A Democratic heavyweight runs for office against a Republican outsider. There’s a fierce battle, but the Democrat, with a little bit of documentation baggage behind her, thinks they have things locked up. And by the time she realizes she’s in trouble, there’s nothing she can do but sit back and watch the returns roll in, with her Republican opponent claiming victory.
No, this isn’t about Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump, 2016. This is Martha Coakley versus Scott Brown for the 2010 Massachusetts Senate special election to succeed the late Ted Kennedy.
The similarities between Clinton’s presidential race and Coakley’s Senate race are pretty striking, though at least Scott Brown boasted a better political resume than Donald Trump. The environment of Massachusetts is one with a left-leaning tilt, especially as it has given us the Kennedy political empire. But the 2010 race was a wake-up call to the Democratic party that they cannot take any environment for granted. Coakley was someone with extensive governmental service, and Brown considered himself far outside of the Republican establishment, two positions that are pretty analogous to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Coakley even had her own email scandal to have to deal with, for which she was criticized immensely.
In the end, Coakley took a week long vacation that, while it didn’t sink her campaign, caused her to be caught off guard when she returned to the campaign trail. For Clinton, it wasn’t a vacation, but rather a Republican-generated scandal that killed her momentum. By the time Clinton realized that she was in trouble in the rust belt, it was too late to be able to recover. And while she tried to recover, she went about it completely wrong, with attacks on Trump instead of tailoring her message to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. If she had acknowledged the issues with the economic problems those three states were facing, and given a plan to address them, then we may well have seen a much different outcome.
The 2010 election of Scott Brown does have a silver lining for Democrats, which should give the party hope for life after the folding of the Clinton dynasty. While Scott Brown served two years, he was defeated in 2012 by a liberal firebrand, Elizabeth Warren, who is up for reelection in 2018. Warren, along with Bernie Sanders, is one of the most nationally popular, left-leaning Senators in the chamber, which is a good thing for Americans, because they fight for the common man, not the super elite.
So take heart, Democrats. Get your party in order, get a strong progressive to fight for the little guy, and put the country back on the right path in 2018 and 2020.