AND SO the (not-so-special) Senate campaign ends, in predictable fashion, with a small slice of an otherwise indifferent electorate sending to Washington an orthodox liberal whose take-no-chances campaign seldom wandered beyond Democratic Party platitudes.
To put Ed Markey’s campaign in football terms, it was three yards and a cloud of cliches.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, I love the SEIU,” the courtly, complaisant candidate proclaimed on Monday at a Lawrence event populated by members of that union.
That’s a pretty apt 10-word summation of the Markey campaign: Court the traditional Democratic constituency groups, and grind it out.
But let’s look on the bright side: Senator Markey can’t possibly be duller than Candidate Markey. As his House record shows, US Representative Markey was smart and hard-working enough to be highly effective on complex, lower-political-voltage issues. The big question, then, is whether newly minted US Senator Markey will develop the political courage necessary to play an iconoclastic role when the issues are highly charged. This campaign provided scant evidence of that, but hope springs eternal.
As for Gabriel Gomez, though he delivered a credible showing in his first major campaign, the likable Republican ultimately failed to persuade Massachusetts that he was worth taking a gamble on. Gomez had two major problems, one self-created, one structural.
First, his campaign never moved beyond biography in a persuasive way. He ran far more on who he was — a Navy SEAL turned private equity investor — than on what a Senator Gomez would do on the big issues of the day. The lack of even an easily discernible ideological framework let Gomez be portrayed as a man who would aid and abet the GOP’s obstructionist wing.
Which brings us to his second problem. As both former senator Scott Brown and Sixth District House candidate Richard Tisei discovered last year, it is difficult for Bay State Republicans seeking federal office to best the headwind the national GOP creates; no matter how personally likable the candidate may be, Massachusetts voters don’t want to enable the conservative national party. I don’t think that’s an insurmountable problem, but solving it requires more concrete commitments to independent action than either Brown or Gomez made.
One final note: Beacon Hill policymakers need to rethink the process of filling an empty Senate seat once again. No matter which candidate one favored, it’s hard to call this low-turnout election a particular success for democracy.