The biggest story in politics this week is the race between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakely to become Ted Kennedy’s replacement in the Senate. This story is huge for two reasons. First, it shouldn’t be a tight race. This is a special election to choose a replacement for Massachusetts’ dearly beloved late senator. His party’s hand-picked replacement should be a shoe-in. At first blush, you would think that the Republican candidate, although he’s not particularly conservative, would not stand a chance. And yet polls show Scott Brown in a very tight race with Martha Coakley.
The second reason that this is such a big deal is that Coakley’s election would guarantee the Democrats a filibuster-proof super majority in the Senate. That would mean that the Democrats could continue to force through any legislation that they choose without regard for the opposition’s stance. Which is kind of funny, considering the utter lack of achievement one year into the Era of Democratic Dominance.
A Brown victory, by contrast, would enable the Republicans actually to participate in the process of crafting legislation, to a degree. They still would not be able to actually propose any legislation that did not meet the approval of the Democratic machine, nor would they have enough votes to deny the Democrats any bills that they set their sights on. The only power the Republicans would gain is the ability to filibuster until the Democrats either gave up or caved in.
No less than President Obama himself is stumping for Coakley. He knows, his advisors know, everybody knows that this election is bigger than just the claim to be the Junior Senator from the great state of Massachusetts. This is a referendum on health care. This is a proxy battle for the direction of the country. This is big.
And the Republicans don’t have a chance. We’re talking about Massachusetts after all. Polling doesn’t mean much in New England. Did we all forget New Hampshire a year ago? This race was over before it began. The best the Right can hope for is the moral victory that comes from keeping the race closer than anyone would have thought possible.