Joy-Ann Reid

Joy-Ann Reid
Pembroke Pines, Florida, USA
December 08
Journalist and talk radio personality in South Florida. Also blogging daily at


Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 19, 2010 4:53PM

How to lose an election

Rate: 24 Flag

For the Obama administration, Martha Coakley, the
 likely loser in tonight's Senate election in Massachusets,
is only part of the problem.

[UPDATED] Press secretary Robert Gibbs during the daily briefing today on Tuesday, said President Obama is "surprised and frustrated" by the turn of events in Massachusetts, where it seems highly likely that Democrat Martha Coakley is about to lose up and lost Ted Kennedy's ... sorry, "the people's" seat in true blue Massachusetts. Frustrated I can see. But surprised? What would surprise me would be if the White House still doesn't get it, and still hasn't figured out why they're in the pickle they find themselves in. Losing Massachusetts is easy, it turns out, if you do a few really stupid things.

Stupid thing #1 - Allow the Senate to put the country through a full year of drawn out, torturous, back-stabbing, over-compromise, Republican-begging, Lieberman-coddling, Ben Nelson-bribing, Max Baucus smirking, Olympia Snowe ass-kissing debate on healthcare. Had the White House put their foot on the gas, rather than the break, in July, and forced the Senate to get a bill of the White House's design done before the August recess, we'd be long past that debate by now, and Americans would be thanking Democrats for keeping insurance companies from dropping them (and some would be looking forward to signing up for the public option,) rather than cursing the day the Democratic Party was created, as they await the dreaded individual mandate that's going to force them to become what a lot of people are certain will be vassals of the unregulated insurance giants.

Stupid thing #2 - (which is actually a subset of stupid thing #1) Pursue "bi-partisanship" at all costs. President Obama apparently read his campaign talking points too literally, and came into office more intent on befriending the opposition than on defeating it. If you run on "change," and your opponent is already painting you as Hugo Chavez, then damnit, get a little Chavez on them and push through change with a little bit of freaking attitude! Call a few people the Devil if you have to and keep it moving, but for god sakes stop being nice... Pretending that the other side are friends, not foes, only serves to blur the distinction between you and them. And if the American people wanted a slightly nicer version of them, they would have voted for John McCain (okay, maybe forget the "nicer" part.) There is some evidence the White House gets this, and is pivoting hard as a result.

Stupid thing #3 - Be too nice to the banks. The administration completely misread the politics of 2008, which was part one of the politics of anger. The American people were mad at George W. Bush, so they elected Barack Obama. But the reason they were mad at Bush was in large part because he let the economy go bankrupt on his watch, and then signed into law the biggest bank and insurance company bailouts they've ever seen. Had Team Obama read that anger right, they would have come into office railing at the banks, clobbered Wall Street with stiff regulations, and let the fat cats know that there's a new sheriff in town. Instead, they opted for "continuity" with the hated Bush bailout regime, complete with keeping Bush's Fed chairman, and they hired a bunch of Harvard and Federal Reserve eggheads who care more about Goldman Sachs than they do about Gordon Sachs, which sure didn't look like change to most Americans. By not sticking it to the banks from the get-go, the administration allowed the tea party rage to fester into something serious. And had they been seen as taking on Wall Street, Detroit and health insurers, rather than propping them up, they wouldn't have to resort to propping up the world's worst candidates (Corzine, Deeds and now the utterly lame Martha Coakley.) Oh, they're getting all populist now, with their "we want are money back" and stuff, but it might be  was too little too late to help poor Martha.

Stupid thing #4: Recruit suckish candidates. The Obama political team, which sure isn't as good as the Obama campaign team, was all up in New York Gov. Patterson's face. But they didn't lift a finger to mold the statewide races in Virginia, where Creigh Deeds thought the way to win was to stay in the rural areas and ignore the big suburban areas -- where all the Democratic voters are -- and New Jersey, where even Democrats thought Corzine was a jerk. In Massachusetts, you'd think a good vetter could have figured out that Coakley was the tin man from "The Wizard of Oz," only really without a heart, and that they were facing the political equivalent of a used car salesman on the other side. Now, the teabaggers, who are as belligerent as they are crazy (their overall goal seems to be to get the federal government to stop spending money, though they can't quite say on what, and to keep our healthcare system exactly the way it is, and to return to George W. Bush's super-duper tax cuts for the rich ... even though most of them aren't rich...) are set to have claimed their biggest Democratic scalp yet. Ted Kennedy: permission to roll over, now.

Stupid thing #5: Screw the base. This might be the biggest mistake the White House has made this year. By being openly disdainful -- hostile almost -- to its own Democratic base, complete with snidery from Rahm Emanuel and constant demands that the left eat the crap coming out of Joe Lieberman's rear end, the White House has actually made me feel sorry for Harry Reid. And I NEVER feel sorry for Harry Reid. It turns out Reid, who most lefties view as a weakling, had more cojones in negotiating with Lieberman and the other right wingers in the Democratic caucus than the president did. And now that the left has been told to wait their turn, not just on healthcare, but on everything they wanted, Obama has no base to turn to for volunteers, donors, voters and just plain enthusiasts in his time of need. George W. Bush is clearly not the brightest bulb in the fixture, but even he knew better than to leave the base hanging, in pursuit of the mythical "Independents" (who are usually just Republicans who think the party brand stinks, or that it's somehow edgier to call themselves "unaffiliated.")

BTW, if and when Coakley loses now that Coakley has lost, is the Obama administration finished? Of course not. The same hysterical pundits who are pronouncing this presidency over were calling in the priest for the GOP just a few months ago. Politics is like a sine wave -- you're up and you're down, and the administration has a good long time to pull it together (both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had poor starts too, and look how they ended up...) But the administration has to take corrective measures, immediately. One thing the president could do is to threaten to veto any financial regulatory reform that comes to his desk without a consumer protection agency. Another would be to sack a few members of his economics team, and hire a person or two how has run a business, rather than just written academic books about them. He has done a good job with Haiti, given the magnitude of the challenge, and the bank fee is a great idea, both literally and politically.

And even without the Massachusetts seat, believe it or not, Democrats will still hold a big majority in the Senate. Still, the problems the White House faces today are largely of their own making (and no, wingers, not because Americans love the healthcare system the way it is and only want it changed via tort reform.)

Year one was a mess. There's just no nice way to put it. So nah, the White House shouldn't be surprised by what's going on in Massachusetts. And just for the record, it's the supporters of this president who are frustrated.

Cross-posted at The Reid Report

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Ms. Reid, you've hit the proverbial nail on the head:

Obama and his inner circle of Wall Street Corporate Fat Cats are stunned and bewildered that Main Street voters in Massachusetts are upset by Team Obama's kowtowing to the rich, betrayal of the bold progressives who elected him, bailouts for billionaires and backtracking on most, if not all, of his campaign promises.

Imagine that!!!

The kooks on the right are able to take advantage because of this fact, because the liberals are deflated and disappointed, while the right-wing wackos are fully energized and going to the polls in large numbers.

Look for Obama's populist rhetoric, if not his actions, to ratchet up, and intensify, as November approaches. Then, after the will be back to business as usual, handing out welfare checks to bankers, lapdogging for tycoons, pleasing the powerful, and listening to the concerns (and tantrums) of the Lunatic Right.

Can't wait for that....
from huffpost-- one of the coakley pollsters is saying the dems didnt come down hard enough on the banks, and lost the election because of it. another case in point.. Dodd.... now... Dodd-ering...
Zyskander - I agree on all your points on Coakley, and I also lived in Mass, and you're right about women candidates (the exception being Hillary's win in the 08 primary)

Tom - I hope you're wrong, but I have a sinking feeling...

vzn - I am allergic to excuses from rotten candidates. Martha should go away somewhere and never come back.
I am tired of Republicrats or Dempublicans or whatever. Most people in both parties are worthless. We get tired of who is in power, and we swing back the other way. We get tired again....while they pillage the country.
Well said. Hoping for some sanity from our president. Not really expecting it; just hoping for it.
Great post. Rated. I am chagrined - the Obama team had such strategic vision. Where has it gone? I hope someone shows puts this post on his desk soon.
Bipartisanship might work with a loyal opposition but the people who have hijacked the Republican Party are only loyal to their ideology.
Yes, you've got the big picture just right. I've just posted my own version of what this Mass. mess means and why the Demos blew it. Bring back Mike Capuano.
Minor correction: Bipartisanship (outside of sucking up to the liberal fringe Republicans) was not even attempted. It was given lip service, but not done in any significant way.
Martha Coakley was the anti-Tip O'Neill, who famously said "All politics is local" and "To get people to vote for you, you have to ask them."

She was perceived as a strong candidate until the last few weeks--she beat three challengers handily in the primary--but she was no Tip O'Neill. She went after garden clubs--little old ladies!--for not filing reports with her office when they'd never done so before. She said being a Senator would be a burden on her because she'd have to commute--sorry to inconvenience you. And when asked why she wasn't campaigning, she said "You mean like standing out in front of Fenway Park and shaking hands?" with disdain. That's what Tip O'Neill would have done.

But you're wrong about health care. When Medicaid reimbursements are cut, community hospitals suffer and in many cases close. The bills currently in Congress would cut Medicaid reimbursement significantly, forcing many non-profit hospitals to close or merge out of existence with bigger partners. People like having a hospital close by in case of emergencies. To quote Tip again--all politics, and health care, is local.
Great post. What puzzles me is that everyone seems to understand what needs to be done or at least attempted, except Obama and his political staff. I voted for change and all I got was Bush light!
Very good summary, especially #2. Rated.
Outstanding! You got my pulse.
Stupid Thing #6: Stop lying.
Stupid Thing #7: Stop buying votes with taxpayer money
Stupid Thing #8: Stop trying to transform the country into a socialist country.
I think your first paragraph said it all. It is not Ted Kennedy's seat, it belongs to the people of the United States and they are deciding to get ride of career politicians regardless of the party they shill for. I think (hope) this is repeated time and time again and both republican and democrat career politicians are replaced with new blood. Obama won because he promised new ideas and blood, he was met with the career senate and congress who had no intentions of working for the good of this nation.

There should be a list of all career politicians and what they have done for and against this country and then systematically vote them out regardless of their party.
Actually, the real problem - for both parties - is the lockstep progression of party candidates into seat holders who, once they have been seated, have sinecures for life.

In a real democracy, which this one here is not, every seat would be hotly contested in every primary from alderman to president. If there aren't enough competent candidates in a party to unseat their own incumbent, why would it surprise us if our incumbents are no longer competent campaigners.
Ms. Reid, you rock!!! I have this sour taste in my mouth about Obama's first year, but I could not articulate it like you did. THANK YOU!!! I bow to you. :-)
How incredibly timely!! First rate for sure!!

It simply is NOT possible that the public is against the health proposal as it is written now, nor could they be against backdoor deals to secure votes for it, nor could they be against the lack of open C-SPAN coverage, nor could it be that they do want just a DIFFERENT KIND (as opposed to no) of healthcare reform than what is being offered, nor could it be that they are against special preferences given to exclude the taxes on premium plans from only individuals that happen to mostly support the Democratic party (this is for what's best for THE PEOPLE remember), this is clearly the result of one thing only...RACISM. Yet again, white people hate Pres. Obama because he is 1/2 white. Furthermore, not enough black people showed up at the polls to also exhibit enough reverse racism to give a Democratic victory because they hate women. When can this country finally get more mature and stop being so racist???
You go, Girl! Where have you been all my life? I love the way you think and I am so simpatico with you, only you are a much better writer of political opinion than I could ever be! Kudos! Btw, you are the first African-American female I've seen on the cover page in the year I've been on Open Salon. Really good writing knows has no ethnicity. Rated
Hey Joy, I was laughing quite a bit. This could be part of a top ten list on the Daily Show:

"Recruit suckish candidates"
"Screw the base"
"Republican-begging, Lieberman-coddling, Ben Nelson-bribing, Max Baucus smirking, Olympia Snowe ass-kissing"

I appreciated the last sentence "And just for the record it's the supporters of this president who are frustrated."

Exactly, unfortunately some anti-Obama folks will jump on this band wagon rather than scrutinizing their own candidates and ideologies. Cowards refuse to show humility, instead watching for cracks in the opposition It takes courage to admit faults and then to try to rise above. Thanks for this - hope to see more!
I love it. How can I tune into you every day?
Being here in the state in question, I just have to say that your post, and a few other's, have galvanized me out of Masshole navel gazing "Wha' happend?" and onto the bigger picture. Thank you for that.
Plus, you are hilarious, and laughing today is HUGE!
Massachusetts is a strange little state with a big reputation. I live in the Western part of the state which is like a whole separate state in some ways. Politicians (like our governor) tend to ignore Worcester and Springfield in favor of Boston politics, and of course the whole Five College area is basically a different planet. Coakley, being from N.Adams and being THE DEM, had W. Mass locked in.
Too bad, as someone else said, she didn't take a page from some of our best (yes, career) politicians and get out there and meet people.

@M Todd: I agree with you in many ways, but Ted Kennedy's seat doesn't belong to the rest of the country. It belongs to Massachusetts. And now that Cosmo centerfold will sit in it for awhile until we force him back into obscurity. No offense - just had to point that out!
I continue to fail to see how the American people are advanced by political hacks constantly harping on them to affiliate with a rudderless party so that they can wage war in order to beat the other rudderless party. Both parties (shrinking in number though they may be) are populated entirely by other Americans. Essentially the theory appears to be that if this 10% 0f the public can beat the bejeezus out of that 15% of the public - all of us will be better off.

What a load of nonsense. You're either working for equality, economic prosperity, and freedom - or you're not. There is no room for beating the competition. It's a self-defeating proposition.
Thanks for all the great responses! (well, except Gordon ... and Citizen Justice ... where do they find these people, and can any of them actually define Socialism? ... the Postal Service, maybe???)

As for "Bipartisanship (outside of sucking up to the liberal fringe Republicans) was not even attempted. It was given lip service, but not done in any significant way."

-- I'm not sure what you're talking about. Which liberal (let alone "fringe") Republicans are there left in Congress? Certainly not the ones on the dreadful "Gang of Six." If you consider them liberal, then you must be so right wing you literally bleed ice water. Didn't we just spend a year watching Democrats do everything but offer Olympia Snowe and Joe Lieberman front row Super Bowl tickets, free college education for their grandkids and both of Barack Obama's kidneys to get them to get on board? Jeez...

Bottom line -- Republicans said what they were going to do, and they did it -- they said they were going to block ANY attempt at healthcare reform in order to "break" Obama. They have mounted more filibusters than ever in history. They are marching together in lockstep to bring the Congress to a halt if they can, just to make Obama fail. It's unpatriotic as hell, but it's also hardball politics, which they play way better than the Democrats do.

The seat is for the US senate not Mass. The citizens of Mass. elect their representative, but once elected, they are to work for this country not just the state from which they come. That is how a representative democracy works.

Every senator and congress member is part of the United States Government not the state government. I think this will be repeated time and time again once people realize sending the same person term after term to Washington does not serve the needs of the people, but instead the needs of the special interest who support them. And it does not matter if the person in office is democrat or republican, if they have been there more than two terms, they need to be voted out.