Democrat Elizabeth Warren waves to the crowd before giving her victory speech after defeating incumbent GOP Senator Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, during an election night rally at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston, Tuesday, November 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Massachusetts just sent the US Senate a pure and passionate voice for an unwavering progressive vision.
They were insane at the Warren party in a gilded ballroom at the Fairmont Copley in downtown Boston. I’ve never spent election night with a campaign before, but I don’t think I’ll ever spend election night at home alone again. With two huge screens up front cycling among the regional cable news and various TV news stations, the screams got louder every time the numbers flashed on screen. Every color that you can find in Massachusetts was here: ruddy faces descended from the Irish, gray no-product hair and purple fleece vests from the People’s Republic of Cambridge, young white guys with square glasses and cool sideburns, Harvard law students in sleek suits and perfectly plucked eyebrows, black guys in dreads, a range of brown tones from South Asia to south of the border. Shoulder to shoulder, so jammed it was hard to make it through the room, they were beaming, grinning, screaming like rock fans, delirious with glee.
They roared with happiness at all the small New England victories: Congressional seats, Connecticut’s Senate seat, New Hampshire’s delegation. They roared every time Obama won another state: Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan.
Then it came: CNN called it for Warren, up there on screen. I thought my eardrums would pop as they screamed, fists in the air. An graying woman in purple fleece roared, “The people got their seat back!” The sound system played Bruce Springsteen, of course, now mandatory for all Democratic functions: “no retreat, baby, and no surrender.”
Warren’s win—like the marriage equality wins in four states—was a victory for the grassroots organizing philosophy championed by state party chair John Walsh, Michael Dukakis and Deval Patrick, which I reported on here two weeks ago. As Patrick roared from the Warren ballroom stage last night in a call-and-response session to a roared response, “This election said that conviction matters (yes!), the grassroots matter (YES!), not just as strategy but as a philosophy: we believe you have to engage everyone, everybody has a place in making our commonwealth and country strong.” The state party and the national party worked together to create a streamlined door-to-door and volunteer phone-banking machine that reached nearly one-fifth of the state, reaching out to at least a million contacts. When I reported on the campaign last spring, a mid-state Worcester Democratic town committee member told me that Warren would “single-handedly revive the Massachusetts Democratic Party .”
Her political passion, authenticity, sheer charisma and clear-as-a-bell progressive beliefs brought in an astonishing number of volunteers, many of whom had never done anything before for a political campaign. In the first months, the campaign was overwhelmed, but by June the state party was putting everyone to work knocking on doors and making calls, with an incredibly simple script, keeping track for the get-out-the-vote system to come in the final week and on Election Day, as The Boston Globe reported in depth. The system, which Walsh and Patrick and others envision as a way to restoring politics to people rather than screaming pundits, worked so well that it could—and should—be a model for the rest of the country.