True, up to a point

Well, if I were a betting man, I'd put my dime on a Martha Coakley loss tomorrow. And, while I'm not willing to totally walk back my assertion that the Massachusetts special election is a one-off, I think there's a broad narrative that needs to be considered.

First of all, for all the people yelling about Democratic hubris in trying to pass an unpopular health care package, I'd like to ask what the hell you expected? Did you sleep through 2008? It should come as precisely zero surprise that Obama would try to pass a health care reform package, in that doing so was one of his signature campaign themes. It should also not be surprising that any bill that could emerge from the rat's nest of blowhards and idiots that we call the Senate (and there are enough of each on both sides of the aisle that no party should be too terribly boastful) would be flawed, and probably contain a lot that was not to everyone's liking. I firmly believe that the health care reform bill that eventually emerges from Congress will be the best that is possible at this time, and maybe ever.

I am thus somewhat baffled that independents in Massachussets would vote for Brown out of pique over health care reform, as some kind of referendum on the issue. Again, what were they expecting? Obviously, most of them voted for Obama, and so voting for a man whose entire platform amounts to a retread of Bush's domestic policies as a way to block passage of his signature campaign promise and piece of domestic policy makes no sense to me.

On that note, I have a couple of quotes to share. From Sully:

But it seems pretty clear to me that [Brown] will win, which means that the FNC/RNC machine has succeeded in perpetuating the meme that somehow Obama is a communist elitist out of touch with real Americans who want their government slashed, while they want no cuts at all in any entitlements, who want the budget balanced without any tax hikes or spending cuts, who demand access to unrestricted healthcare for ever, but refuse to support ways to reduce soaring costs. They want an end to crippling occupations overseas, but they also don't want to retreat or surrender to terrorists. They want to restore America's moral standing but retain the torture camp at Gitmo. And when told they cannot have all this, they vote for someone else who can promise it, however utopian their plans are.

And from E. J. Dionne at TNR:
Obama sympathizers counter that the president's approval ratings are quite healthy in light of an unemployment rate that's gone over 10 percent and a nearly unprecedented destruction of personal wealth.

The conservatives' focus on ideology, they say, is an opportunistic way of distracting attention from the mistakes of the Bush years and the role conservative policies played in bringing us to this point. To cite ideology rather than the economy in explaining the poll numbers is like analyzing the causes of Civil War without any reference to slavery or the rise of the New Deal without mention of the Great Depression.

Both Sullivan and Dionne go on to say that Obama has a lesson that he has to learn from this. He has to change his political tactics and learn a more populist message. All of which is true enough.

But, as someone who wants to see this health care reform package passed out of a Liebniz-lite belief that it is the best of all possible efforts to reform a deeply broken system, I think the Democrats have failed in a particularly dumb way. Just as nobody should be surprised that Obama has fixated on health care reform, nobody should see the antics of either the GOP or Fox News and its merry band of idiots and be surprised. I could have told the President that they would do everything they could to block every single thing he did, strictly out of partisan rancor and a desire to return to power ASAP, and I'm not one of his highly-paid political advisors. Nobody should have left any election to chance, relying lazily on the reputation of the voters as liberals and banking on machine tactics to carry the day, and nobody should have been blind-sided by the Brown campaign. Considering the incredible importance of this particular moment in America's political life, the shambles that has been the Coakley campaign is a disgrace.

At this point, I'm braced for a Brown victory. I certainly hope the Democrats are figuring out how to get health care reform passed without Coakley's vote. (Memo to Reid, et al -- I wouldn't waste your time on Olympia Snowe.) But let's hope everyone learns from this experience, so we don't see another display of electoral incompetence during crucial junctures in the future.


  1. Yes, Dan, everyone knew that Pres. Obama would have Congress negotiate healthcare reform behind closed doors, just like he promised in the campaign. And anyone paying attention knew that only Democrats, Big Pharma lobbyists, and Big Insurance lobbyists would be invited to the table, just like candidate Obama said time and time again. So yes, anyone surprised at how this is playing out is really not paying attention. President Obama is nothing if not a man of his word.

  2. My better half called his sister last evening in MA. Her take, (as a life long D) was a simple one. Martha pulled a hare and turtle. While most people in MA are worried about their jobs and the unknown cost to the country for Obama's health care, she sat back ready to take office. The Evil Empire seeing the dark side loom ahead began pouring millions into a race that six months ago was a non-contest. Today will tell the tale. It is my firm belief that my beloved D party has lost its way. A good example of this is Senator Chris Dodd. He wants to try and gut the CPA banking reform as an appeasement to the R's for health care. What happened to our principles?

  3. Yes, John. Fine. Big Pharma, Big Insurance, blah blah blah. Enough already.

    Tell me what you , John, if you were POTUS, would put in your health care reform bill, and how you would get it through Congress intact. I'm curious to know how you would shepherd a massive piece of domestic legislation on its way through the Hill. Tell me how you would have done a better job.