Many will draw many different lessons from the Massachusetts Senate election that sends Republican Scott Brown and not Democrat Martha Coakley to Washington. Both gloating and gnashing of teeth will echo across radioland, the blogosphere, and among the spinning-talking heads.
Consider the essential elements that all the opinion rendering and reporting regurgitation is excitedly racing toward en masse: Democrats are being repudiated for multitudes of reasons, a referendum with negative results for President Obama has occurred, health care reform is being rejected as a failure, fickle independents are but Republicans-in-waiting, and the evil forces of socialistic liberalism are in serious decline because true Americans are taking their country back. The spinners further offer the prescriptions that Democrats need to "dial it back", abandon health care reform, and figure out how to best respond to polls cited by the same spinners to retain meaningless seats of powerlessness.
Perhaps this ought to be the key question we reflect upon: Is the significance of electing Scott Brown to the US Senate a repudiation of the seat's former holder, Senator Edward Kennedy?
We did lose this seat. Campaign tactics, political capital expenditure, election spending, and attack strategies are mere sideshows. We lost due to dissatisfaction and anger that is not simply pinned on a singular issue or the heat of the moment. And we were and are participants in our own vulnerability.
We err by almost always letting the opposition define us. We allowed the anger churned up by Republican obstruction and repeated false mantras about big government socialist elites gleefully cramming tax and spend schemes in the faces of average Americans define us. We then err again by becoming increasingly reactive which allows even more opportunities for the opposition to define us.
We need to define ourselves. We must explain why and how we would approach problems with genuine liberal solutions. We need to stop reading and reacting to polls and reject the news and opinion cycles running the show. We must reject "lowering our sights", "playing it safe", and "dialing it back". We need to forcefully place in discussion our deep concerns about health care, a financial class run amuck, workplace fairness, environmental ignorance, and other major issues. To most of these concerns, liberals intuitively know the answers from devising essential fair reforms to regulating fraudulent behaviors.
Above all we need to put forth a principled and convincing consistent moral vision that rallies our own adherents, delivers workable changes sought by many independents, and even reaches out to those who have bought into right wing anger before the real elites, the tax nor regulate-us-not financial class, betray their front line supporters once again. Solid principles can trump shoddy politics.
"The great adventures which our opponents offer is a voyage into the past. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What is right for us as Democrats is also the right way for Democrats to win." Senator Ted Kennedy, Address to the Democratic National Convention, August 1980