Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Election Analysis

Scott Brown (Republican)

1,168,107 votes

Martha Coakley (Democrat)

1,058,682 votes

Joseph Kennedy (Libertarian)

22,237 votes

[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.


(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

And the "mainstream media" wonders why they're losing their audience.
That's probably too simplistic because it is more complicated.
Thanks for your point of view and for keeping it fair and balanced.

Anonymous said...

Brown hopefully will bring some classical liberetarian values to the Senate on the Republican side.

Feeling that Mary Jo is now vindicated is good enough for me. That late drunken bastard, bless his soul.

Mrs. C. said...

You have good political wisdom. Perhaps you should be considering a career in that esteemed field instead of telling moving and occasionally smutty stories here in blog-land....

Of course that picture of you with the dildo would probably ruin your chances.

Ananda girl said...

Thank you for your views! This has been a fascinating race, even though I inhabit the west coast, I have felt it was key in the health care issue. I was satisfied with the results, dissatisfied in general with our politicians and our media.
I must admit, that I knew nothing about or even heard about the Libertarian in this race. Sheesh!

Saz said...

have been catching this on the world news prog.....not sure l understand why in the words of santans '(s)he's not there...'

lime said...

interesting analysis and much appreciated. whoda thunk a republican would win that seat though. wow!

Uncle Jim said...

I am heartsick!

Sueann said...

Thanks for your viewpoint...makes sense to me now! I was shocked the Republican won!!
Who knew?

Buck said...

You've articulated the precise reason(s) why I never vote my Libertarian conscience in elections where national offices are at stake. The Libertarian always takes votes away from the Right, never from the Left. So... I'll vote Libertarian in local/state elections but never for congress and above.

Lefties may be be good people individually but collectively they're taking the country where I do NOT want to see it go. I am quite pleased with the outcome of your election, Jim. Good on the people of Mass.

Daryl said...

I wish someone from DC or from the 'real' Kennedys had stepped in and shown that woman how to campaign.

i beati said...

polticians are politicians in short -= eh but I'm tired of the Washington arrogance right now- Noone has had their home saved or received aid of any kind in this county -school or anything- so you can be the judge of my blood pressure. I would faint straight away if any libertarian or independent got anything from media moguls !! who by the way bought this last president??

Unknown said...

Exactly, Jim. I agree with everything you said here. Brown won because the issues of the day were in his political favor, and Coakley missed her chance to divide her opposition.

What I find ironic is that Brown won because of the threat of federal healthcare... but we basically already have Obamacare here in Massachusetts. So it's also a symbolic referendum vote on the Democrats' healthcare ideas. (May the nation take note!)

Of course, as crisis-critical as federal healthcare seems today, so much so that it can swing an election—and even though voters may believe the issue will never be less important than it seems today—in a year or two, the issue will be free speech, or some war in some far-off land, or whatever. Federal healthcare will be all but forgotten, and Massachusetts will once again be siding with the Democrats... but Brown will still be in office.


Land of shimp said...

There were a multitude of reasons I was almost entirely silent in the blogosphere this week, thankfully, nothing having to do with personal misfortune. It was just such a strange week to witness.

This MA election was one of the things I found myself contemplating. I don't identify as any particular party, Suldog. I think it's fairly clear that almost everything I support comes under the heading of "Nearly Screaming Liberal" but I won't call myself a Democrat, because of a huge variety of reasons. One being flexibility in thinking. I am not going to hem my mind in along party lines, ever.

That's how I see the Libertarian/Third Party. They refuse to vomit forth party rhetoric, for one thing.

As to how much this election matters, and what it indicates, it does indicate a few things. One being that our persistent adherence to rigid thinking with the political sphere is doing us no favors as a country.

Up with the Third Party and the potential for people to vote the actual issues. What went down in MA was partially a symptom of that. We're stuck in a holding pattern in which stances are taken, but very little can be accomplished because sense, reason, and even interest has taken a backseat to the declaration of thinking along party lines. We're not voting issues at this point, we're voting entire lifestyles. When we make our political stance that all encompassing, that indicative of all beliefs in one encapsulation, we're very unlikely to actually accomplish a darned thing.

Rant, rant, rave, rave ;-)

Michelle H. said...

I'm not much into politics, but thanks for the rundown.