What If Coakley Loses?

| Sun Jan. 17, 2010 6:02 PM EST

Democrats realized a while ago that Martha Coakley might actually lose the race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate. That's why President Barack Obama was in Massachusetts today stumping for Coakley. The election in scheduled for Tuesday, and the GOP candidate, Scott Brown, leads in a lot of the polls. Some liberals seem to think this is a good thing. Digby paraphrases this theory in a wonderful post on this phenomonon:

[T]he only thing Democrats understand is pain and so the thing that will change this dynamic will be to deliver them a loss of their majority and perhaps the presidency to show the consequences of failure to fulfill the progressive agenda.

It's hard to see how crushing defeats for the more liberal party will somehow help liberals. The Democrats are the more-liberal party. If they're losing, the Republicans (the more conservative party) will be winning. Digby again:

[Y]ou can't ever know exactly what lesson will be taken from this sort of pain and if history is any guide, the likeliest one is the simplest and most obvious: they lost because people preferred what the other side had to offer. Obviously, that's not necessarily the case, but it isn't illogical for them to believe that. And the exit polls or whatever other data may be available rarely clearly show that it was base demobilization that caused a turnover. Often people don't even know why they failed to vote and you can't exit poll those who didn't bother.

I can't emphasize enough how right this is. I don't understand how liberals—including many people who helped develop the liberal critique of the news media—could fail to see how Republicans, conservative Democrats, and the media will spin Democratic defeats in Massachusetts on Tuesday and/or in the November midterms. It's as if people are ignoring their own beliefs about how the media operates. One last graph from digby:

[Y]ou have the ongoing, pernicious problem of the conservative Democrats who will always pimp the anti-liberal line and their friends in the media who pull the old "this is a conservative country" narrative off the shelf by reflex. Indeed, we can see it in its full glory already manifesting itself with this classic Adam Nagourney piece in today's NY Times.

If you're just arguing that the Democrats might need a wake-up call reminding them that they have to energize their base, that's perfectly reasonable. (I suggested as much on Friday.) The very fact that the race to replace Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts with health care and everything else on the line is coming down to the wire should be wakeup call aplenty. Democrats don't need Coakley to lose in order to realize they have a base mobilization problem. If you're a liberal who's out there arguing that a Coakley loss will "help liberals," please go read the rest of digby's post right now. And remember what happened when too many liberals sat out the 2000 election (or voted for Nader).