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Now what?

Congratulations to Scott Brown and his campaign team for a very impressive win last night.  They ran a fantastic campaign and, quite frankly, deserved to win.  A few take-aways and thoughts after a very disappointing evening in Massachusetts.

1. Healthcare is not dead – Despite what you may have heard/read today, the fight to fix our healthcare system is far from over.  I would expect that, in the next few days, the House will take up the Senate bill and will pass it with no changes, thus negating the need for another Senate vote.  Failing that, they will be forced to chop up the bill into smaller parts (something the American people seem to want anyway) and pass what they can.  This allows them to claim some level of victory and move on to other issues voters seem to care more about right now.  It would be a huge mistake on their part for them to try to force through a bill before Scott Brown is seated – it would send a terrible message to the country and would be political suicide. 

2. 41st vote – I don’t think there are words sufficient for me to describe my frustration over the perception out there that, because the Republicans now have 41 votes, the Democrats can’t do anything despite still holding 59 of 100 seats in the Senate.  As Ann Woolner notes, in her fabulous piece in Business Week, “These days political parties are so polarized, so short on ideological moderates and so bent on each other’s demise that compromise on hot-button issues is the rarity.”  With one party being hell-bent on destroying the President, no matter the cost to ordinary Americans, and using filibusters at every turn, 60 seats has become critical to accomplishing almost anything.   The Founding Fathers intended a simple majority to be needed to pass legislation and, as Woolner points out, “If the Founders wanted a supermajority for everything, they would have said so.”  The fact that it is a well-accepted conclusion that, because Brown won, the President’s agenda is dead, is a sad comment about the state of this country.

3. The President – Make no mistake about it.  This was a loss for President Obama and is another reminder that the American public is extremely anxious and impatient.  Obama has only been in office for a year – not nearly enough time to fix the problems he inherited – but people are hurting and they want and need real results.  In some ways this loss is a good thing for him.  It drives home the challenges the administration is facing and gives them 11 months to right the ship before the all-important mid-term elections.  They must find a way to make people feel better about the direction of the country and focus on important issues like job creation.  In a recent poll, 75% of Americans said that they like Obama personally.  That provides an exceptional opportunity for him to get out there and rebuild public confidence in his administration.

4. 2010 and beyond – In Massachusetts, the Democrats lost the mantle of the being the party of the people.  Scott Brown was engaging and convinced people he was an everyman who would look out for their interests.  On the other hand, Martha Coakley, until the end, came off as aloof and entitled.  There is a lesson here about how to run campaigns, even if you are the front-runner.  Going forward, Democrats have to get back to the populist message that made them so successful in 2006 and 2008 and remind voters of who got us into the mess we are in now.  All is not lost – far from it – but there are important lessons to be learned from Massachusetts (and VA and NJ) and how well those lessons are learned will affect what happens later this year.  It remains to be seen if MA, VA and NJ are accurate measurements of the mood of the country or it is simply an example of less than stellar candidates running poor campaigns.

5. Remember who elected you – I would encourage Senator-elect Brown to remember that it was largely on the backs of independent voters that he sailed into office.  You can bet the people of Massachusetts will be watching very closely and, in 2012, will not think twice about casting him aside should he prove to be more focused on the President failing than on making the country better.

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The Decade is almost over

What do CNN, ESPN, millions of bloggers around the world, every local news station, NPR, and random people have in common?  They have all spent the last few weeks creating those “year-end lists.”  You know the ones: Best moment of the year, saddest death of the year etc…  Of course, since the end of 2009, also draws the 2000s to a close (if you count the years in the way that most people do), those year-end lists have become decade-end lists.  I thought I could resist giving you the sportypolitics lists but, alas, I could not.  So, as we count down the final hours of 2009, I hope you enjoy my list of moments I felt the desire to highlight. 

Decade’s defining moment: The attacks of 9/11/2001
Sports or politics, there really is no question that the events of that Tuesday morning defined the decade. We are still feeling repercussions from those attacks and we are a fundamentally different society because of them. Thousands of people lost their lives that day and many more have been killed in the wars that the attacks spawned. The attacks brought the world together but the choices that followed splintered us again. We lost the illusion (however foolish it was) of being safe on our own soil and, as we saw on Christmas Day, there are still many out there who are willing to give up their life to kill Americans. As we move into the next decade, it is critical we find a way to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to rebuild our image in the world. Otherwise the defining moment of this decade will become the defining moment of the next decade and so on.

Defining struggle of the decade: The economy
One could certainly make an argument for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the fallout from the recession we have been mired in gets my vote. Greed and poor choices led to the near collapse of our Economic system and cost many people their jobs. With the unemployment rate above 10%, we once again saw that the consequences of decisions by those at the top are felt most dramatically by workers. It is a real shame that so many of those who made the decisions (or allowed the decisions to be made) have had so little interest in being a part of the solution. Greed is a powerful force and people like Anastasia Kelly who resigned from the disgraceful company AIG because she was upset at only making $500,000 (and will pocket several million dollars in severance pay because she left for ‘good reason’ show how few lessons those top decision-makers have learned.   The economy affects all of us and, while I think the Obama administration has taken strong steps to avert disaster and get us on the right track, jobs must come back for his work to be considered a success.

Now for some happier news…

Baseball team of the decade: The Boston Red Sox
I certainly could be accused of being a homer for this pick, but I feel pretty strongly about it. Yes, the Yankees had more wins. Yes, both teams won two World Series. But the way in which the Red Sox turned their team around and, in doing so, re-energized their fan base, gives them the edge. They maximized revenue from their ballpark, developed some really strong players, spent money when they needed to, and are really well-positioned for future seasons.

Football team of the decade: I don’t know
This is a really really tough one. Arguments could be made for the Pittsburgh Steelers (although their collapse and the fact that they may not make the playoffs this year argue against them), the Indianapolis Colts or the New England Patriots. To me, a lot depends on who wins the Super Bowl this season. If the Pats win, they are the team of the decade. If the Colts win, then they are. If neither wins, I think the nod goes to New England, but it is mighty close. Colts vs. Patriots is one of the best matchups of this decade and they sure have played some memorable games.

Basketball team of the decade: The Los Angeles Lakers
They didn’t have the most wins. They didn’t have the best winning percentage. They didn’t even have the most memorable championship (the Celtics get credit for that). But they were the most dominant and they were the team to beat in this decade.

Hockey team of the decade: The Detroit Red Wings
It’s not even really close. Sure, you could make an argument for the NJ Devils, but you would be wasting your time.

Sports city of the decade: Boston
These are incredible times to be a Boston sports fan. From the Red Sox (2 world series) to the Celtics (1 championship) to the Patriots (3 SB championships plus an almost perfect season) to the Bruins to the college teams we have winners everywhere you look. 6 parades in 10 years…pretty incredible. Add to that the hockey championships won by BU and BC and you have a pretty successful decade.  Think about the transformation in the Boston sports scene over the last 10 years. In 2000 no one really cared about Boston. We hadn’t won in years and things weren’t looking too promising. Fast forward to today and we are called “arrogant,” “spoiled,” “cheaters,” and “obnoxious.”  Such hatred is saved for winners, which is what Boston has become over the past decade.

Sports story of the decade: Cheating
From steroids to videotaping, this decade will be known as the one where fans were forced to confront the fact that our athletic heroes willingly and knowingly broke the rules to achieve greatness. Hopefully, with so much now out in the open, we can have faith that the sports legends of the future will get to the top legally.

Society’s story of the decade Lack of personal contact
In some ways Google’s IPA in 2004 is a defining moment for our society. From Myspace and Linkedin (2003) to Facebook and Twitter (2006)…from smartphones to ipods and email to online cards to blogging, this decade has been given us the tools to be constantly in touch without ever having to actually speak. Communication means something very different than it did 10 years ago and everyone, from retailers to relatives are having to adjust. How we get and share information and build and maintain relationships has fundamentally changed and may be the most lasting societal change we have seen this decade.

I know there is a lot I haven’t touched on in this post. The deaths of groundbreakers like President Reagan, Senator Kennedy, Julia Child, Fred Rogers, Richard Pryor, June and Johnny Cash, Arthur Miller, Johnny Carson, Michael Jackson, and so many many more. The true heroism of our troops and Captain ‘Sully.’  The incredible elections of 2000, 2004 and 2008 (and the historic election of Barack Obama).  We’ll see what 2010 and the next decade have in store.

Happy New Year and all the best for a wonderful 2010. Thank you for reading and may the coming year be filled with more smiles than frowns and more laughter than tears.