, , , ,

This shocking, alternate-universe map from the New York Times shows Republican Scott Brown's fairly decisive Senate victory in my oh-so blue home state of Massachusetts

So I know this is a pretty random time to start blogging again — I still owe at least a few pictures from our SE Asia trip, and I haven’t even recalled our super-fun New Year’s Eve (which was thankfully a big rebound from a fairly craptastic Christmas).

But right now I’m glued to to the Foxtel (and my laptop is glued to my lap), watching political coverage of the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senatorial seat in my home state of Massachusetts. (Note how I’m spelling it, ha). Until 2pm we were getting CNN International (now Anderson Cooper is on), meaning that the only US news channel our cable had was FoxNews. Ugh, FAIL! Politically I’m pretty moderate, but the vitriol and delusional skewedness of dudes like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity make me nauseous. Not that my fellow Cornellian, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, isn’t just as bad on the other side at times, but FoxNews is the worst.  Fortunately I was able to track results via the AP’s website, and through Twitter, which seemed to publish about 3000 new #MAsen tweets every five seconds.

Even though voting is mandatory here in Australia, it just doesn’t seem like they’re as into elections as we are back home. I spose that’s what happens when you can basically overthrow the government on a whim. But man, I’ve been following this race for the past couple weeks, obsessively checking sites like Politico, Real Clear Politics, and 538 (love that a baseball stat-head has become America’s pre-eminent polling genius). The election seemed to become a referendum on nationalized health care (and, some would argue, Obama’s presidency), and given the fact that Massachusetts hasn’t had a Republican senator over the course of my life time, and that one was just elected to fill the seat of universal health care’s #1 proponent (Ted Kennedy), it seems pretty clear that Bay Staters are not happy with the current bill being discussed in Congress. Suddenly this election was the biggest political story in the country, and they were even reporting on it on BBC News. Of course, under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have mattered because a Democrat would’ve been running 20-30 percentage points ahead. But the Democratic candidate, Attorney General Martha Coakley, ran a lethargic, gaffe-laden (Curt Schilling, a yankee fan?!?! WTF?!) campaign that seemed to convey a sense of Democratic arrogance and inevitability. Clearly that was a big turn-off, and just a week before the election the polls were basically tied, with Brown surging 5-10 points ahead as the election approached.

Ok, you can read plenty of recaps and analysis elsewhere. The people who read this blog for expat stuff have probably long since navigated elsewhere, but I can’t help it, I’m a political junkie,  particularly when it comes to Massachusetts. My parents met while working at the state house in the 1970s. My dad was a longtime state employee, which led to me meeting Governor [and failed presidential candidate] Michael Dukakis when I was seven (apparently he jokingly asked for my opinion on some tax program and I told him it stunk, to his visible dismay).

I started attending campaign rallies and caucuses with my Dad when I was eight. The only time I got to stay up past my bedtime was to watch election results.  Again, I’m extremely moderate (if even left-leaning), but at a very early age I inherited a resentment of the Kennedys and their stranglehold on Massachusetts politics. That’s not to say that the family didn’t make enormous political contributions to Massachusetts, but it just always bothered me that someone like Ted Kennedy could get away with so many terrible things and still  inherit his Senate seat with virtually no experience, just because of his name. Of course he went on to do a lot of great things for the state and come to be regarded as the Lion of the Senate and all that, but nonetheless I think a little change and diversity in our Congressional leadership would have been nice. Seriously, until about two hours ago I was essentially represented by the same two senators for my ENTIRE LIFE. Can any 28 year-olds outside Massachusetts say that?

So right now, I guess I’m just trying to process my shock, while also savoring the Bay State’s moment in the political spotlight. My Dad and I were IMing constantly throughout the day (usually that only happens during close Red Sox or Patriots games), and I just got a little sad being so far from home on such a momentous night. The other thing is, I’m just not quite sure how to feel about this stunning election. For better or worse, I tend to vote primarily by how much I like a candidate (while also taking into account their stance on issues that are important to me). As turned off as I was by Martha Coakley, I think Barack Obama might be the most charismatic candidate of my lifetime, and I continue to believe in his presidency. In some corners Scott Brown has been likened to him since, he, too, was a candidate for change, and I hope that he doesn’t turn out to be Obama’s downfall, since clearly he inherited most of the country’s current problems, and the flaw of Congress is that everyone is concerned first and foremost with saving their own asses, not with doing what’s best for the country. And then, of course, perhaps what was best for Massachusetts isn’t what’s best for the rest of the country. Argh, I’m talking in circles and flashing back to discussions of the free rider problem when I taught Poli Sci in grad school!

I’m not sure if I’ve really made much of a point, I just know that I felt inspired to write for the first time in weeks. Hopefully this will get me back on track with the blog. Since Christmas things have improved: the weather’s been great (I’ve gone surfing at Bondi the past two days!), Rafael Nadal is lighting it up at the Australian Open, and my parents are coming to visit next month. I’m going to pretend that the NFL playoffs never happened, and will now look forward to pitchers & catchers, followed by March Madness. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…