It was January 2010 when the state of Massachusetts stunned the American body politic by choosing Republican Scott Brown in a special Senate election to fill the seat of the late Teddy Kennedy. Democrats assumed—probably not unreasonably—that it was a fluke and they would reclaim the seat without a problem. They may reclaim the seat, but as Monica Potts, writing in the liberal American Prospect, notes, it’s hardly coming without problems.
Elizabeth Warren is the anointed one of the Left in Massachusetts this time around and the polls currently have her trailing Brown by 5-6 points. While Senate polls are a little more volatile than presidential polls, we should note this is outside the margin of error. Voters may warm up to Warren in the final two months of the campaign, but the results of this summer make one thing clear—the left wing can no more trot just anyone out on the field and expect to win public support anymore than the Boston Red Sox can.
Potts’ piece in the Prospect is a lengthy and good read, and while much of it is on the missteps of Warren’s campaign, another acknowledges the point above. The Left has misread the state and outside the walls of Harvard and the cocktail circuit in the Hub, there is concern that a small cabal of elites are running the political system.
I’ve had the good fortune to sit down with a once-prominent Democrat from Boston, a former state Speak. On St. Patrick’s Day six years ago, with one of the worst snow storms in history pounding the outside of an Irish pub, with the NCAA Tournament in the background, he vented that in his career he’d pushed for public housing, civil rights and environmental cleanup, “and now they’re telling me I’m not a liberal just because I don’t think boys should sleep with boys!”, he thundered. A friend of his, not employed in politics, lamented that he wished he could change the party, but the demands of work and family kept him tied up.
I’m not sure if either toe the party line in November or if the cross the aisle. But if indisputably true-blue Democrats like this are feeling the angst, is it possible others, who would have less of an emotional tie to the party in November, are feeling the same way?
Massachusetts is hardly about to become a red state. But the initial win of Brown, and the tough fight he’s waging this year, make it clear that the Left doesn’t own Commonwealth politics. And if they don’t own it here, they don’t own it anywhere.
If traditionalist Democrats speak up, there’s no reason we can’t at least compete and end the bitter exile that’s existed since 1968.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com