What Ails Democrats?

With the Coakley loss there will be plenty of post election analysis done on why she lost, and whether that loss should lead to a re-evaluation of Democratic Party strategies and policy goals. Two interesting columns, one by Senator Steve Baddour in the Eagle Tribune, and a blog posting over at the AFL blog by Jeff Crosby, take somewhat differing views on the election and the best way forward for Democrats.

Baddour calls for a return to values, and somewhat directly criticizes the conduct of some on Beacon Hill. He generically criticizes Democratic tax policies, saying that those policies are not “working” for Massachusetts families struggling through this recession. There are no policy prescriptions in Baddour’s piece, but rather a criticism of the notion of business as usual.

Some of our leaders have lost the confidence of the people they were sworn to serve. Criminal behavior, back-room deals, and lack of true accountability have disenfranchised the voters and left them with a destructive and cynical view toward government. Well-funded special interest groups have taken over the agenda, serving only themselves, not the greater good. We must set a standard that restores faith in the political process and shines the light on the way business is now conducted on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill.

Crosby focuses on the lack of rank and file labor support for Coakley, and hones in on President Obama’s support for the Senate “cadillac tax” on health care, which alienated large swarths of union voters. Crosby’s blog posting indicates that Coakley lost union households in Massachusetts by three points, and posits that Brown essentially got the McCain Massachusetts vote, while Coakley failed to bring out her base, drawing substantially less than President Obama’s raw vote totals. The posting also contained some very interesting poll numbers done for the AFL by Hart. I have attached those at the bottom of this posting. How the Democrats move forward from here depends on what lessons we take from this election. That debate starts now. Here is a snippet from the Crosby post:

Coakley spent time raising money from insurance lobbyists in Washington instead of campaigning in Mattapan because that’s the way the system works. Obama listened to an MIT economist instead of us—about our own benefit plans—because that’s often the way the Democratic Party works. Neo-liberalism reigns, money flows from and to those with power, and extremist free market ideas have permeated every corner of public life. Many national Democrats will conclude this election was lost because Democrats were—you guessed it—“too left.” The AFL-CIO election night polling shows they are wrong.

Would an aggressive labor-populist campaign have won this election? I think so. Of course, it’s hard to say. One thing is certain—you don’t build the kind of country we want by putting lipstick on a pig or by reconciling the irreconcilable. Whether the road ahead is hard or easy, we need to be blunt about the circumstances we face here in these United States, and let the chips fall where they may.

Read the Jeff Crosby blog posting here.

Read the Baddour column here.


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