Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monday Morning in Massachusetts

There is plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking going on after Scott Brown (R-MA) won the Massachusetts Senate-seat of the late Ted Kennedy (D-MA). I am seeing post after post of what this means for Democrats, what this means for Republicans, and what this means for the health care legislation that is currently pending in Congress.

I wanted to share a couple of viewpoints that I thought were insightful and productive in moving this discussion forward. The first is from Jon Walker over at Firedoglake. He argues that Democrats simply cannot run on Republican obstructionism and expect to win. They have to do something productive:

Democrats control everything in Washington right now. They control the White House. They have a huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly.

[...]

The party in power must run on their accomplishments and point to those accomplishments as a down payment on other promises they will fullfill if they are allowed to stay in power. You must deliver something to the voters and hope they like it. If Democrats can’t run on their record of passing legislation that makes positive change in people’s lives, they will suffer terribly in 2010.

Though this point seems obvious, I am seeing post after post that fails to acknowledge this point. Candidates in the Democratic Party ran on change and they ran on running Washington in a different way. When health care reform gets sold out to lobbyists and big Pharma, it is obvious that nothing "new and different" is being accomplished. Is it any shock that this is a contributing factor to the loss of this Senate-seat?

I also want to point your attention to Jane Hamsher's piece from earlier today:

Unless the Democrats move aggressively to right the perception that they are the party of backroom deals and massive corporate bailouts, 2010 will be more of the same. But there will certainly be no shortage of those ready to extract the wrong lessons from the Coakley loss.

Joe Lieberman, Mr. 31%, says it’s a sign that people “don’t like all the partisanship and deal-making here in Washington” and that “they’re really skeptical about this health care bill.” He doesn’t mention that it’s his health care bill they don’t like, or the fact that the bill was made unpopular as the price of his vote.

A new FDL/SurveyUSA poll of NY-01 shows how Lieberman’s bill is affecting the race in that district, one of many that the Democrats are at risk of losing in the next election. Incumbent Tim Bishop would have a narrow lead over GOP challenger Randy Altschuler if the race were held today in a contest that was rated “lean Democratic” by Cook’s Political Report.

People were pretty evenly split when asked if they supported a bill with a mandate to buy private insurance, with 50% saying it’s a good idea and 44% saying it’s a bad idea. Support fell dramatically when they were told that they would be fined up to 2% of their income for failure to comply, with 40% saying it’s a good idea and 57% saying it’s a bad idea. But when the option to buy into a government-run Medicare program was added, 63% of likely voters (66% of independents) supported it and 33% opposed even with the fine. Even support among Republicans shot up 23%.


People are skeptical of this health care bill, but it should not be interpreted that people are skeptical of health care reform. The numbers that Hamsher points to are clear. People want real and meaningful reforms to the system. What people do not want is the status quo complete with more kickbacks to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. This is what the Blue Dogs have pushed for and this is what the Obama Administration has compromised on.

The results of this election should indeed act as a wake-up call to the party, but it should not be a call to abandon all hope of meaningful legislative policy because they are scared to lose their seat. It should be a wake-up call to muster the political courage to adopt populist policies instead of staying aligned with the corporate interests who push for the status quo. If we continue to have more of the same, the political landscape is going to shift very rapidly and Massachusetts will be viewed as a precursor.