As political people, we want to take away lessons from the amazing MA senate race. While there are important lessons to be learned, (and I have previously discussed some of these) it is also important for us not to take away the wrong lessons -- especially from self-interested parties who share in responsibility for the loss. Since I am from Massachusetts, I am especially interested -- its my senator we are talking about here. But not mine alone.
My friend Leo Maley, a longtime labor and political organizer, (currently a Community Organizer with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and chair of the Amherst Democratic Town Committee), writes at Blue Mass Group that a post at the AFL-CIO blog is a "must read for all Democratic Party activists and engaged union members."
And he is absolutely right.
Despite a heroic, last minute effort from labor, Coakley "lost the union vote by 3 percent" according to a Hart poll. How come? Jeff Crosby offers some sound explanations in his post: Hey, Democrats, Remember Us? Here are a few excerpts, but really, take Leo's advise and read the whole thing. (Crosby, BTW, is president of IUE-CWA Local 201 in Lynn, MA and president of the North Shore Labor Council.)
"Jeff, you guys at the Union Hall aren’t listening to us! You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. We’re fighting the benefits tax, and now you’re telling us to vote for someone who will tax our benefits! The guys here are voting for Scotty Brown."
That was just one of the calls and e-mails that I received during the week before the Senate vote in Massachusetts. An AFSCME delegate to our labor council calculated the impact of the Obama tax on union plans and e-mailed us all to "Vote Brown!"
For a year and a half, we campaigned against the tax on our health care benefits. We trudged through neighboring New Hampshire with fliers explaining that Sen. John McCain wanted to fund health care expansion by a benefits tax.
Conservative members of my local Executive Board were adamant in saying the outcome of our health care campaign would be a tax on working people to extend coverage to poor people. Recognizing a classic Republican "wedge issue," we argued that those without insurance include our own children. We could win a plan to tax the wealthiest and cut into the blood money of the health care profiteers.
Ultimately, we were wrong. In the last week of the Coakley campaign, the papers were full of the story: "Obama Supports "Cadillac Tax."
There was no outpouring for a right-wing agenda in Massachusetts. Brown only received 50,000 votes more than McCain. But Coakley received 850,000 fewer votes than Obama. The Republican based remained energized. The Democratic base and independent supporters stayed home.
Coakley spent time raising money from insurance lobbyists in Washington instead of campaigning in Mattapan because that’s the way the system works. Obama listened to an MIT economist instead of us—about our own benefit plans—because that’s often the way the Democratic Party works. Neo-liberalism reigns, money flows from and to those with power, and extremist free market ideas have permeated every corner of public life. Many national Democrats will conclude this election was lost because Democrats were—you guessed it—"too left."