Thoughts on the Senate Special Election

  - promoted by david

[Crossposted. Thought people here might be interested.]

I know, I know, can’t we at least enjoy a few days off between major statewide elections, right? But too bad. Dems, are you ready? I think I am.

The sort-of crowning of Rep. Ed Markey has irked not a few grassroots types, I’m sure. Personally, I’d like a half-decent primary too, it does some good things, like increase the scope of the debate, but especially, gets the grassroots woken up and organized early enough to do some good – since a special election has such a short timeframe. One would hope that the engine that elected Elizabeth Warren (like, perhaps, Elizabeth herself) comes forth to inspire us to pick up the work again, once we’ve gone through the primary (hint, hint, Senator Warren!). And I’m always looking to repeat the MA-05 special election primary to replace Meehan, which is my gold standard for a great, feisty, interesting primary, but which lacks the circular firing squad we sometimes see (*coughChrisDohertycough*).

I’ll be honest, there are probably candidates I could love more than Ed Markey, just on the grassroots-outsider-tough fighter sort of feel. But. But. I love Ed Markey’s environmental record, and his roughing up of the oil companies, especially BP after the horrific oil spill. I feel like everyone else sort of have given them a pass, though given the ferocity of their continuing feel-good marketing campaign I think they still feel damaged (good. and you aren’t convincing ME). He has fought hard to try and get a carbon tax on oil/coal/gas, one key component holding renewable energy back (since it has to compete with a giant, subsidized, established industry).

If there is a more important issue than our economy and the flagrancy of the financial sector which Elizabeth Warren has spent so long fighting against, it’s the environment. Specifically, global climate change. Every decade has been warmer than the last, and we’re no longer talking about trying to avoid the tipping point. We’re talking about just how far past the tipping point we’re going to go. This is disaster. This is destruction of our entire human civilization. And without addressing both the inevitable (now) outcomes of climate change, and finding a way SOON to cease making it worse, the financial meltdown is gonna look like a boom economy compared to where we will end up.

The conservatives love to say, but the earth has fluctuated climate in the past. Yes. It has. Usually a lot more minor and a lot more slower, but it has cooled/warmed in a cycle going back to the dinosaurs. But also, giant empires have fallen because of much smaller climate change. (Hell, the dinosaurs died out due to climate change.) Picture a world in which half its population has to flee into other half’s populated areas to survive terrible weather extremes or the inability to grow crops where once crops flourished, or the masses who have always lived on the coast having to flee inland. Do you think we could take in a good portion of the Mexican population and keep our country intact? Do you think we can let half of Mexico’s population starve to death and keep our country intact? Can Canada double its population with environmental refugees from the US and remain a prosperous country? This is what we are facing if we don’t turn back now. I’m not exaggerating, that’s actually the middle-level scenario science models are displaying. The worst case is…you don’t want to know.

There are consequences in turning our planet’s climate back millions of years to much higher average temperatures. By burning the carbon locked in the earth at the time of dinosaurs, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Except instead of taking millions or tens of millions of years to do it, we’re doing it in a couple hundred. Trees can’t migrate in a decade or two. Populations of animals and, yes, people, can’t just pick up that quickly and rebalance the ecology in what amounts to seconds in the geological scale.

If Ed Markey becomes our standard bearer, either before the primary or after it, I think I’d be fine with that. In fact I’d be more than fine with it. I’d be pretty damn happy, and ready to get to work.


36 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Good analysis

    I am a strong lean for Markey for many of the reasons you mentioned. I would add that I am not bothered by the fact that he is an insider since he can deliver for Massachusetts in day one and emerge as a real workhorse and legislative leader. He already knows a lot of the players, rules and the ways of Washington. We already have an outside the box grassroots progressive champion in Senator Warren (doesn’t it just feel great to say?) and Markey would add diversified talents and give our state one of the strongest teams in the Senate. No question they’d be just as effective, if not more so, than Kerry and Kennedy.

    Where I do hesitate is some of those “ways of Washington”, from
    the potential residency issue, his long and comfortable incumbency which has
    shielded him from competitive elections and isolated him
    from the grassroots, and the Iraq vote are indicative of the downsides to that insider status and his candidacy. A challenger that can keep it positive and allow Markey to hone his skills against those liabilities would be welcome. My
    fear is with a compressed time table, the recent history of the Capuano-Coakley battle, and Capuano and Downing supporters already negative out the gate that might not be the primary we get. I’d
    love for all the primary candidates to honor the People’s Pledge and the Reagan Rule and keep it classy.

    • Good points

      Especially his lack up til now of competitive races, which means that even as an incumbent with lots of experience, he could still run a so-so campaign or even a bad one.

      So I guess the real test is going to be to see how he reaches out to the grassroots (both the party insiders and the outsidish folk) and how much he makes the appeal to average voters on the issues and in his demeanor.

      I was a Capuano supporter in the last special, and continue to like him, but I’ll be damned if I am going to support a negative campaign in the primary, and I would hope that he would not condone that from his supporters. In fact, if that is NOT the case, that might make me jump from Capuano to Markey in the primary. Otherwise, I’d be hard pressed not to like Cap in the primary, and hope for a nice, civil, but fun battle between them. Downing, I doubt is going to get very far due to even worse name recognition, IMHO…what do people think about him on the issues?

      • Did you not think Capuano ran a negative campaign last time?

        I’m curious, because it seemed to me he did an awful lot of attacking Coakley, including very unhelpful things like saying she had no idea how Washington works. I don’t blame her ultimate loss on that, but it really turned me off how negative he went in a primary he had little chance of winning. Do you remember it differently? Or maybe you believe Coakley turned out to be a bad enough candidate that it was deserved?

        • Truth to tell

          I wasn’t as involved in that race as I ought to have been – like everyone else, it was the holiday season. So my memory about the race isn’t as strong as other ones (like the recent Senate race where every detail was poured over incessantly…)

          I’d have to go back and look at things, but I’m not against attacking opponents. I’m against…oh let’s see if I can put this clearly…unfairness. So saying Coakley has no Washington experience is fair game, though the way in which it is said can have post-primary consequences. In the race between Eileen Donoghue and Chris Doherty in Lowell to replace state Sen Panagiotakos, Doherty was plain awful. Throwing baseless attacks on Eileen to see what might stick. You know the sort.

          In the MA-05 race, it was civil, but that doesn’t mean that the candidates didn’t disagree or didn’t attack each other on things. But they were issue things, real things, true things. And they for the most part were minor things, because with the exception of maybe Miceli (sp?), they agreed on so much at least on issues. But you had a range all the way from very conservative Miceli, through moderate/insiderish Finegold, to local fairly progressive but also moderate on fiscal issues like Eileen Donoghue, to Tsgonas who had the name recog/machine and who was pretty moderate, to Jamie Eldridge the super-progressive. They certainly DID have a lively set of debates. But when they stepped off that stage, they could congenially shake hands too, and when Tsongas won the primary, no one griped, and everyone pulled together to defeat Oganowski. There were no lasting hurt feelings. There wasn’t any serious damage to Tsongas. And that was a tough battle to win it for the Dems, because the district can be a bit tough sometimes (a red donut with a blue hole where the cities are…but the blue holes are thinner margins than, say, in Boston). We needed all hands on deck, not activists nursing grudges. That too was also a very short timeframe because it was a special election (hence why Tsgonas won in many people’s opinions – the name Tsgonas is beloved in our neck of the woods, and she did work for it and get a pretty good ground game, but Eileen, also VERY popular in Lowell, was surging in the last couple of weeks…another couple weeks and the results might have been different).

          Anyway, if that illustrates what I’m talking about, hopefully. But I certainly do NOT want to see supporters of any of the candidates acting like idiots, or having that meanness condoned, because that only hurts the final cause.

          • Blasting Coakley as naive only to

            backtrack the next day and essentially adopt the position he had criticized her a day earlier for didn’t really impress me. Saying that a vote for another Democrat in the primary would be a “mistake” also didn’t impress me.

            Basically, I wish he had spent more time trying to highlight his accomplishments and less time trying to rip the front runner. He was positioning himself as the Washington insider who knows how to get things done – somewhat questionable as a strategy that particular cycle, which was the height of anti-incumbent fever, but OK, he thought that was his best shot – yet I never really got a sense from his campaign what exactly it was that he has accomplished. In fact, I still don’t. Voting against the war was certainly laudable but that’s not an achievement since it didn’t stop the war.

            Having a progressive voting record is good, but what has he specifically as a legislator achieved? What has he championed and passed? What are his areas of expertise, as Warren has banking/finance and Markey has climate change, energy and telecom? After Capuano’s last primary campaign, I still don’t feel like I know. If he enters the race this time, I hope to find out (and not just hear him complain about Markey’s endorsements while he’s a man of the people. Given his campaign last time as the insider, endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, it seems a little odd to criticize someone else for having backing of influential party members)

            • You have to admit...

              it did turn out to be a huge mistake…

              Let’s see if he enters this race with a different attitude. For one, it wasn’t a winning attitude. For another, he’d be running against a guy that for a very long time he’s considered a colleague. But sure, if he goes for that sort of stuff again, it certainly will turn me off personally.

    • "Insider"

      It’s fair enough to say of a man who is high in the counsels of the minority leader, who has worked the house for most of his life, that he is an insider. So I won’t quibble about that.

      But there’s a big difference between Ed Markey and the people who actually decide not just policy but what is or isn’t done, is or isn’t discussed, is or isn’t correct.

      I think of those people as the real insiders and Markey’s relationship to them is outside. To me, he’s not an insider, but someone who has hung in there through thick and thin.

      I suggest this is a meaningful distinction, whatever you want to call things.

  2. Rachel Maddow did a bit on Markey last night.

    Her premise was that with Warren being so anti-big finance and Markey being so anti-big oil Massachusetts has a chance to send a power couple to the Senate who are willing to stand up to the two most disproportionate influencers of our current politics.

  3. Awesome

    Glad Maddow has endorsed my idea. I prefer the tag team metaphor, they have different strengths and interests and will be a great team to serve us both. Markey should actively highlight that, in contrast to Brown who not only advocates the opposite priorities but also showed her little respect during the campaign.

  4. One-issue voting

    I’ve spent a lot of time over the years decrying one-issue voters. And candidates (one reason Candidate Warren made me nervous). But I sent Markey a contribution hours after he announced. Because Lynn is absolutely right. And too many Democrats are far too faint of heart.
    I’m aware of what I’m overlooking: votes on PATRIOT Act, war-authorization, etc. And I’d be pretty happy with Capuano myself. But a viable candidate who is as outspoken on climate as Markey is a rare and precious thing.
    Question, to my mind, will be: will Markey feel compelled to soft-pedal his hard line on enviro issue during the campaign? Or is this a winning issue across the commonwealth? He can create a very supportive base by touting his record on climate/environment … but how do you all feel this message plays overall statewide?

    • I'd say that's the big, as yet unanswered question about Markey:

      what kind of Dem does he run as? A progressive champion who talks big on climate and other important issues that nobody else has the guts to talk about? Or an establishment guy who knows how to operate the levers of power and whom you should vote for because the big guys in DC say so? Since Markey hasn’t really started campaigning yet (to my knowledge), beyond saying that he’s running, we still don’t know. Personally, I’d like to know.

      • Part of my reason for spreading around this post

        is to try to start the conversation and to display the benefits of Markey and others to come out, be bold, progressive, and truthful. Not only will such a strategy net you enthusiastic activists – maybe even a lot of the Warren newbies!, but it WILL convince people. Look at the Warren campaign vote totales. IT WORKS!

        Anyway, if you’re gonna run against Brown, “establishment” is NOT the narrative to stick to…he’ll just whack you with it over the head in the general election, and maybe even succeed doing it.

        And if Markey’s big rival in the primary is Capuano, they are BOTH established incumbents, so it hardly is any sort of advantage or mark of distinguishment.

        My guess is that in the primary, all the candidates try to out-outsider each other.

      • Why can't he be both?

        Tip O’Neil and Teddy were solid left of center voices in a Reaganite America as consummate insiders who delivered and got things done. I am really tired f progressives assuming long government service and competently wielding the levers of power is somehow a negative value. Seems self defeating for the party that believes in good government.

        • He can be both.

          What I’m worried about is the temptation, which has afflicted not a few past pols, to shy away from the controversial stuff for fear of alienating “centrist” voters. We’ll see if Markey and the others can overcome that temptation, which, when succumbed to, rarely ends well.

      • Markey has been aggressive on climate

        And he of all people should know how to frame this issue — as one of self-preservation, self-protection. Protect *our* shorelines. Protect our fishing industry. Protect our food supply, our ability to feed ourselves. Protect the USA. Protect our way of life. Protect our kids’ future. Protect our home-grown energy industries.

        USA USA Massachusetts Jobs USA Children USA Massachusetts USA. That’s the framing, which happens to be absolutely correct.

        I am damned sick of a variety of “environmentalism” that seems to be about personal virtue or earth-worship or some crap. Markey can be a great voice for that.

        • The issue is of fundamental importance

          We need a lot more voices shouting from the rooftop to save human civilization, the USA, and most especially Massachusetts, which is particularly vulnerable. In the real world of today, it’s as “mainstream” an issue as we have.

          In terms of short-term political gain, I could see Markey reaching some voters on the increasingly conservative South Shore and Cape with this issue. Scituate went pretty strongly from Brown in 2012 and always gets battered with these storms. I would hope being at risk personally would make people think rather than adopt an Inhofe-esque position for vague reasons of ideology.

        • "Markey can be a great voice for that."

          Yes, I agree – he can be a great voice for a more robust environmentalism. What I want to know is whether he will be such a voice in this campaign. He hasn’t faced a serious election since he took office nearly 40 freakin’ years ago, so we really have no idea what he’s inclined to do when everyone is watching and when there’s a non-zero chance that he could lose. I mean, he announced a couple of weeks ago and we’re still awaiting something beyond a “donate” page on his website.

    • First...

      if you are going to be a single issue voter, global climate change IS the one to be concerned about…it affects everything else. Because if we allow the climate to heat up to the extremes by doing nothing, our economic, foreign, and social policies are all up in flames anyway.

      I think this time Markey’s big enviro stance is very good for playing to the general crowd. The polling on “belief” (ugh) on global climate change has largely reversed itself from the decline of the last decade, thanks to Sandy’s stunning destruction of a north eastern shore. If there’s a year to run on environment, this might be it…especially in this state, both because we’re already somewhat pro-environment and also…our recent history. How many disasters have we had now in less than 5-10 years? A few MAJOR 100-year floods in different parts of the state. Terrible tornadoes. Hurricanes that hit us direct, though nothing as bad as Sandy. But we’re also really close geographically to Sandy’s path and we know we escaped because it turned, not because we’re safe. Then there’s our strange winters…no snow at all, then a snowstorm every other day the next year. Warm Thanksgivings. Huge fluctuations in all seasons. We know something’s up.

      No, it’s high time someone ran on the goddamned environment, I think.

      • Whoa...

        The polls reversed more than I thought…68% think it’s a “serious problem.”

        And that’s Rasmussen.

        Their numbers on who believes it’s human made kinda suck, but…


      • Disagree about what 'key issue' affects...

        … everything else is campaign finance. It’s much easier to work on climate change in a less corrupt campaign finance environment.

        • Wow

          You are just a big bowl of disagreeing with me today, aren’tcha?


          Yeah, that’d be a good one, but what we NEED is to worry about THAT issue in presidential years…you know, the dude that appoints SCOTUS judges. THAT is where campaign finance law rests now. Unfortunately until we have generational turnover on the SCOTUS I doubt we can reverse the overturning of campaign finance. A Senate race does crap all for campaign finance, unless you really wanna count tinkering around the edges of it.

  5. I like Barney Frank

    He seems to understand the issue of income inequality and he’s not afraid to speak out about it. We need more of that. Since he will only be in the Senate for a short time, and not seeking re-election, he could really help push things along and be a powerful voice that is much needed. Of course, I could be missing something too. the last thing I want is a corporate hack appointed. I don’t think Barney Frank is one. Appointing a corporate or wall street hack would be a disaster.

  6. Be Careful What You Wish For

    You are going to get your primary.

    People seem to forget that Elizabeth Warren had primary opponents also. Remember Marisa deFranco? In a real low point of the campaign, she made headlines by commenting on Elizabeth’s native American heritage. She even received republican support.

    That type of primary opponent is clearly harmful. It’s exactly what Scott Brown is hoping for.

    So, yes, Lynne, there will be a primary. The winner (Ed Markey) will only have 45 days to fight with Scott Brown, while Brown will have 5 months to attack Markey; Unfortunately, Brown will get help from Markey’s democratic opponents.

    • "yes, Lynne, there will be a primary."

      Do you know something the rest of us don’t?

      • Well

        I am not suggesting that I know something special.

        Two other candidates told me that they “are thinking” about running.

        A globe reporter apparently is writing an article one one of the candidates for tomorrow’s paper.

    • "Unfortunately, Brown will get help from Markey’s democratic opponents."

      Well now, that’s gonna have a damned lot to do with what TYPE of primary we have.

      We have evidence of bad ones, we have evidence of inconsequential ones (let’s be clear, Marisa annoyed me with what she did and how she ran, but she wasn’t even a flash in the pan in terms of dictating anything about the general storyline. She didn’t even get her own article about her attacks on Warren’s heritage – they were quickie little quotes embedded deep in one or two articles at most.) We also have evidence of what a good primary does. I witnessed one and it was a special election, and it was lively, congenial, and really delved into issues and not personal attacks. A gold standard of an election.

      If Martha Coakley had actually leveraged the goddamned ground game that she had going for her to win in the primary (it wasn’t non-existent) during the general, I think we would have had a very different outcome. She wasn’t badly damaged by that primary, either, IMHO.

      A primary gets the blood going. It gets the activists engaged. Without one, it can be hard to roust us out of our lives and back into politics until the last month or so, and gets your side in the news (the primary with Patrick-Reilly-Gabrielli kept Patrick in media all summer, while Healey literally couldn’t get ink if she paid for it). A primary also wastes some resources, particularly money, so it’s not all roses. But it’s democracy. It’s not *supposed* to be *easy*.

  7. It remains a stupid law.

    The sort-of crowning of Rep. Ed Markey has irked not a few grassroots types, I’m sure. Personally, I’d like a half-decent primary too, it does some good things

    Under the current law there is no way to get a ‘half decent primary’. None.

    People like to bust on Martha Coakley for losing the special election in ’10. But that election was set up purely for the purpose of avoiding a Republican appointment by a certain, little missed and certainly unlamented, former Republican Governor of this here CommonWealth. And the sole assumption behind a special election where the primary is nearly three times as long as the general is that this is a solidly Democratic state and that whomever it is that wins the primary will win the general. People like to point to Martha Coakley messing up but she ran her election exactly and according to the assumptions made by EVERYBODY in the Mass Democratic Party Bubble (including herself): namely that Ted Kennedy’s seat wouldn’t go to anybody but a Dem in Massachusetts. And so, the election calendar was set up to favor the Dem primary in a way that sleights the general.

    This, it turns out, is a fantastically bad assumption to make. Massachusetts is no longer a wholly Democratic CommonWealth (although it could be if the Mass Dem Party stopped being wishy washy and all too willing to kowtow to corporate interests…) and that the front loaded Dem primary (which apparently is the law) paradoxically strengthens the GOP candidates.

    If the ‘grassroots types’ want to avoid getting irked they should get all grassroots about changing this feckless and ill-considered law.

    It’s a bad law and bad results will ensue.

    For that reason I favor the ‘crowning’ of Ed Markey, with immediate effect, and let him start the general election tomorrow: if the Dem primary is going to strengthen the GOP in the general election, no matter the candidate, (and the way the Dem primary is structured there is no way it can’t…) then let’s avoid the primary.

    Bad election law makes bad elections.

    • Agree 100%

      I just think the Leg would suffer a huge backlash if they changed it a third bleepin time. After tjis election they should change it to the post-Blago IL law. Gov appoints someone, that person runs in the next scheduled biennial general election. Yes we were stuck with Burris for over a year but it gave us a real campaign, Alexi was not the candidate to put up against Kirk, but there was more than enough time for everyone to make a decision.

      • Don't see a backlash

        1. Just say “we’ve had this law put into practice twice now and there are some problems we’d like to address, not least of which is having U.S. Senate elections in three consecutive years. This change brings us into conformity with the practice in XX states. (The whole thing becomes less subject to criticism if Dems hold the seat but change the law anyway.)

        2. I really don’t think this kind of thing is on the average non-partisan voter’s radar. Especially if a change is made in mid-2013, with no election looming, nobody will remember at election time. I have a friend, votes reliably for progressive Dems. We had dinner over the weekend and he was not even aware that John Kerry’s up for state and we’d have another vacancy. He had never heard of the special election law and could not change the subject fast enough. Eyes glazed over.

        • Yes, but

          I think that is true, if the law is changed post-special.

          They changed the law in 2004 because an empty seat was preferable to our Democratic legislature than a seat filled by the appointment of then-goevernor Romney.

          They changed the law in 2009 because the Democratic legislature wanted to get a Senator in to vote on Obamacare.

          Each change was for nakedly partisan purposes, and each made for the shortest of short-term reasons, and each without regard for long-term consequences.

          I think it is a non-issue, so long as it doesn’t get raked over again for nakedly partisan reasons, which would redound (as the last change did) decidedly to the benefit of Sen. Brown.

  8. Lynne +1000

    Just thanks for saying everything I would say, only better.

    There are coronations for those who are simply “next in line”, and then there’s a time for a person who’s time has arrived. EW was the person whose time had arrived, regardless of where she was — or wasn’t — in the pecking order of MA politics.

    It just so happens that Markey is a.) the person whose time and issue have arrived, and b.) next in line, based on seniority and experience. I support him for a.), though b.) is an excellent qualification.

    Campaign logistics and operations matter … I’ll be intrigued to see how he sets it up.

    • It *is* kinda serendipitous

      that just as public opinion is shifting dramatically, here we are with a high profile Senate race that will engage the whole country because there’s no other campaign to really occupy the pundit class for a while (though plenty of politics with all the economic hostages…). Markey would be a good choice if climate change is your big concern, so long as, as David says, he RUNS on the issue instead of downplaying it and being driven by timid consultants.

      You know, I’m kinda sick of these high profile big races being in MA. Let’s hope this is it for a while. I’m beginning to feel like I’m still living in New Hamster.

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