by Chris Matthews
It’s very hard to say what the lessons of this election are for Democrats. Mike Barnicle said that he thought a really strong policy achieving senator, like Rep. Eddie Markey, the congressman who did so much on cap and trade and on the environment all these years, would have been a stronger candidate and would have beaten the Republican Scott Brown by 10 points. It’s very hard to predict these things.
I thought there was tremendous support in this state for a woman candidate to be the next senator after Hillary Clinton had a strong showing up here in the last election. I thought there was a backlog of feeling for a woman. I spoke at the Massachusetts Women’s Caucus before the campaign began. I felt this strong support for Martha Coakley. And she just didn’t campaign effectively, I guess.
Everybody will have their small lessons. Here are my two small lessons: The old politics is the real politics. You have to make contact. You have to get to know people. You have to listen to them, and them a sense you’re asking for their votes. The Kennedys did that. That’s how Jack Kennedy beat Henry Cabot Lodge, the estimable great Yankee hero, who fought in the war and been so courageous. And he beat them because he went out and campaigned with his sisters, and they had tea parties and they went door to door and they really asked. They got the sweat equity. I think they don’t think Martha Coakley did that. She didn’t ask.
The second thing is I think politics has become too much 24/7 media types. Robert Gibbs says something, Axelrod said something, some clown on Fox said something – it’s a back and forth. The reality seems to be missing. I think in this campaign there wasn’t reality there, so people just voted “no.”
Democrats, if they want to win, have to go back to giving people real public enterprise, real tangible product of public action. And you can laugh about the Big Dig up here, but everybody uses it, and they like it. And they like public education if it’s good. They like things that work. They like mass transit when it works.
We don’t build things at the public level any more that people say, “Great, we did that together.” ”We built that big highway.” “We built that big Museum.” ”We built that educational system.” I sense that people want a tangible product from public enterprise. And this campaign got too elusive for health care, too much out there, and not enough positive reality to it.
Scott Brown had a better tactical approach. The Democrats pit the Democrat versus the Republican. And the smart move this cycle was “”the outsider versus the insider.”
In the long run, those who believe in stronger government and those who believe in more activist public life in this country, who believe there’s a role to equalize the opportunities for health care and education and all the good things that we have to do together, are going to have to have better candidates and a stronger case, and they’re going to have to convince people that they’re on their side, and that they can get the job done.