Independents Are Kingmakers in Brown’s Victory

photo by Charles Krupa/AP

John Kerry and Tom Menino may be the only Democratic officials actually on crutches, but, make no mistake about it: the entire state Democratic Party is among the walking wounded. Today’s results, unimaginable six weeks ago, places a Republican in this Senate seat for the first time in 60 years.

Scott Brown ran a campaign blended of skill and luck, blessed by timing. He rode a wave of public discontent: dislike of big government programs in general, opposition to national health reform in particular; frustration with a too slow economic recovery; antipathy toward the arrogance and corruption of one-party control at the state level. His opponent contributed to his success by running an embarrassing campaign and being an inadequate campaigner, with poorly articulated messages, astonishing serial gaffes, lateness to use her money on television, a dispirited GOTV effort and on and on. The campaign was Martha Coakley’s to lose, and she lost it.

It would be ironic if national health reform died today in this, the only state in the nation to have virtually universal access to health care. Scott Brown said, “We can do better.” We will soon see how he fulfills his victory speech pledge to work across the aisle and dissipate the toxic partisanship he has attributed to one party in Washington.

As Brown gets ready to be sworn in, the 2012 campaign for U. S. Senate begins. But, before then, Democrats here and elsewhere will be reading and misreading the tea leaves of this election. The enduring “blue state” image must be tempered by recalling that Ronald Reagan won twice here. Democrats still vastly outnumber Republicans in Massachusetts, but the growing and now dominant political force are the “unenrolled” Independents, and they are a force to be reckoned with in upcoming state and congressional elections.

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