Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brown-out for the Dems

The equation in the special Senate election in Massachusetts was simple: Bad Democratic candidate + angry electorate = embarrassing loss. Massachusetts might be the last state where a Republican would be expected to topple a Democrat in a major race, but it happened Tuesday, when the GOP's Scott Brown whacked Democrat Martha Coakley to claim the Senate seat that had been held for decades by Ted Kennedy. Several questions came to mind after the election was over. My first thought was, how bad were the other candidates in the Democratic primary if Coakley was the winner? The second question, and much more important, is what this means for health-care reform. It would be an easy out for the Democrats to lay blame for Tuesday's loss on Coakley's failings as a candidate, but they really should recognize that anger over government spending and pending health-care legislation was the real reason for the Republican victory. What should the Democrats do now about health-care reform? With Brown taking office, they no longer have the votes to block a Senate filibuster, unless they can attract a moderate Republican - and there ain't many of them - to their side. But that would take some major concessions, weakening an already watered-down bill. They also could try to find enough House members to approve the Senate bill, as is. That's a tough sell. I wouldn't be the least bit unhappy if the legislation died a quick death. They lost me when they eliminated any mechanism to provide real competition for the health-insurance companies. Without a single-payer system or a true public option, the chance for the measure to have a significant impact on health-care costs is minimal. Those who still support the pending legislation say it's a good first step and can be improved later. Really? Who, exactly, is going to "improve" the legislation down the road? The next Congress? You mean the one with a lot more Republicans in it? Good luck with that. Some Republicans are positively giddy about Tuesday's outcome. Some are touting the benefits of a divided government, now that Democrats have lost their 60-40 advantage in the Senate. Funny, but I don't remember them crowing about those positives when the Republicans lost the House and Senate in 2006. One person I saw on Facebook last night even called it the beginning of the second American Revolution. Easy there. Don't go digging up Paul Revere's corpse and strapping him to a horse just yet. The midterm congressional elections aren't until November, and a lot can happen in nine months. As you might recall, nine months before the 2008 Democratic primaries began, Hillary Clinton was being fitted for a crown for her coronation tour. How did that work out? For the Democrats' sake, I hope they're not going to follow the advice of Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the chief of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who told the Associated Press that the plan is for his colleagues to continue to lay the blame on the Bush administration for steering the economy "into a ditch" and then running away. Enough of that. Certainly, Obama was left with a mess by Bush, who, in my opinion, was a really rotten president. But Obama has been in office for a year now, and the Democrats have controlled Congress longer than that. By the time the November elections roll around, Obama's tenure will be close to two years. At that point, whatever state the country is in, he and the Democratic Congress own it, not George W. Bush. One problem with the Democrats is that they want to be the party of lofty ideals, but they're not willing to get down in the mud and wrestle for what they believe in. The GOP might be morally bankrupt, depending on your way of thinking, but they've rarely gone broke by pandering to and rallying the birther/town hall shrieker/take-back-the-country-for-Jesus-and-the-rich crowd. They secure their base much better than the Democrats do, and if they can attract independents angry about the course of the country, they're winners. That's exactly how that Obama fellow ended up in the White House. He rallied the Democratic core and added support from independents, some of them disgusted by the eight years of Bush-Cheney rule and others, no doubt, legitimately fearful about having the Wasilla Wingnut a heartbeat away from the presidency. At this point, the best the Democrats can really hope for is moderate losses of seats in the next Congress. The worst is a wipeout that would leave them and the president largely impotent. To minimize the damage, they need to go on the offensive, stake out their positions clearly, point out the failings of the Republican Party and truly stand up for what they believe in. They've got a big selling job ahead, but knowing the history of the Democrats, they'll probably just sell out.

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Blogger PRIguy said...

Fantastic post, Brant. I was kind of expecting an anti-republican rant, but you outlined all of this perfectly. I loved what you said about the dems not being willing to "get down in the mud and wrestle for what they believe in."

My only quibble is that my personal opinion of politicians is that they ALL are morally bankrupt.

Maybe now that the honeymoon is waning for Obama and the republicans are seeing signs of hope, both sides will start to actually listen and pay attention to what our leaders are saying and vote on the issues rather than the person. That goes for both sides. Again, kudos on this post.

January 20, 2010 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger MJ said...

Ultimately, I think this GOP victory will be a good thing for Democrats. Finally, this idea that you need 60 votes to pass ANY legislation has been toppled. Now, the Democrats can ditch jerks like Lieberman and Nelson, among others.

For the next 11 months, they simply need 50 votes to pass their agenda (with Biden breaking the tie). And I dare the Republicans to pull filibuster after filibuster with America enduring 10 percent unemployment. I dare them to do it.

January 20, 2010 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

There are a couple of things that I am not entirely able to reconcile about the analysis of this election and its broader implications.

The first is that people are unhappy with the democrats that were elected last year and are now voting for republicans. Ok, I understand the danger in using a "sample of 1," but let's do that anyway:

I voted for Democrats because I wanted either single-payer health insurance or a public option. I wanted gay marriage to be greenlighted at the national level. I wanted a radical shift in energy policy. I wanted a radical shift in economic policy. I wanted out of Iraq and to deploy strategic force (as opposed to brute force) in afghanistan and pakistan.

On a lot of these points, I am highly disappointed. Specifically, I am disappointed in the Senate for being an unambitious morass of hogshit, for lack of a better term... and in the president for abandoning the "audacity" part of his campaign and book title in favor of trying to be the great unifier. Bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship is not, by default, better than accomplishing your goals. To make a football analogy: who cares if you've got a bunch of selfless team players on your roster? Sometimes, a handful of cocky, self-indulgent, self-centered superstars are enough to score more points than your opponent with regularity.

Which brings me to my point in a roundabout kind of way... Given those things that I voted for in 2008... Why would I vote FOR a "contemporary" republican today? Sure, I am not happy with my democrats... But if my senate choices are Spector or Toomey, there's no way in HELL that I am voting for Toomey. If my presidential choices are Obama or Palin, how do you make the leap from supporting cap and trade to voting for drill baby drill?

It's in that respect that I disagree with priguy that we will be voting on issues rather than people... the issues aren't changing. The only variables in the equation are the people. In fact, in most cases, we CAN'T vote for an issue. BOTH of the presidential candidates in last year's election were open about opposing gay marriage. Yet, if you were a liberal, your choice for president was crystal clear. People often criticize voters who vote for party rather than people, but in today's political climate, "party" is a pretty good indicator of your values as a voter. I can't vote for the better person if we are in disagreement on just about every single political issue. Tim Murphy might be a great person, but if you ran a sack of staplers against him with a (D) after its name, I will vote for the staplers. The reason is twofold. A) I have a better chance at getting single payer from the staplers
B) The staplers probably aren't going to pass anything that will make me want to drink antifreeze.

The republican brand is so bad right now that I would rather have bad democrats who can't pass anything... than elect republicans who will advance the platform of the right. And what sucks about that, is that it wasn't always that way.

January 20, 2010 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Oh, and Brant... I will have you know that I am coming over to your side on the health care bill. I maintain that it would be a reasonable foundation to build on... but that requires a legislative body WILLING to build on it... or ambitious enough to TRY to build on it. Unless we manage to find a bunch of well-funded Franken and Sanders clones, a senate full of Nelsons and a house full of Stupak's aren't going to do anything useful to this bill.

So, I conceed... It is better to do nothing and let a full-blown catastrophic collapse occur that will quite obviously NOT be fixed with copious amounts of freedom and market-magic.

January 20, 2010 at 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What depresses me most about all of this is that the fate of the nation can literally hang on one person's vote, whether it be in health care or any other major topic. I'm also tired of both sides acting like drunken college boys on panty a raid every time one of their candidates wins an election. I've been tired of partisan politics for many many years, and it's not not getting any better. I'm tired of the Dems blaming Bush, although he certainly deserves to be blamed for many of our current problems. I'm tired of the Reps blaming Obama for everything -- how did they miss the chance to hang the Haiti earthquake on him? I'm tired of every minor election being claimed as an example of "the voice of the people." If A Republican dogcatcher wins against a Democrat, it's supposed to be indicative of a major trend?

I'm tired of the American electorate being so bloody wishywashy and intolerant, expecting that ever new person elected will have the answer to multiple problems and implement them in six months. And then turning their backs on that person when he doesn't.

From all this you can tell that I'm just plain tired. I hate to turn on the news or go on an Internet site. Everyone seems POd about everything. I thought American was in turmoil in the '60s, but this new-age turmoil wears on me a lot more. Guess that's what I get for actually starting to pay attention to politics.

January 20, 2010 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got to thinking about how the Obama's like to wine and dine at the White House as many American's don't know where there next meal is coming from.

Then, I thought about who he has wine and dined. The AMA, Big Pharm, Blue Cross...

tax people that work and earn health to pay for that don't work or won't or drugged out 20 year olds, driving new trucks and make a law if you don't carry insurance you get fined and jail! So that means you have to have a job. He did give in to one of the special intrest group.. he gave into all of them. I think if replace the word change in all of his speeches with BIG GOVT I think you will see you change.

January 25, 2010 at 3:16 PM  

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