Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Massachusetts results: the "purple" center revolts

So how and why did Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, that supposedly deepest "blue" among "blue" states? Because the vital center of the American electorate -- the purple center -- is now in open revolt against Washington policies it simply cannot stomach.

The familiar blue-red depictions of election returns has grossly distorted the reality of the American electorate -- as a whole and in most states -- by ignoring the fact that most voters are independents or moderate-minded Democrats and Republicans. As it happens, most Massachusetts voters fall into one of those categories.

I use the image above (courtesy of the University of Michigan's Mark Newman) as the emblem of this blog because it provides a more accurate picture of the electorate by using shades of purple, not just red and blue, to indicate relative margins of victory by county. What you see in Massachusetts and across New England is a lot of purple. If Democratic Party leaders from President Obama down had this understanding of America voters, they would not have made the mistake of driving so hard to put in place left-leaning policies that may appeal to the 20% of voters who call themselves "liberal," but worry or even alarm the other 80%!

Unfortunately, there are no exit polls to give us breakouts of the Massachusetts, but if we use the independent polls taken over the final weekend as a rough proxy of the election, Scott Brown's winning coalition looked like this:

-- More than two-thirds of independents, who comprise about one-half of all voters, voted for Brown;

-- So did about one-quarter of the registered Democrats, who comprise about 35% of the electorate; and

-- He swept as much as 90% of the Republicans, who comprise about 12% of the electorate.

While Brown crushed Democrat Martha Coakley among independents, he would not have won without the support of a sizable chuck of Democrats -- the centrist Democrats who many Democratic Party leaders try to pretend don't exist.

This came together for Brown because the same moderate independents, Democrats and Republicans -- the purple center -- who repudiated Bush and gave Obama a huge 26-point victory in Massachusetts 14 months ago are now in open rebellion against arrogant, out-of-touch one-party rule in Washington. They want a check against that power. In particular, they have seen the monstrosity of a health care "reform" bill and reject it. No, they aren't ignorant of its supposed benefits and will feel better when they learn more about it. They know perfectly well that it slashes Medicare; raises taxes and premiums; endangers their current plans and health care quality; gives insurance companies big new profits by forcing people to buy expensive policies they don't want or pay stiff penalties; jacks up the huge federal deficit further; imposes enormous new burdens on the fiscally strapped states; is riddled with offensive special deals for special interests from Big Pharma to labor unions; and for all that, leaves millions uninsured.

Sure, Martha Coakley was a lousy candidate, but she would have won this election handily a year ago before the sheer radicalism of the Washington Democrats' agenda became apparent.

This was not just a "wake up call." There have been many of those. This was a last chance warning. Democrats who ignore it will do so at their peril. Many more Democratic-held seats in the House or Senate are no longer "safe." Fortunately, moderate Democrats like Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman and Jim Webb do seem to get it and have already said publicly that Democrats have to step back and rethink what they are doing. The rest had better listen.

What are your thoughts about the Massachusetts revolt? Post a comment.

UPDATE -- Evan Bayh warns that Democrats risk "catastrophe" if they ignore Massachusetts and must avoid the "furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country." He's got that right.

RELATED -- Scott Brown's top strategist tells Politico that the campaign's polling showed terrorism was a bigger issue for Brown than health care. Brown campaigned against giving terrorists the rights of U.S. citizens, which resonated loudly with Mass. voters after the near-disatrous Christmas terror attack.

UPDATE 2 -- Rasmussen has a poll of how Mass. voters cast their ballots. Brown's margin was even higher among independents than I speculated above -- a whopping 73%! And he won 23% of Democrats, just about what I thought.

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