Reactions to Brown's win in Massachusetts

Bad news on Obama's one-year anniversary

By Gabriel Winant

Published January 20, 2010 2:35PM (EST)

Democrats have gotten their beating in the Massachusetts special election over with. Now, it's January 20 -- the one-year anniversary of the Obama presidency -- and the coincidence of the date and yesterday's dispiriting results mean that, for both the party in power and its elated critics, it's obviously a time to reflect.

Salon has rounded up some interesting reactions to Scott Brown's stunning victory in Massachusetts, and what it means for the year-old Obama presidency.

Rich Lowry, editor-in-chief of the National Review:

After the 2008 election, the Right was written off as stale, out-of-touch, bereft of political leadership -- with the assumption it would be that way for a long time. In McDonnell, Christie, Brown, we see just how short-sighted that critique was, and there will be more new talents coming up behind them in November. Of course, they have to succeed in governing, and have to hold the center. But '06 and '08 are looking more and more like a great cleansing that enabled a return to principles and new, fresher expressions of conservatism to emerge. Here's hoping it's just the beginning.

Josh Marshall, founder of TalkingPointsMemo:

The president is going to have to find a way to say, No. We're doing this. He'll need to stand down a lot of cowardly and foolish people in his own party. He'll have to stand down the vast and formless force of establishment punditry and just say, No. We're going to do this. And he's going to have to make the case to the public, not necessarily convince all those who have doubts about health care reform but make clear that he thinks this is the right direction for the country and because he thinks it's the right thing to do that he's going to make it happen.

Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post, said on MSNBC that the president "is not believed" when he makes his case, because he is the face of the status quo. In the end, this is not about Massachusetts, and this is not about Scott Brown and Martha Coakley, this is about a national Democratic Party that has lost its way, and this is the time to course correct."

At Slate, Republican Rachel Larimore isn't optimistic about replicating Brown's success nationwide:

It's hard to say whether the Republicans will be able to replicate Brown's success nationally. In 1994, when the Republicans took control of the House and the Senate in the first midterm after Bill Clinton's election, they were guided by Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America. Now, instead of offering contracts to the public, Republicans are holding their own candidates to "purity pledges."

Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union, has a simple explanation for Coakley's failure: "The reason Ted Kennedy's seat is no longer controlled by a Democrat is clear: Washington's inability to deliver the change voters demanded in November 2008. Make no mistake, political paralysis resulted in electoral failure."

George Packer writes for the New Yorker:

[Our] problems, which can be summed up as the decline of the American middle class, have been so resistant to solutions that the readiest and most reasonable stance is profound skepticism. It is so much harder politically to do something affirmative than to stand in the way and say it can’t be done. Obama has made his job all the more difficult by trying to do something—and in some cases succeeding—without offering much of a challenge to the people standing in the way. So he pays the price, and they do not.

A couple of Democratic members of Congress also managed to let slip what they really think. Blue Dog Allen Boyd, D-Fla., said he feels sorry for his party's freshmen members. "It’s like they walked in and got hit upside the head with a big jackhammer." And Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., the son of the late Ted Kennedy, said that voters are out for blood. "It’s like in Roman times, they’d be trotted out to the coliseum and the lions would be brought out,” Kennedy said Tuesday night. “I mean, they’re wanting blood and they’re not getting it so they want to protest. And, you know, you can’t blame them."

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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2010 Elections Martha Coakley Scott Brown War Room