[This article also appears on Huffingtonpost.com. You can access it from my author page here.]
Democracy worked tonight in Massachusetts.
The citizens of the Bay State, in which Democrats outnumber Republicans three-to-one, which doesn't have a single Republican in its U.S. House delegation, and whose citizens just 14 months ago voted for Barack Obama by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent, elected Republican Scott Brown, who happily accepted tea party support and questioned whether Obama's parents were married, over Democrat Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat.
The people of Massachusetts, a state that was ahead of the curve in providing its citizens with health insurance and allowing same-sex marriages, has decided to send to the U.S. Senate as their representative someone who will align with the party of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. If this was about health care, even though they get coverage in their commonwealth, the people of the Bay State will have sided with insurance companies and drug manufacturers over the the tens of millions of uninsured Americans, as well as the tens of millions more suffering from increased premiums and decreased coverage. They threw in their lots with those that would invent death panels, and decided their U.S. Senator should side with the caucus whose leader claimed that passing health care reform with a public option could "cost you your life." Maybe Bay Staters were hoping Brown's Senate seat would be near his new colleague from Alabama, who wrote to one of his constituents that health care legislation would "directly subsidize abortion-on-demand," "rations health care so that our citizens are withheld important and potentially life-saving treatments," and "requires taxpayer dollars to fund health benefits for illegal immigrants."
Yup, democracy works. No, I'm not joking. In fact, as I've written often, I think democracy, again and again, proves that it is a system that works in giving voters exactly what they ask for. By 2004, George W. Bush had proven to be an intellectually lacking, incompetent fear monger who duped the country into an unnecessary war with no exit plan, and then botched the occupation. And yet, the American people voted him back for a second term. In exchange for making that decision, Bush was able to continue to run the country into the ground, weakening the military, getting stuck in a quagmire in Iraq, neglecting the war in Afghanistan, and culminating in the near financial crash in September 2008. Democracy worked perfectly.
And now we will get to see democracy in action again. Now we will watch as the Republicans in the Senate do exactly what they've been doing since the day Obama was sworn into office. They will obstruct. They will say no. They will lie and try and scare Americans to make sure the president doesn't get what they view as any political victories. And, most of all, they will continue to look out for corporate interests over the average American. Only now, with 41 votes, they will have the power to block every single initiative the president and the Democrats in Congress propose to address the pile of problems left to us by the incompetency of the Bush administration. Democracy worked perfectly.
Bush spent eight years running the country into the ground. The issues that seemed to bother Massachusetts voters (the economy and the abuses on Wall Street) not only originated and/or were encouraged under Bush, but the current Republicans in Congress have no desire to help on either of these counts. They oppose stimulus or anything else to help put Americans back to work (no, more tax cuts for the rich won't accomplish that goal), and they have even less interest in reforming financial regulation (they've come out against consumer protection and re-regulating the industry).
In effect, the voters of Massachusetts decided that even though it took eight years of Republican rule to create these problems, the Democrats should have solved them in 11 months (even as the Republicans tried to block solutions at every turn). And for the Democrats' failure, the state should send a Republican to Washington who has no interest in fixing the problems his party created in the first place. And again, the result will be 41 Republicans blocking any Democratic programs aimed at fixing the financial industry or unemployment. Democracy worked perfectly.
The blame game has already started, as fingers are pointed at Coakley's uninspired campaign and the complacency of Democratic leadership. But in this Internet-fueled era, in which information is available to all, especially in a relatively prosperous state like Massachusetts, it was up to the citizens of the state to choose which path to take. So the attention has to be paid not to the Coakley campaign or the White House, but to the voters of Massachusetts. They chose a candidate that, based on all available information, doesn't share the beliefs of a majority of the commonwealth's citizens. Put another way, the voters cut off their noses to spite their faces. They chose to put blame on the party that inherited the mess, and to make a statement by giving power to the party that created the problems in the first place. The spotlight should be on the citizens that cast ballots tonight. Because they made their choices, and they (and all of us) now have to live with the consequences.
Tonight, democracy worked perfectly, as it always does. But working doesn't mean we got what's best, only what we deserve.