Yvonne Abraham

Expensive lessons of 2012

Tuesday night was a pretty spectacular occasion for Democrats, women, pot-smokers, gay-rights supporters, and people who think rape is an actual thing.

For others, not so much. But despair not! Even if your cause or candidate tanked, the obscene, untold billions spent assaulting voters’ senses and ripping candidates apart this election season were not squandered entirely. They yielded some enlightenment — and generous helpings of the absurd.

Herewith, some of the very expensive lessons of 2012:


Want to win a presidential election? Don’t nominate a candidate from Massachusetts: John F. Kennedy was way back in 1960, people. Boston hasn’t hosted a candidate’s victory celebration since. Mike Dukakis? You know how that went. John Kerry, nope. Mitt Romney, negative. All that Deval Patrick, Elizabeth Warren 2016 talk? Forget it. Doomed before they start. We’re cursed.

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Do not make women angry: Did that whole pregnancy-from-rape-is-God’s-wish, contraception-is-suddenly-controversial thing really happen? The GOP’s Neanderthals dragged their party into the way-back machine, mobilizing outraged women who surged to Democrats like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, and helped elect an all-woman Congressional delegation in New Hampshire. If they’re interested in reversing this week’s setbacks, the GOP’s big thinkers might want to consider a visit to the 21st century at some point.

One victory does not a genius make: After Scott Brown pulled out that shocking win over Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2010, his strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, became a national star. Calls flooded in from Republicans hoping he’d work similar magic on them. What followed was a string of defeats. Tuesday brought two more losses for Fehrnstrom, and big ones, with both Brown and Romney going down. Also: that spectacular Etch-A-Sketch gaffe. Seems unlikely that the phones over at his Shawmut Group are running hot today.

Vote the person, not the party? Um, no: Bless Brown’s heart. In the final weeks of the campaign, he pointed his pickup away from the GOP, shouted that slogan, and floored it. But the Warren campaign kept lashing him to his party’s most extreme elements, nationalizing the race. While Massachusetts voters like Brown (though decidedly less so than they did before his attacks on Warren), they weren’t willing to take a chance this time around. Especially not with the Senate at stake.

I am not my brother-in-law’s keeper. Or am I? A lot of voters couldn’t forgive Representative John Tierney for the illegal gambling operations of his sleazy brothers-in-law. They were clearly (and rightly) skeptical about his assertions that he knew nothing about the piles of money his wife took in from her sibs. But an almost equal number of voters appear to have decided that Tierney’s rather pathetic, evasive profile wasn’t that big a deal — or at least not as big a deal as adding to the Republican majority in the House by electing Richard Tisei. Either way, Tierney is the luckiest guy in Massachusetts today. He should buy a lottery ticket.


Keep your concession classy: Brown’s optimistic, humble speech, and his admonition to booing supporters that Warren “won it fair and square,” was lovely. Ditto Romney’s rather late address. Farewells like that make once-critical pundits say things like, “Where was this guy during the campaign?” and “This guy might have a future.” Who wouldn’t want that? It was hard to miss the delight in Brown’s face — even as his wife shook her head “no” — when fans yelled, “Governor Brown!”

It is possible to hold off the juggernaut that is Citizens United. Who woulda thunk it? The People’s Pledge held. Brown and Warren jointly promised to keep the dark money and anonymous influence that poisoned contests across the country from the Massachusetts Senate race, and they were true to their word. Though nobody can be happy that their battle nevertheless sucked $75 million down the drain, it could have been much worse.

They should both be proud.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at abraham@globe.com