Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Varium et Mutabile

Yesterday's weird result in Massachusetts goes to show that voters are volatile, which is the kind way of saying that voters are deeply confused about how to manifest their anger and disaffection. The same pool of voters who gave Obama a 26-point margin of victory just over a year ago, who favored McGovern over Nixon, who favored Carter over Ford, who favored Dukakis over Bush, who favored Clinton over Bush and then Dole, who favored Kerry over Bush, who voted Ted Kennedy to the Senate through seven full election cycles after he got drunk and drove one of his girlfriends into a lake where she died (too soon?) -- this same pool of voters, adjusted for the ebbs and flow of demographics, has now favored an obscure He-Palin, a man who wants everyone to know that he owns a truck, with a position in the US Senate.

The incoherence of voters is only part of the story. Until very recently, I would have thought it preposterous that the Democrats -- yes, even the Democrats -- could find a way to fumble away this particular Senate seat. They've exceeded my expectations again!

The causes are many -- I would cite, first, the burgeoning disaffection of Democrats resulting from the reality that the gigantic majority we worked to achieve in 2008 got us little more than a year of aggressive, yet ineffectual, attempts to treat the tea-bagging nihilists on the right as though they aspire to practical ends in public policy rather than facing the fact that they aspire to nothing beyond torture, war, and tax cuts. All the rest is, for them, theocratic posturing, lightly sublimated racism, and the throwing of feces.

Why would Massachusetts voters rise in numbers and intensity to preserve a majority that has delivered almost nothing?

They would not, and certainly not for the sake of a lazy, unseemly candidate. Coakley's dismissal of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling as a Yankees fan was aggressively touted as the biggest high-stakes political gaffe since Lady Æthelflæd's too-effusive praise of her cousin Æthelhelm in the court of King Alfred doomed her already-dim chances of direct succession.

The "Schilling Gaffe" may be just more easily-grasped gossipy codswallop that attracts cable tee-vee chatter-bags, but then again, having been to Boston, adoration of the Red Sox is universal and, to all appearances, legally mandatory. As a practical matter, if you wanted to succeed in democratic politics, you wouldn't confuse Sooners and Longhorns in Oklahoma City, nor Lakers and Trailblazers in Portland, nor Blue Devils and Tarheels in Durham; confusing Red Sox and Yankees anywhere in Massachusetts is that multiplied by fifty.

Well-played, Democrats. Well-played indeed. The surprises, I suspect, are only beginning, for now we can anticipate the spectacle of the party's leaders finding a way to derive every possible wrong lesson from this defeat. What won't be surprising -- only disgusting and further dispiriting -- will be the sight of too many Democrats barely able to conceal their glee at having a slightly better excuse for accomplishing nothing.


TheDeviantE said...

Quick comment on the cumpulsorary Red Sox love here in this state in which I reside: my partner, who is from out of state mentioned that her friend from NY used to regularly get threats/grief prior to our string of wins at whatever that big baseball tournament is. Since then, we've apparently loosened up.

Dale said...

TDE, you were wise not to say anything against the Sox in that comment. I happen to suspect the authorities of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont monitor all blogs.