Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2014 Election Reflections

So, after spending last night (and early this morning) watching the results of the mid-term elections, I offer the following reflections.

The Obama Referendum

America elected a Republican majority to the Senate after providing generally unfavorable ratings of Obama.  The only explanation I can offer is that people don't like him as a person, because the facts tell a different story.  Let me quote Bill Maher in his pre-election review of Obama's record:
  • 63 straight months of economic expansion.
  • A depression averted.
  • The deficit reduced by two thirds.
  • A healthcare law that's working and lowering costs.
  • Two women on the Supreme Court.
  • Bin Laden's dead.
  • The stock market is at record heights.
  • An unemployment rate that dropped from 10.2% to 5.9%.
  • Gas prices are down.
In a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote, "Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history."  In explaining this view, Krugman wrote about Obama, "His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy."

Following that article, political commentator John Avlon, who describes himself as a "centrist," said, "The standard of executive leadership is, are things better when someone leaves office than when they entered? And as of today, the country is in objectively better shape than it was when President Obama took the oath of office--in terms of jobs, in terms of the deficit, in terms of issues like the environment, even working with the Republican Congress. And issues like gay rights, a gay civil rights movement where the country is much more united than we were in the past on this issue."

So I ask, what's going on with American voters?  Maybe the recent Republican policy of obstruction, to which Krugman referred, has somehow tarnished Obama's legacy.  Now that Republicans control the Senate, we can look forward to two more years of partisan gridlock, and voters have only themselves to blame.

In Massachusetts

A lot happened yesterday with regard to the races in Massachusetts.  I offer these reflections:
  • Martha Coakley is an excellent Attorney General.  She represents the state well in court, is strong on environmental issues, and her successful challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act was outstanding.  Unfortunately, she is an ineffective candidate; people just don't like her, and they don't vote for her, as has been evidenced by her loss to Scott Brown in the US Senate race and last night's slim loss to Charlie Baker for Mass. Governor.  This is in a state that has no other Republicans in statewide offices or in the congressional delegation.  She should have followed the lead of the late Boston mayor, Tom Menino, who found a job he did well and stayed in it for 20 years.  Voters' negative impressions of Coakley will forever be cemented by her refusal to concede last night, saying she would wait "until all the votes are counted," while leaving Baker to chivalrously defend her in front of his own supporters and a dwindling TV audience.  Let's hope that Ms. Coakley stops running for office and leaves that task to people with better chances of winning.
  • Coakley's protégé and soon-to-be successor, Maura Healy, is another story altogether.  Entering the September primary with only a slim chance of defeating Democratic stalwart Warren Tolman, she took that race by storm and continued on to her win last night, after having dispatched her entire staff to help the Coakley campaign.  I first met Ms. Healy through Gavin, and I was campaigning with her on my birthday.  Although we'd only met twice before, she went out of her way to wish me "Happy Birthday," and take a picture with me that she later posted on her web site.  Healy is a class act who will likely go on to achieve greatness.
  • Another class act is Richard Tisei.  A Republican who was narrowly defeated two years ago by incumbent sleazebag John Tierney, Tisei was on track to clearly defeat Tierney this time, until newcomer Seth Moulton won the Democratic primary instead.  What ensued was a strange election that could only happen in Massachusetts--a gay, liberal Republican running against a former Marine Corps officer Democrat.  They ran what may have been the cleanest race in America, and it's likely that the main reason Tisei lost was the "R" next to his name.  In his concession speech, Tisei pledged his support to Moulton, saying, "Seth has served his country very admirably and very honorably in the military, and I’m sure he’s going to do the same as the next Congressman from this district.” Referring to the problems that face America, Tisei continued, "It’s important for both Democrats and Republicans to get together in Washington to try to solve those problems.”  Like I said, a class act.

And In New Hampshire

New Hampshire is our conservative Northern neighbor, which I have occasionally referred to politically as "the Arkansas of New England."  However, that impression is rapidly changing as the Granite State last night re-elected two Democratic women to statewide office--Senator Jean Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan--despite the Republican onslaughts elsewhere.

The more interesting race was the one between Shaheen and former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.  Brown, as you recall, was the first person who proved that voters don't like Martha Coakley when he defeated her in a run-off election for the Senate seat that had long been held by Ted Kennedy.  After losing that seat two years ago to Elizabeth Warren, Brown moved to New Hampshire to run for Senate again in what he surmised was a more Republican-friendly state.  But like Kennedy, Shaheen, the former governor, had built her long career on the basis of constituent service, while she successfully and correctly painted Brown as a carpetbagger.  As Tip O'Neil used to say, "All politics is local."

Final Reflections

I'd like to conclude with some final notes of interest:
  • Massachusetts has a Republican governor while New Hampshire retains its Democratic senator and governor.  Go figure.
  • Between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, at least seven statewide officeholders are women, and women made huge gains across the country in both parties.  I can only think back to 1972, when I first met Gloria Steinem, and we mused aloud about that eventuality.
  • Congratulations go to Sean Garbally, who won re-election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a 3-to-1 margin last night.  Sean and Gavin were close friends and fellow black belts at Rocky DiRico's karate school in the 90s.  He was always a nice young man, and it's good to see him succeed.
  • In 27 years, if you're still alive (I doubt I'll be), take note that I wrote today that Barack Obama will be remembered as one of America's best presidents.  He accomplished a great deal (see above) while facing a contradictory congress, and avoiding any serious, personal scandals.  And he did it all while being the first person of color to hold the office.  I wonder if Malia and Natasha Obama will be officeholders by then.

1 comment:

  1. If only the Dems had run on Pres. Obama's record rather than running away from it. He achieved some great things but you wouldn't think that listening to the Dem rhetoric. Such a shame.