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With the surprise victory of Scott Brown over Martha Coakley in Tuesday's special U.S. Senate election, the conventional wisdom regarding the dominance of the Democratic Party in Obama-era Massachusetts has been shattered.
But in the scramble to understand what the voters said on Tuesday, a fundamental lesson is being missed. This was a revolt of progressives against a hijacked Democratic Party - not a sudden conversion of Ted Kennedy supporters to Republican ranks. The exit polls and the hard vote totals bear this out. Brown benefited from two very strong trends: First, a sizable number of Obama voters who were inspired by Obama's progressive message in 2008 were not motivated to go to the polls. Secondly, a large block of voters who were disgusted by Obama's acceptance of an industry-friendly health bill without a public option went to the polls and voted for Brown in protest.
Brown did a good job of motivating his smaller conservative base, but this alone would not have been enough. He would have lost in a landslide if the progressive voters had felt that Coakley was on their side.The real story of this election is the rejection of a party that has been hijacked by the special interests behind much of the crisis in health care as well as the Wall Street meltdown, home foreclosures, climate change, and the expanding war in Afghanistan. The emergence of this break-away, values-driven movement will change the face of politics in Massachusetts.
Brown benefited greatly when the election became a referendum on Obamacare.
Exit poll data following the special election showed that 42 percent of voters reported casting their ballots to help stop Obama's health plan from passing. But Brown's winning margin came not from opponents of reform - but from voters who felt that Obama was not going far enough. This was demonstrated in a poll taken by Research 2000 which showed that 18 percent of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, supported Scott Brown in the Senate race. Of that group an overwhelming majority - 82 percent - favored a public option health plan, while just 14 percent oppose it. Of those who stayed home, 86 percent support a public option, while just 7 percent oppose it.
Jill Stein, Green-Rainbow Party co-chairwoman, noted that without the public option voters, Brown would not have been elected. Interpreting Brown's victory as a mandate to weaken the health care bill misses the boat and is the opposite of what voters are saying. The Brown win is a directive to go back to the drawing boards to create a public-option, improved Medicare-for-all bill. The voters of Massachusetts should know. They are living with the budget-busting costs and inadequate coverage of the health care mandate on which the Obama proposal is based.
According to Green-Rainbow Party co-chairman Michael Horan, "The Brown/Coakley race dramatically revealed the flaws of a bipartisan electoral system that offers voters only a right-wing alternative to the administration in power. When voters are upset, their only options are to stay home or to vote for a Republican who really doesn't speak for their values."
In 2010, the Green-Rainbow Party is going to give those voters another choice. We are going to run candidates who stand firmly for the real solution to health care - a Medicare-like system that covers everyone. As evidence that the American people agree with the green position, Horan cited a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 72 percent of Americans "supported a government-administered insuranceplan - something like Medicare for those under 65 - that would compete for customers with private insurers."
Stein concluded, "This year, Green-Rainbow candidates will give progressives something to vote for: health care reform that takes care of people rather than pharmaceutical companies and insurance company lobbyists. People are resonating to this message. The pundits who think Massachusetts has lost its progressive vision should be prepared for another surprise."