massachusetts election

What Brown can do for you

Massachusetts voters sent Democrats a severe warning with Scott Brown's win for US Senator, says John Andrews in the January round of Head On TV debates. But Susan Barnes-Gelt chalks up the outcome to a poor campaign on the other side and generalized disgust with the in-crowd. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Hickenlooper for Governor, Obama's first year, Denver's next mayor, and Haiti relief. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for January: 1. MASSACHUSETTS SHOOK UP 2010 POLITICS

John: Massachusetts voters sent a powerful message of discontent to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid by electing Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat long held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy. Unemployment, terrorism, and the unpopular health care takeover add up to a bad political year for Democrats, Susan.

Susan: Martha Coakley made every mistake a candidate can make. She took a month off, refused to press the flesh and ran as an entitled incumbent. D's and R's can learn from her mistakes. Incumbents and uber-partisans are in trouble on both sides of the aisle.

John: You must be looking at different polls than the ones I see. Republicans are rebounding. Democrats are the ones in trouble, likely to lose big next fall in races for Senate, House, and Governor, Colorado possibly included. Radical overreach by Obama and his party has Americans massively turned off.

Susan: Government has Americans massively turned off. Scott Brown never called himself an R nor called in the big dogs to endorse him. Voters are angry at the status quo in Washington, joblessness, Wall Street and leadership's tin ear. The 2010's - the decade of the independent.


John: The so-called Colorado Promise, on which Democrats won the governorship, is gone as Bill Ritter makes an early exit. The budget, the economy, the energy market, and the labor climate are all in disarray. That puts two strikes against Democrat John Hickenlooper, and makes Republican Scott McInnis the clear favorite for governor.

Susan: Your list puts two strikes against the next governor of Colorado - regardless of who wins. The real question is "Who has a record of facing budget deficits, reforming bureaucracy and making strategic investments in job creation?” John Hickenlooper - a person who's actually governed.

John: John Hickenlooper is even more liberal than Diana DiGette, according to the congresswoman herself. McInnis is a sensible centrist. The Mayor is Mr. Denver, the opposite of home on the range. McInnis is pure Colorado. And he was balancing budgets when Hick was still selling microbrew. Advantage Scott.

Susan: You're whistling in the dark and the tune has been out of date for a decade. Hickenlooper is the poster boy for non-partisan, problem-solving centrist. His base includes pragmatists independents and business. And he didn't have to shave a mustache to be credible to the voters!


John: Susan, you’re the Denver political insider. I’m just a suburban spectator. But it seems to me the Hickenlooper era in Denver is over one way or the other. If hizonner doesn’t win governor this year, he’s damaged goods for a third term as mayor next year. What’s the early betting for 2011?

Susan: Too many chips on the table to place an early bet. However - the qualities the next mayor will need are clear: management experience, political moderation, an ability to get along with diverse interests, a strong backbone and a clear vision of the region's future.

John: Thanks for mentioning my imaginary hometown, Backbone. People up there, unlike the pansy progressives who fear competition, elect their mayor in a fair fight between Democrats and Republicans. Maybe Denver will do the same in 2011, and turn to a proven Republican leader like Joe Blake or Dan Ritchie.

Susan: You're spending too much time in the thin air of Backbone! The old boys club ceased running Denver in 1983- when Peña was elected. Denver's next mayor will be energetic, innovative and savvy. The next year will be a wild ride - and I don't mean the stock show!


Susan: The Haitian tragedy has ignited humanity’s finest instincts. Young people donating $10 via cell phones have generated more than $7 million in relief funds. Presidents Bush and Clinton together will ensure the long hard work of relief and rebuilding proceeds. Only the sub-human - Rush & Robertson demur.

John: The heartbreaking images out of Haiti remind us that life is harsh, mankind is all one family, and our simplest blessings cannot be taken for granted. The rescue response was warmly humanitarian, as you say. But it was also uniquely American, combining the very best of our country’s generosity, affluence, and military might.

Susan: You are right John. But the real test will come in time. Do the good people of this nation and others have the patience and resources to rescue a failed nation? How and who will build the civic, political and physical infrastructure necessary to truly save Haiti?

John: Nation-building is a noble dream, but nearly impossible in practice, as America has learned. Every nation, including shattered Haiti, must find its own way forward. We can still do our part individually, though. I’m going straight from the studio to Salvation Army online and donate again.


Susan: Obama promised change. And change unsettles. Overhauling health care, addressing financial collapse, sending troops to war, trying terrorists, epic unemployment. In 1982 pundits predicted Reagan wouldn't run for a second term, his early numbers were so bad. First terms aren't to be measured in 365 days.

John: Obama also promised hope. Twelve months ago even many of us who voted against him were willing to hope this gifted man would lead America wisely. But so far he has failed. Our enemies in Iran and Al Qaeda perceive us as weak. But business is afraid of Obama, worsening the recession. Bad show, Mr. President.

Susan: And business - banks, insurance companies, industry - have certainly demonstrated good judgment and wisdom in their collective decision-making. And the Republican alternative? Glen Beck and the tea bags? Sarah- don't confuse me with information -Palin? The only poll that counts is November 6, 2012.

John: Changing the subject doesn’t change the facts. Obama’s public support has fallen farther, faster, than any first-year president in history. Americans, including many of his previous supporters, are beginning to realize he’s in over his head. We can’t afford a failed presidency. Pull it together, Barack.

BHO 2010 echoes FDR 1938

When praising his own “accomplishments” Barack Obama has an unusual fondness for the word “unprecedented” though invariably his assertions lack any historical validity. In contrast the voters of Massachusetts can now claim an accomplishment that entirely justifies the use of that word. To find an event in American history reasonably comparable in character and impact to the Massachusetts Earthquake we must go all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court. That is the last-perhaps the only- time in our history that a President commanding huge congressional majorities sought with breathtaking arrogance to redesign the constitutional, social and economic foundations of the country and was stunningly defeated by the very people who long had been his party’s staunchest supporters.

With a righteousness and sense of invincibility engendered by three consecutive triumphal election cycles that had given him and his party an extraordinary dominance Roosevelt sought to demonize the “nine old men” of the Supreme Court who had the temerity to strike down key elements of the New Deal as unconstitutional. With little consultation outside his inner circle and apparent indifference to how such a radical move would be received in the country Roosevelt advanced sweeping legislation that would increase the membership of the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen and replace lifetime appointment with mandatory retirement ages, moves which would enable him to swiftly “pack” the Court with hand-picked minions.

It was at this point that ordinary Americans and several key Democratic leaders like Montana’s Senator Burton K. Wheeler decided that Roosevelt’s radical power grab was going too far and actively threatened the nation’s hallowed Constitutional traditions. The Court “packing” scheme was decisively defeated in the Congress and the final political result was the Democratic Party losing seven Senate and 80 House seats in the 1938 mid-term elections.

That was America’s last peacetime election before World War II restored the country’s economy, ended the Great Depression, and redeemed the political fortunes and historical reputation of Franklin Roosevelt. Nonetheless 1937 remains a decisive turning point in American history when the overarching ambition of a well-intended but tone deaf President were dramatically rebuffed by a most unlikely combination of opponents who read the national mood far better than he.

The week that saw the unbelievably improbable election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts also witnessed the startling collapse of the recently “inevitable” Obamacare legislation, and the absolute implosion of the Democratic Party in a tawdry spectacle of shock, fear, anger, finger-pointing, pseudo-contrition, confusion, chaos, and general cluelessness.

Not in living memory has a dominant political party been so devastated, so quickly by a single wildly unpredictable event.

It is easier to search the past for perspective on this American melodrama, than to divine its future conclusion. Much will turn on the choices made by the Democratic Party. Will there be a Clintonesque dash to the center, (“the end of big government and welfare as we know it”) by a President in hot pursuit of re-election?

Or, will the Party in certain knowledge that it will never again enjoy such Congressional dominance heed the frenzied howls of its far left and “double-down” on the strategies of bigger government, redistributionist legislation, and intolerable taxation that have so alienated the public?

Rational calculation would seem to demand the former direction, but in critical degree today’s Democratic Party is far more radical than the Party that was dethroned in 1994. The dominant Furies that energize and fund the Democrats are of an ideologically obsessed mindset unlike anything that ever before captured control of a major American political party.

President Obama’s utterances since the upheaval are suggestive of self-pity and delusion. Excusing his inattentiveness because he was “so busy getting stuff done” and then claiming that both he and Scott Brown were elected by the same anger at George Bush bespeaks a man quite out of touch with reality. His lame attempt at populism-Let’s punish those greedy bankers- is nothing but the class warfare and general assault on capitalism that has been the thinly disguised agenda of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Axis from the beginning. What’s new is that now the American people know it and are determined with their votes to decisively defeat it.

Element R takes charge

(Denver Post, Jan. 24) Why did Gov. Bill Ritter fold his reelection campaign? Why is Sen. Michael Bennet so far behind in the polls? Why did Scott Brown win in Massachusetts? Why is Barack Obama struggling to save his presidency, one year after taking office in triumph? Because Americans have completely lost patience with irresponsibility. For years this column has talked of the need for a responsibility movement to challenge both political parties. “We’ll call it Element R and launch it today, right here in Colorado,” I wrote in 2007. What the country has seen in recent months is Element R, in fact if not in name, starting to take charge. Surveys foretold what elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts have confirmed: sharp declines in Democratic support, benefiting Republican candidates but not greatly boosting Republican registration. It’s the independent voters whose ranks are growing. Citizens are less inclined to ally with either the donkey or the elephant. Both have forfeited confidence.

People’s aroused insistence for responsibility instead of irresponsibility, on the part of those we entrust with power, best explains the new political landscape. To start with definitions, responsibility means keeping a trust, doing your duty, facing the music. Whereas irresponsibility means shirking, acting in disregard of consequences, behaving as if 2 and 2 don’t make 4. Examples abound.

Ritter’s fatal wound, absent-father guilt aside, seems to have been either fiscal and executive recklessness or an impending legal-ethical scandal. He might have brazened it out, whatever the case, if years of gubernatorial irresponsibility by the likes of Davis in California, Blagojevich in Illinois, and Sanford in South Carolina hadn’t inflamed public disgust. But in 2010 the odds have become prohibitive, so he’s quitting.

The responsibility deficit for Bennet as an interim senator from Colorado matches that of Martha Coakley in her failure to become an interim senator from Massachusetts. Neither grasped that the country’s tolerance for unserious political palaver-as-usual is exhausted. The national BS detector is pegged. Bennet’s phony indignation over corrupt deals in the health care bill, and then over secret negotiations for same, backed up in neither case by his vote, simply spelled game over.

As for our glib young president, Mr. Obama set a trap for himself on inauguration day. After calling for a “new era of responsibility,” he has proved epically irresponsible ever since – weakening us against our enemies, selling out our allies, ballooning the deficit, expanding government, worsening the recession by bullying business, and obsessing over socialized medicine like Ahab with the whale. No wonder his numbers are at record lows.

The irresponsibility epidemic, a contagion long carried by Democrats but often caught by Republicans as well, finally triggered public fury in last year’s tea parties and townhalls. This is the uprising I’ve called Element R. But is it a movement – perhaps even a force capable of remaking the GOP? Or is it merely an electoral mood?

The responsibility backlash will continue taking its healthy toll. Whether it’s durable enough to take charge, time will tell. Though unaffiliated voters hold the balance of power, the coherence of their views is doubtful. Here in Colorado, it would be interesting to see Element R gel and assert itself to the point of asking questions that the established parties shrink from. These might include:

Does the initiative process make government so responsive as to be irresponsible? Is marijuana prohibition working any better than alcohol prohibition did? In redefining pregnancy, marriage, and parenthood to the vanishing point, have we signed a demographic suicide pact? Is Muslim sharia law compatible with liberty?

Dems and GOP alike have done none too well with our sacred responsibility for “keeping the republic,” in Franklin’s words. May they both feel the righteous wrath of Element R.