So much bad news.
Question 1. It’s important to remember that we got to this place because Speaker DeLeo, Rep. Dempsey, et al. dictated the terms of the tax bill last year, carved out the gas tax increases from Patrick’s ambitious $1.9 billion package and (eventually) jettisoned the rest. They deserve blame. Perhaps Governor Patrick could have done more to stand his ground, too. As I argued in this space last year, raising the income tax would have been a more palatable, less regressive, and better way forward. I also think that, especially coupled with the significant sales tax cut included in the package, it would have been more popular. Of course, hardly anyone was eager to make the case to the public that, despite our Taxachusetts reputation, our tax burden is not all that high.
The result here should not have come as a shock. The automatic gas tax increases were unpopular across rank-and-file party lines from the get-go. But we now face some significant budget issues going forward (already!). How do we realistically make those much needed investments in our transportation infrastructure with No-New-Taxes-Charlie in charge? I have no idea.
Question 2. The ugly truth here is simple and easy to recognize: Yes, indeed, big, bad, corporate Super-PACs spent a lot of money, ran dishonest ads everywhere locally, and reversed public opinion. Among voters, the narrow, “Hey, I recycle, but I don’t want to spend more money on groceries or make more of an effort than I possibly have to”-sentiment took hold. It’s too bad, because as a matter of policy, deposits work.
Question 3. Despite mountains of evidence that casinos are altogether bad for life, the repeal was a long-shot. And despite some significant NIMBYism, most voters thought it was a settled matter. (I personally found it slightly brutalizing to watch the gubernatorial candidates try to formulate a coherent position on this, by the way.)
Question 4. The silver lining! A wonderful achievement made possible by the hard work of so many! And the folks who worked on this should feel especially gratified considering that the legislature was afraid to take it on earlier in the year.
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“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon – under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder [President Obama] is so unpopular.” ~David Letterman, a few nights ago.
. . . And a few days ago, Charley eloquently expressed a similar feeling I had about President Obama: “[He] is singularly inept at touting his own accomplishments and making Congressional Republicans own their own nutty, misanthropic positions. I don’t see any way around this conclusion.” The thing is, though, at least with respect to his touting his own accomplishments, he can, and he did–the day after the election:
“This country has made real progress since the crisis six years ago. The fact is, more Americans are working. Unemployment has come down. More Americans have health insurance. Manufacturing has grown. Our deficits have shrunk. Our dependence on foreign oil is down, as are gas prices. Our graduation rates are up. Our businesses aren’t just creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s. Our economy is outpacing most of the world. But we just gotta keep at it until every American feels the gains of the growing economy where it matters most, and that’s in their own lives.”
We didn’t hear this from Obama before the election, though, because we are all just forced to live vicariously through one cable news-hyped (non-) crisis after another, and as a result, his approval ratings are upside-down. So Democrats had him sit on the sidelines and largely made no attempt to coalesce around a sensible argument about why they should be elected. That strategy is not Obama’s fault.
The above argument would have worked (as that Daily Show segment also pointed out). But this group of bad candidates didn’t make it (which even left the NRSC baffled!), and as this Politico story put it, spent the campaign season attempting to “[run] from a president they were tied to anyway.”
There were other factors for this loss, of course. Young people didn’t show up to vote. Democrats were ridiculously outspent by Republicans in terms of Super-PAC money … And while we’re on the subjects of Democrats, money, and that which is ridiculous, here’s hoping that in 2016 and going forward the fundraising DNC/DSCC/DCCC-emails will take a different tone than the ask for money you’d expect from some desperate, batsh!t drug addict. These emails may be effective in raising money, but certainly they did little to inspire folks to get to the polls. And is it really too much to ask that they remind people exactly WHY we should give them money, WHY we should support Democrats? I suspect, in totality, they did more harm than good. A lot of people tuned out … There was a lot of bad, all-around. I’m not one of those people who feels at all good about the prospects of Democrats reversing all that bad in 2016.
… Speaking of 2016, 731 days ’til Clinton/Thune.