Chris Badgers Howard
Today, Chris Matthews asked Howard Dean for his interpretation of the results in Massachusetts. Howard told him that it was because voters wanted more than they were getting from Washington and that they were angry at Washington. He also said that Coakley's defeat was due not only to Independents voting for Brown, but also to progressives who either voted for him, or decided to stay home. And he pointed out that a Democracy for America poll showed that 18% of Brown voters voted for Obama, and that 60% of these wanted a Public Option (PO). He also pointed out that of the Obama voters who stayed home, 80% favored a PO.
At this point Chris jumped on Howard. He pointed out that Coakley was a progressive candidate, to the left of Obama, and that she had supported a public option throughout her campaign and had called herself the 60th vote for health care reform; and that Brown was a right-winger and follower of Dick Cheney, who had cast himself as the 41st vote against health care reform. And then he characterized the election as the PO candidate vs. the kill the bill candidate. And said that Coakley was for the PO and for reform and she was “blown away.” The voters said no to Coakley and voted for “the kill it guy.” And then Chris asked again what the voters were saying.
Howard replied by saying that they were sending a message against Washington and its failing to deliver change, Chris asked him: “how do you know?” Howard said: We polled. We know that many voters for Brown, and many of those who stayed home were more progressive than the President. Whereupon Chris asked whether they were more progressive than Obama across the board on issues in the campaign, and Howard replied that they were angry about business as usual in Washington, too little done to reform the financial system, bailouts for Wall Street, a bad economy, and a health care “reform” bill that accommodated health care industry and Pharma interests, but did very little for people like them.
Chris then questioned Howard again on how voters who were more progressive than Obama could have voted against the PO candidate and for the kill it candidate, and he suggested that Howard must be saying that progressive voters in Massachusetts were irrational or crazy voters and that Howard's interpretation of the results was contradictory, and he asked how they could be expressing progressive values by voting for Brown.
Howard answered by repeating his thesis that the voters were sending a message to Washington and by repeating some of the evidence from the DFA poll. But Chris just wouldn't accept Howard's explanation, and, apparently remained convinced that progressive voters could not have been a major factor in Coakley's defeat. He claimed that he just couldn’t understand how Howard could contend that many progressives voted for Brown or stayed home when Coakley ran as a progressive in favor of a public option to the left of Obama.
Howard was either too slow or too polite to tell Chris that progressives might have stayed home or voted for Brown, because given Coakley’s announced support for the Senate bill with a mandate and no PO, and also because of her recent fund raiser with health care industry and Pharma lobbyists and industry people, they may have believed that she was lying about her progressive commitments.
Now it's my turn to not understand why this evidently never occurred to Chris. Does he really think that people, progressives among them, don't think that politicians lie, and that their words about what they support can't be taken at face value? Does he really think that just because Coakley claimed to be progressive and in favor of a PO that people would accept her at her word, especially in view of her support of the Senate bill which a) had no PO, and b) also violated her oft-repeated commitments to protect a woman's right to choose? Does he really think that they wouldn't view her as cut from the same cloth as Obama himself who promised a PO and then backed off it, and who has stated his support for woman's reproductive rights many times but hasn't a problem in selling them out to Ben Nelson and Bart Stupak? Is it really so hard for Chris to understand that Massachusetts voters might have voted for Brown rather than Coakley because they cared less who occupied Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat for the next two years, than they cared about sending a message to Barack Obama that they were very displeased with the lack of effectiveness of his Administration in helping them to meet their job, health care, credit, mortgage, housing, and other critical problems?
Well, I guess you might have a problem understanding these things if you're a wealthy villager like Chris, who has loads of fun being a TV talking head every day, and who no longer has to worry about the economics of daily life. But for most others, a big problem is being able to trust what politicians say, especially after Barack Obama's own recent behavior, and most of us, I think, have concluded that what they say in campaigns means nothing, and that we have to watch very carefully what they do. When Coakley assured the Administration that she would be the 60th vote for the Senate bill, and went to that little fund raiser of hers, she blew her cover as a progressive, and revealed to people that she was just another machine politician who they couldn't trust, who would be Obama's dutiful creature. At that point they knew that sending a message of protest to Obama couldn't be done through Coakley, and that if they wanted to do that, then they had to vote for Brown or stay home.
And that is why there is no contradiction between Howard Dean's survey results and Martha Coakley's presentation of herself as the progressive candidate in the race. And guess what, Chris: it ain't rocket science.