mightily surprised on this score. She is not to blame, but the Democrat Party assumption that they can take progressives for granted is very much to blame for this humiliating defeat.
I began to understand that something was afoot in this campaign when I noticed many folks out in the traffic circles and on street corners in Central Massachusetts, in and about Worcester, holding signs for Brown, even in the snow and sleet. There was no such enthusiasm for Coakley – not a single sign holder did I see. Now let me explain the demographics a bit. Central Mass is blue collar country, suffering deeply from the unemployment of the current recession. It is not clueless about bailouts for the banksters but no job creation for the hoy polloi the policy of Bush/Obama. And it was Central Mass that delivered a very big margin for Republican Brown who posed as a populist and captured their vote.
I vote not in central Massachusetts but in overwhelmingly and conventionally liberal Cambridge, but even there little enthusiasm for Democrat Coakley was evident. She had only taken a position against the Obama wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan when forced to do so by a primary opponent. There were no signs for Coakley at my polling place very close to Harvard Square. The peace constituency of Cambridge, in the words of the venerable “Mumbles” Menino, was voting with its butt which remained quite inert.
After voting Republican with some satisfaction at having not wasted my protest vote, I told a young student coming out of the polling place with me that I was so angry with the Democrats and Obama that I had voted Republican, remaining a bit unsure whether I should have gone the Libertarian route. He said that he felt the same way but voted Democrat anyway. He confessed that he was now having voter’s remorse.
So Massachusetts has delivered a warning to the Democrat Party. Do not take the peace vote or the jobless vote for granted. We want peace and we want jobs and we want decent affordable health care. If you do not deliver, we will go elsewhere. We will not vote for you. We will vote the other Party in protest. Or we will stay home and vote with our butts.
JOHN V. WALSH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org