The Democrats should have been able to walk away with this race. Easily. The seat once held by Ted Kennedy, and before him, JFK himself, going to the Republicans? The thought was considered laughable just a few weeks ago. Now, it is a reality. Sure, this is, in part, the result of a bad campaign run by a bad candidate, matched up against a great campaign, run by a great candidate. But let’s not understate the ideological dimensions of this Republican victory; it was no secret that the race was in large part a referendum on the national Democratic platform, the issue of health care reform. Martha Coakley made no bones about the fact that she would go to Washington to vote for the Democrats’ health care reform bill. Scott Brown made no bones about the fact that he would oppose the Democrats’ health care reform vision. Bluer-than-blue Massachusetts validated Brown’s vision, and not Coakley’s. This is huge.
It now remains to be seen whether Democrats will try to monkey around with the certification of Scott Brown’s victory, in the lame hope that denying him a seat will help health care reform pass. One hopes that the party learned tonight that it is, at best, on thin ice with the voters, and that such procedural shenanigans would only further infuriate the voting public. The other question, of course, is whether the Democrats will back off their legislative agenda, having seen it decisively rejected in a state that is perhaps the friendliest in the Union to Democratic policies. I suppose that if Democrats do indeed moderate their legislative goals, their base will be deeply upset. But if they don’t . . . well . . . consider the possibility that if Republicans can win in Massachusetts, they can win in plenty of other places as well. Places that are represented by the likes of Blue Dog Democrats, but are very friendly to the Republican message.