Image will always trump substance?

Scott Brown

Bad news for Latinos and immigration reform: Scott Brown (picture above), who staunchly opposes immigration reform, just won the Massachusetts Senate seat.

Prepare yourself for the onslaught of spin that the right-wing media will force feed into the mouths of the coporate media journalists, who will swallow it whole unquestionably.  You know the usual conservative line: about how Massachusets is supposed to “represent a rejection of Obama and his ‘liberal policies’ blah blah blah”; when the reality of the reasons why the Democrats lost that seat were quite different.  Martha Coakley (Brown’s Democratic opponent), the DNC, and even the White House became complacent and unprepared to deal with the anger that that state had towards their Democratic governor.  Let’s be frank: Coakly ran a terribly lazy campaign, while Scott Brown worked really hard  to earn the vote of Massachusets.  Coakley was also a dull and smug candidate who assummed that in a Democratic state, she would win big no matter what … guess the lesson that the Obama campaign learnt in New Hampshire in ’08 was unlearnt by Democrats: never take anything for granted!

I have to say, the Massachusetts Senate race has become quite an interesting case study in many old assumptions that continue to hamper the effectiveness of many progressive activists and Democratic officials.  For example, I’ve read some analyses arguing that the naked pictures of Scott Brown did not hurt him in his political aspirations because he was a “dude” and that if he were a woman, the situation would be completely different.  I disagree with that assumption because it fails to recognize the simple fact that looks, appearance, charisma, and marketing will always trump substance, respectability, and integrity in elections of high-profile public office holders.  Sarah Palin’s sexy and folksy image did not put her at a disadvantage; quite the contrary, they were a plus for her during the ’08 campaign.  What trumped her image’s effectiveness was an even more powerful image than hers: the Obama story line of hope, progressive ideals, and national consciousness trascendence (Obama, of course, had also intellectual substance, but I would argue that his booksmarts came in 3rd place -behind his campaigns’ diciplined organizing strategy- to the powerful image his campaign crafted).       

Another assumption now in full display has to do with how “the Democrats do not enjoy a 60 vote majority in the Senate anymore”.  This was a total myth to begin with: Lieberman is really a corporatist Republican in disguise and Senator Sanders is not even registered as a Democrat, not to mention the fact that not all Democrats are progressives: many Democrats are actually conservatives, in the pockets of big corporations, who continue to side with Republicans (hence the importance of primaries to ensure that progressive Democrats, not conservative ones, win the nominations to be the actual Democratic Party candidate). 

The assumptions keep on rolling, with now some liberals starting to claim that the Masachusetts election might be a blessing in disguise to get the so-called “public option” back into the much-needed healthcare reform bill.  All I have to say is this: keep dreaming!  Do you really believe that the Democrats will actually have the balls to now scrap everything, start from scratch, and go the reconciliation route?  C’mon people, did you forget who is leading the Senate?!  Harry the timid softspoken Reid!  I say wake up, cut your losses and get what you can because when opportunity knocks, you better answer it or it might not come back again in a long time, or worse, ever.   

Update: maybe it’s time for some heads to roll: starting with Rahm Emanuel … a good replacement would be Howard Dean; hey, I’m just sayin’.

Update 2: here’s a good summary of what options are left for Democrats to pass health insurance reform.

Update 3: for a great analysis of the lessons [that should be learnt] from the health care reform battle thus far that could be applicable to the looming immigration reform debate, read this post.