Lessons From Massachusetts

The Republican candidate won the special election in Massachusetts to replace Senator Kennedy, giving them 41 votes.  The Republicans have filibustered every single bill this year, and this clinches their ability to block the President’s agenda.  If this sounds familiar to Californians, it’s because in California the Republican minority is able to block budgets, and we have seen the results.

There are lots of sophisticated explanations for the election’s outcome, mostly involving people being upset at particulars of the health care bill.  But I don’t really think that the people who voted for the Repubican candidate were all that well informed about differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, the “public option,” or other intricacies of in-progress legislation.  
Instead, when looking for the reasons people voted this way, I think we should take the Republican candidate’s word for it.  On his website he says it is for the following reasons:

At his September 12 announcement of candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Senator Brown articulated a core set of beliefs that guide his thinking.

  • Government is too big and that the federal stimulus bill made government bigger instead of creating jobs
  • Taxes are too high and are going higher if Congress continues with its out-of-control spending
  • The historic amount of debt we are passing on to our children and grandchildren is immoral
  • Power concentrated in the hands of one political party, as it is here in Massachusetts, leads to bad government and poor decisions
  • A strong military and vigorous homeland defense will protect our interests and security around the world and at home
  • All Americans deserve health care, but we shouldn’t have to create a new government insurance program to provide it

Here’s the thing.  Most of the assumptions underlying these statements are simply wrong – factually incorrect.  They have been pounded out by a corporate/conservative misinformation machine that just makes stuff out and puts it out there on TV, the radio, email forwarding and every other channel they can find.  
But the facts are that the federal stimulus didn’t “make government bigger,” the “out-of-control spending” occurred under the previous Republican president, we spend more on military than every other country in the world combined – and it is the largest government spending program and contributing to the debt, and the health care reform specifically doesn’t create a government insurance program (it should) and saves money rather than increase spending.
The Right has a message machine that has been repeating misinformation and getting away with it, because: 
1) The leadership of the other party has let them get away with it.
2) There is no comparable megaphone with which to refute the misinformation.
The same is true here in California, and we may be heading for similar election turnovers.  Republicans repeat things that simply are not true, but there is lack of leadership from elected democrats and almost no megaphone with which to counter the untruths. The example we regularly bring up here is the assertion, repeated over and over, that businesses and rich people leave California because of taxes and regulations.  Of courase this just isn’t true, but is formulated in a way that sounds like it could be true if you just don’t think about it, and leads to large corporations having even more power over our lives and the wealthy having an even greater share of all income and wealth.
Of course, people and businesses that do leave the state do so because of the high cost of living, which is the result of so many poeple wanting to live here.  It just costs more to live in a nicer place.  And as I wrote last week, it is a nicer place because of the government and the public structures that We, the People built.  In other words, California is a nicer place because of those regulations and taxes!