I was curious to see how the long awaited debates would work for both Barney Frank and his challenger Sean Bielat. I have observed Barney Frank over the years and he is quite talented at bullying his opponents into silence by talking over them and ignoring their questions and comments. He is skilled in turning debates to positions that he wishes to discuss and away from debating topics he finds uncomfortable or not to his advantage. I have watched several skilled interviewers fail in their attempts to score points against Frank. I was interested to see how Sean Bielat would hold up against Frank. Bielat did not disappoint in any of debates I observed. He has continued to work on his debate skills and polish his message.
What became evident is Barney is not at his top fighting game. He whined in two of the debates about interruptions, but Frank is more than capable of working around disruptions. He has withstood attacks from far more experienced people than Bielat. As an observer, he did not seem to connect with the people who needed to hear his positions. Instead, he actually seemed arrogant and seemed to question Bielat’s right to challenge his record. I believe Frank made a tactical error there. All Congressman Frank’s constituents have the right to question their elected officials on their votes, their positions on their issues, and their plans for the futures. As a Marine, Bielat has demonstrated his willingness to defend Mr. Frank’s right to free speech. In return, Frank showed arrogance in not wanting to hear another’s point of view. It appears Barney may need to work with a political consultant on polishing his election skills. His lack of success in these series of debates demonstrates a need to work on messaging and reconnecting with the basics that make a candidate an elected official. His campaign needs a way to connect with constituents and the current strategy is clearly not effective.
One can understand Barney Frank’s reluctance to discuss the issues. In previous years, voter anger has been on his side and he did not even need to use it. There were no serious contenders for the seat in the district. However, this year voter anger is not in his favor. People are angry at the direction the country is moving in and Barney Frank has become a national figure that represents the discontent. A district that has been fiercely loyal for years has started to turn against him. His record and his current position on the issues will not win him reelection. However, his attitude towards even having to participate in an election to keep his seat is not even energizing his most loyal voters.
Sean Bielat is presenting voters with an alternative to Barney Frank’s negative attitude towards the voters in his district. He is not the face of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that Barney Frank has become to voters across the country. Voter respect is not a guarantee. He will have to earn it. If he does not represent the will of the voters in the Fourth Massachusetts Congressional district, he will be much easier to replace than a thirty year Democratic Congressman. There is no way of knowing when another candidate will arrive who has a chance at defeating Barney Frank. The other option is to wait until Frank retires. This may be the only chance the district has at new representation to clean up the messes created by Barney Frank.
“4th District Congressional Debate” WRKO
“Barney Frank and Sean Bielat Debate Congressional District 4” My Fox Boston
“Bielat, Frank Debate Economic Recovery” NECN