Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Scott Brown (Republican)
Martha Coakley (Democrat)
Joseph Kennedy (Libertarian)
[Just something I dashed off not too long after the results were final. There are many Democratic analysts and Republican analysts spouting off about the special election in Massachusetts, won by Scott Brown, a Republican. I figure why not some Libertarian analysis?]
The Boston Globe gave Libertarian candidate, Joe "No Relation" Kennedy, almost no coverage at all. For instance, when he took part in a televised debate involving all three candidates, he received a one-line mention the next day. It was the same with many news sources and media outlets in Massachusetts. While it was not unanimous dismissal, it was widespread.
If the same outlets that ignored him so mightily had, instead, built him up as even marginally viable, he might have drawn enough votes from Brown to have given Coakley a fighting chance. Instead, he was treated as though he didn't exist, and this cost the liberals.
The one truly masterful stroke in Coakley's campaign came via her making sure that Kennedy was involved in all debates. Coakley reasoned - and rightly so - that a strong Kennedy showing would hurt Brown more than it would hurt her. The reason? While libertarians (and the libertarian-leaning) will be concerned with issues dear to the right at some times and dear to the left at other times, the issues on the right appear more pressing at the moment. Tax hikes are an immediate threat to them, as is the gigantic bureaucracy looming from enactment of health care legislation. There are no similar issues on the left, at least which Coakley came out in favor of, that currently resonate as strongly with most libertarians.
Coakley insisted Kennedy be included. She played it correctly. The problem is that "her" media didn't play it right. Rather than building up Kennedy and giving those on the right an opportunity to divide their voting strength, they ignored Kennedy from the get-go (aside from a few snickers concerning his name) and those whose main concern was preserving their monetary freedom lined up almost exclusively with Brown since Kennedy was seen as trivial. Those voters who barely knew him - folks who might have given him actual consideration had they been made to think he was serious - instead were told that he didn't have anything substantive to say and that they'd be wasting their votes if they cast one for him. And rather than drawing any votes from Brown, Kennedy garnered a bit more than 22,000 votes; what amounted to the former enrollment numbers when the Libertarian Party had state major party status. The hard core voted for him, but nobody else was drawn from Brown.
Had the issues been different - for instance, if Coakley had painted herself as an anti-war candidate - then inclusion and subsequent build up of Kennedy might have eaten into her support. However, Kennedy and Brown were in some agreement on enough of the issues to have made Kennedy a spoiler of Brown's campaign, not Coakley's. That he didn't become one was strictly a fault of the more liberal-leaning media. They could have made him one via the expedient of just doing the morally right thing and mentioning he and his views as often as they did Brown's and Coakley's. They didn't, and their candidate lost a valuable resource.
If you believe that Brown had much stronger core support, and that Kennedy couldn't have made a difference, consider that if Kennedy had been played up earlier on, while Coakley still held a substantial lead in most polls, then the upsurge in optimism and gung-ho get-out-the-vote fervor for Brown, which occurred during the final two weeks, would probably not have materialized to the extent it did. If the Globe and others had given Kennedy some major play, to the point where he was showing even a solid 5% or 6% in polls, then many voters who came out for Brown would likely not have been energized to do so. Those committed to Kennedy would not have shifted, and those not seeing a chance for Brown to win would have stayed home. In later polls, Brown would likely never have shown a lead, and Coakley might still have pulled out a squeaker despite the other horrible mismanagement of her campaign.
As a Libertarian who has seen the Globe (and others) ignore Libertarian candidates with impunity for decades, seeing Brown win was sweet. Not that I find him any more palatable than Coakley, but just knowing that the Globe and others blew it, when all they had to do was treat Kennedy as an equal to affect the outcome in their favor, is priceless.
(I know. I told you not too long ago that I wouldn't be writing much until next week. I lied. It comes with the political territory, so I'm sure you'll forgive me.)
Soon (more or less), with more better stuff.