Reliving the nightmare

Massachusetts escapes, but much of the nation succumbs to the ravages of democracy
By EDITORIAL  |  November 3, 2010

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Somebody should thank Scott Brown. If the Republican senator had not pulled an upset in the special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy, would the Massachusetts Democratic Party have woken up in time to escape the bloodbath that wounded the party nationally? Would local voters have focused on real issues, as opposed to right-wing fantasies?

The Democratic sweep of statewide offices, as well as Massachusetts's congressional seats, owes more than a little to Governor Deval Patrick as well. Patrick's energy helped motivate, for sure. But it was the tone and tenor of his campaign that made a difference.

With economic unease rampant, Patrick was clear: there will be no easy answers as state government confronts an uncertain future. With common sense and humane values as guides, however, the commonwealth can struggle through — probably more successfully than many expect.

The fact that voters rejected a sales-tax cut and a curb on affordable housing highlights the unity of vision that many Bay State voters expressed.

Still, the state — like the nation — is divided.

With 97 percent of the votes counted, Patrick received 49 percent, Republican Charlie Baker 42, Independent Tim Cahill eight, and Jill Stein of the Citizens Party a scant one percent.

That means that, despite Patrick's clear and comfortable seven-point victory over his Republican challenger, almost 50 percent of the voters still wanted to replace the governor. Only 6489 votes separate the progressive tallies of the combined Patrick and Stein camps from the conservative totals recorded by Baker and Cahill.

If Patrick is to govern as effectively as he campaigned, he is going to have to build bridges to those voters and — more immediately — to the state legislators who represent them. Given the overall creditability of his campaign, he is in a fine place to begin anew.

New kid on the block
Memo to Scott Brown: senator-elect Marco Rubio of Florida appears to be the new poster boy of the GOP. Like you, he's good looking, well spoken, well dressed, and boasts a record of no particular distinction. Fame is fleeting. You are — officially — yesterday's child.

Wave of mutilation
There is no way to guild the lily of the Democrats' devastating loss to the Republican Party. The best that can be said is that the disaster scenario unfolded more or less as predicted: a whopping loss of at least 60 seats in the House of Representatives and at least six in the Senate.

A bizarre twist on all of this is that, given the high levels of anxiety documented by exit polls, it is amazing that Republicans did not do even better.

Thank Sarah Palin for a bit of that.

With votes still being counted in some races, 28 of Palin's picks won office and 12 flamed out, among them the wicked witch of Delaware, Christine O'Donnell. O'Donnell beat a garden-variety Republican conservative in her state primary for senator only to be defeated by a Democrat with no special claim to fame.

This is not to dismiss Palin or her coven, the Tea Party, as a force in national politics. But it should put these phenomena into perspective.

Two victors are worth looking at.

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