Free Markets, Free People
Few will disagree that Scott Brown’s solid victory last night was meant to send an important message to Washington. Sure, there will be some whistling past the graveyard, but for the most part the political punditry and policy-makers will understand that something needs to change, and fast. Like dog whistles and Irish brogues, however, not everyone will hear the same thing.
It will not escape those who are truly paying attention that the Senate health care bill currently residing in the House was a huge catalyst behind Brown’s come-from-nowhere win. Brown’s potential cloture-busting vote looms large in a debate where Washington elites have tuned out those whom they mean to rule. It looms so large, and its power to lure slightly more than half the registered voters to the polls on a snowy day for a special election with nothing else on the ballot sends such a strong statement, that even Barney Frank seemed to get the message:
I have two reactions to the election in Massachusetts. One, I am disappointed. Two, I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in Congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results. If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate health care bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate. I am hopeful that some Republican Senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform because I do not think that the country would be well-served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the Senate rule which means that 59 votes are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of the process.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb said much the same thing last night:
In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.
Yet, somehow, even while recognizing that Democrats playing a legislative game of keepaway with the bill before the House (that was drafted behind closed doors, it should be noted) will only serve to undermine public confidence in the law (and Congress), progressives like Jane Hamsher still think that’s what’s called for now:
In the wake of Martha Coakley’s defeat, both Representative Barney Frank and Senator Jim Webb have said that jamming a health care bill through before Scott Brown can be seated is not the right thing to do.
They’re right. Health care legislation would be viewed — with some justification — as illegitimate.
But many on the Hill tonight are saying that the Massachusetts defeat also means that health care reform is dead, fearful that what happened to Martha Coakley will happen to them, too, in 2010.
That’s about as feasible as Wile E. Coyote trying to turn around and run back across the bridge that is crumbling behind him. There’s only one way to go.
The non-budgetary “fixes” like banning the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions have already passed the Senate. A public option — or an expansion of Medicare — can be added through reconciliation, which takes 51 votes. The Republicans certainly had no fear of using reconciliation when George Bush was in office. And the Democrats are going to need to do so in order to make good on their promise to fix the excise tax to benefit of the middle class, which will cost roughly $60 billion. But their options for doing that are limited by the process itself: they can pay for it by the savings from a government program like a public option or an expansion of Medicare. Or, they can piss everyone off and raise taxes.
That looks to be where Gerald Nadler and Anthony Weiner are headed tonight. They indicate that “the only way they could sign on to the Senate bill is if it was accompanied immediately, or even preceded by, a separate bill, making a number of major preemptive changes to what they regard as an inferior package,” per Brian Beutler.
It’s called sidecar reconciliation. And the 65 members of the House who have pledged to vote against any bill that does not have a public option should be looking into it seriously tonight.
Got that? Passing a bill that circumvents Brown’s vote will be viewed “with some justification” as illegitimate, so let’s go ahead and do just that! Do these people even listen to themselves? Using the reconciliation process (“sidecar” or otherwise) to shove health care legislation down Americans’ throats simply eschews the very legislative process that Barney Frank and Jim Webb cited as the reason to forgo further action on health care until Brown is seated. Yet, Hamsher and her cohorts advocate for legislative legerdemain anyway. Cognitive dissonance in action.
The reason, of course, is that passing health care legislation is such a fundamental issue for progressives that they have thrown all sense (such as was possessed) to the wind. It has nothing to do with what people want, but instead with what progressives want people to want. Apparently it doesn’t even matter that the rosy economic projections upon which these health care bills are based have little to no basis in reality. I guess, since the ultimate goal is a utopian fantasy, employing imaginary thinking is the only way to get there.
If nothing else, the reaction of progressives to the Massachusetts race reveals how dangerous they are when wielding power. Inconvenient facts are dismissed, and constituents are ignored, because what the progressive lacks in having any grasp of reality is more than made up for by resounding confidence and self-righteousness. Fortunately for us, the electorate does not appear to be willing to indulge their fantasies anymore.
AP has just called the Massachusetts Senate race for Republican Scott Brown (9:25 pm) who looks like he’ll end up with anywhere from a 5 to 7 point win.
Probably the most interesting thing I saw during the coverage was feedback during a Frank Lunz group on Fox (I watched MSNBC most of the night which was, well frankly, highly entertaining). The group were predominantly Democrats who voted for Obama. And a good majority of them claim to have voted for Brown. When asked why they said they were against health care reform, wanted Congress to back off and they were sending a message.
What will be interesting is how all the political “experts” choose to interpret this loss and what adjustments they’ll recommend be made. But I can tell you right now, there are a whole crap load of Democrats in marginal seats thinking “if we can’t hold Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, what chance have I unless I do something completely different?”
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wake up to a whole new world tomorrow.
I’d say, given all I’ve read and heard pertaining to the polls, that a win by Brown in today’s special Senatorial election in Massachusetts is a pretty solid prediction. But polls have been wrong before. With that said, I think he will pull it off even if only by a point or two.
So what can we expect if that’s the case. 364 days after Barack Obama took office and in what Democrats figured was their seat forever given it had belonged to the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate in deep blue and solidly dependable Massachusetts a Republican wins the seat?
What will be the reaction and what are the implications?
According to Politico, President Obama’s reaction to such a win will be to “fight hard”. Nice words for a pep rally.But if Brown wins, fighting hard will be about all that’s left to Obama as the filibuster proof majority in the Senate will have gone up in smoke. And that, of course puts his entire ambitious agenda, to include the pending health care bill, in jeopardy.
A potential casualty: the health care bill that was to be the crowning achievement of the president’s first year in office.
The health care backdrop has given the White House a strong incentive to strike a defiant posture, at least rhetorically, in response to what would be an undeniable embarrassment for the president and his party.
Anyone who continues to pretend this isn’t an election with far reaching implications and a referendum on the agenda pushed by the President and Congressional Democrats needs to again review the place in which this Republican is leading. Those who would like to put it all on an unattractive candidate need to remember that candidate blew away her closest rival in a Democratic primary by 19 points. This isn’t just about Martha Coakley.
An upset by Republican Scott Brown would be covered in many quarters as a repudiation of Obama, especially after Obama’s last-ditch campaign appearance with Coakley 36 hours before the polls opened.
This is about an electorate that is increasingly uneasy about the path the federal government under the Democrats is taking. This is a reaction to the action of the last 364 days. And the timing couldn’t be any better:
A Massachusetts embarrassment would strongly increase the pressure Obama was already facing to retreat or slow down the “big bang” agenda he laid out a year ago.
That includes cap-and-trade, which Congressional Democrats are backing away from as quickly as they can, and immigration. What this should force, if Democrats can swallow the lesson and heed the consequences of a Brown win, is a shelving of those issues and a concentration on the economy like a “laser beam”.
The possibility that Democrats could avoid a blood bath in November is iffy at the moment but salvageable if they do that. If, however, they get combative and attempt to ram through the present agenda (as it appears they will) while continuing to giving lip service to the economy and job creation (shall we have another “job summit”?), then they’ll suffer the consequences in mid-terms 10 months from now.
Today’s election is a game changer. Even if Brown loses, the message should be clear – back off the spending and expansion of government, concentrate on the economy and do what is necessary to get this country moving again economically, or the voters will put people in who will, even in deep blue Massachusetts.
The polls opened 12 minutes ago – this should be a very interesting day.
Let’s start our week of with the irony impaired. In this case it is Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), explaining why Democrat Martha Coakley – or as he referred to her, “Marcia Coakley” – is in trouble in the Massachusetts Senate Race:
“If you think there’s magic out there and things can be turned around overnight, then you would vote for someone who could promise you that, like Scott Brown,” Kennedy said. “If you don’t, if you know that it takes eight years for George Bush and his cronies to put our country into this hole … then you know we have a lot of digging to do, but some work needs to be done and this president’s in the process of doing it and we need to get Marcia Coakley to help him to do that.”
On to the irony:
“One thing the Democrats have done wrong? We haven’t kept the focus on this disaster on the Republicans who brought it upon us. We’ve tried too hard to do that right thing, and that’s to fix it, as opposed to spend more of our time and energy pointing the finger at who got us [here] in the first place.”
You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Of course one of the reasons this election is a referendum on Democrats in general is because the public at large mostly thinks they haven’t focused on that which is important – employment and the economy – but instead squandered their time on the less important, such as health care reform and cap-and-trade. As for the irony of claiming they haven’t spent any time and energy pointing the finger at others, blaming George Bush is a cottage industry among the Democrats, who spend days finding new and more entertaining ways to blame him for all their woes.
Whether or not Scott Brown ends up winning in Massachusetts on Tuesday, this is as obvious a wake-up call for Democrats as one can issue. Even the NY Times recognizes what’s going on:
This weekend, Democrats are struggling to hang on to a seat held by Mr. Kennedy for 46 years in one of the most enthusiastically Democratic states in the country. Conservatives are enjoying a grass-roots resurgence, and Republicans are talking about taking back the House in November.
As Mr. Obama prepares to come here on Sunday to campaign for the party’s beleaguered Senate candidate, Martha Coakley, Democrats across the country are starting to wonder aloud if they misjudged the electorate over the last year, with profound ramifications for the midterm elections this year and, potentially, for Mr. Obama’s presidency.
The most certainly did misjudge the electorate, because the nation’s situation changed late in the campaign. When it became clear that the economy was in trouble and unemployment was rising, that and not the liberal Democratic agenda, should have become priority one. But it wasn’t. They consciously chose to place the party’s agenda before the nation’s needs and have blindly pursued that agenda in the face of a continuing economic downturn. That has placed them in the position they now occupy – out of touch, running out of time and facing a political bloodbath in November. It was a calculated risk, counting on swift passage of the agenda items, which hasn’t materialized. And, no matter how persistently and consistently they attempt to blame everything on Bush, that opportunity expired many months ago.
This is now about the Democrats and Obama and whether they like it or not the Senate race in Massachusetts is a referendum on their performance to date.
It would appear that long-shot Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown has a fighting chance of winning the “Ted Kennedy Seat” in Massachusetts. Brown reminded the moderator that the seat was, in fact, “the people’s seat”, not Ted Kennedy’s during a recent debate. And, according to the latest Rasmussen poll, Brown is within 2 points of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley.
Much of that has to do with the hard work Brown has put in campaigning for the seat. Much of it also has to do with an early entitlement mentality by Coakley (it’s a Democratic seat in Massachusetts and that entitles Democrat Coakley to the seat) and then probably one of the most inept and clueless “campaigns” imaginable after she finally discovered that the cake-walk had been canceled.
Will Brown pull it off? Well that obviously remains to be seen. It’s certainly not unprecedented to see a Republican elected in Massachusetts, but they’ve been few and far between. But you have to ask, in such a reliably Democratic state as Massachusetts (a state I’m able to spell, but apparently isn’t so easy for the Coakley campaign) why a Republican is even this close?
Well, several things come to mind. One is the direction of the country. As many polls tell us, the vast majority of us – up into the 70% area in some polls – don’t like the direction of the country. The left was sure the election of Obama, and the retirement of that nasty old George Bush, not to mention the banishment of the Republicans, would reverse that trend. But if anything, it has deepened it. So there’s a natural constituency for “change” but not as the Obamanauts think of it.
An indication of the dissatisfaction with Democrats in general has been the abandonment of the party by independents. In droves. Independents – i.e. people with no specific party affiliation – are the “third party” which creates the coalition that pushes one of the two major parties (who don’t have enough members to do it solely by themselves) over the electoral line in elections. One of the obvious reasons Brown is doing as well as he is has to do with the numbers of independents on his bandwagon.
Last – Coakely is just an unattractive candidate. She’s simply not the best choice for this election. Why she is “the one” remains a mystery to me, but since Brown has closed the gap, she’s what the Democrats are stuck with and are now, it appears, trying to find a way to drag her over the finish line with a win. She’s seemingly doing very little to help in that effort. However the DNC and the unions are beginning to pump people and cash into the state.
But they face something, I think, they had on their side as recently as November of 2008 – an enthusiasm gap. The GOP in the state, such that it is, is enthusiastic about their candidate and their chances. And they want the seat – badly. It appears the independents that support Brown are also enthusiastic about the choice and their chances. But that enthusiasm doesn’t seem to exist on the Coakley side of things.
And on election day, that may make the difference. Why? Because this is a “special election” meaning it’s the only thing being decided that day. There’s no national election to pull Democrats to the polls. No important local or state referendum to excite them into voting.
Nope – it’s only about Brown or Coakley, and the enthusiasm seems to be working most for the GOP candidate vs. the Democratic one.
Democrats are now in a bit of a panic. What will they do if Brown actually wins? Brown has already promised to vote against the health care reform bill (which would ironically scuttle the bill Democrats have attempted to sell as Ted Kennedy’s legacy). So they’ve come up with a contingency plan. Should Brown pull it off, the Democratically controlled state government will simply delay certification of the election by any means necessary until the interim appointed “Senator” now warming the seat is able to cast the 60th vote for the bill.
Sweet. Manipulation of the process for political reasons is certainly nothing new in Massachusetts. This would simply be the cherry on top.