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.[ad#Banner]
As Democrats survey the aftermath of a devastating defeat in yesterday’s Senate race in of all places, Democrat friendly Massachusetts, they have to be wondering how safe their own seats are. Even Barbara Boxer, whose polls have shown weakness, has to be a little concerned. If you can’t hold on to a Senate seat in a state where you outnumber the opposition 3.5 to 1, what seat is safe? Couple that with the fact that their super-majority in the Senate is gone and their legislative agenda in jeopardy, and they have a fine mess on their hands.
So that brings us to the broader implication of the Scott Brown victory yesterday. Does it mean Democrats will back off, heed the message and either kill or drastically reduce the health care bill? Or does it mean they plan on doubling down, pushing that monstrosity through as quickly as possible and hope to have the time to repair the damage before the midterms? Because that’s the choice they’re going to have to make and make soon.
If you listened to Nancy Pelosi yesterday, indications are they plan on doubling down. She’s quoted as saying that no matter what happens with Scott Brown, she plans on seeing health care passed. And, of course, Harry Reid – trailing badly in the polls in his home state – is of a similar mind.
The question is, how? There are several means of accomplishing the task. One is to pass the Senate version unchanged. That would only require a majority in the House and the bill can be sent to the President for signature. However, the Progressive caucus along the the Democratic pro-life wing aren’t at all keen on the idea and they carry enough votes to kill it.
That brings us to another method which seems to at least be the preferred method of the Olbermans, Matthews and Maddows of the world – reconciliation. It requires only simple majorities to pass legislation. But because it is aimed at budgetary legislation, it will mean a pared down health care bill that Democrats can ram through and at least have something to show for it. The question is would that be enough and, will it save them in November. The answer to both questions are probably “no”. However they may be left with little choice but to resort to this method.
And that’s because that last method is a compromise bill (what they’ve been working behind closed doors to craft) which will most likely please no one on the Democratic side (Republicans have lined up solidly against it already since they were shut out of the process) and they’re now facing a fight in the Senate they’re likely to lose (word is Joe Lieberman is again iffy on the bill).
Fun times in DC. But at least it’s a game again with the minority should be armed enough to stop the most outrageous of the liberal agenda. I’m not quit sure how the health care fiasco will play out – hopefully if not dead, it is at least a drastically reduced bill that can be repealed in the future prior to going to going into effect – but I’d say cap-and-trade is in serious trouble if not dead, and immigration reform is going to require Democrats to at least approach Republicans to pass anything meaningful.
Or to put it succinctly – the Brown win brought the blessing of divided government again. It’s by a very slim margin, but it is there again. And that is the model we should always strive to have at a federal level.
Republicans stand to pick up significant gains in November of this year. You can only hope that they’ve learned a valuable lesson from this election as well. The people want smaller and less intrusive government. They’ve once again begun turning to the Republicans to see that wish enabled. The question is will the message be heeded or will Republicans again ignore it as they did previously when in power and end up again handing it back to the Democrats?
We shall see, won’t we?
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.
How scared are Senate Democrats that Martha Coakley will lose the special Senate seat election in Massachussetts tomorrow? This scared.
The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders, scrambling for a backup plan to rescue their health care legislation if Republicans win the special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday, have begun laying the groundwork to ask House Democrats to approve the Senate version of the bill and send it directly to President Obama for his signature.
Well, I’m sure if that’s gonna fly.
When the idea was suggested at a Democratic caucus meeting last week, Mr. [Bart] Stupak [D-MI] said, “It went over like a lead balloon.”
But, that was then. This is now.
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.
Perhaps the most important political story this week – possibly this year – is the Senate race in Massachusetts. The vote is Tuesday. And, at the moment, it appears the Democrats are in trouble in a solidly blue state. The reasons are many. How much each reason contributes to the whole is debatable, but watching the reaction of Democrats to this unexpected and developing debacle has been somewhat comical.
Of course one of the reasons is the Democratic candidate. Mass Attorney General Martha Coakely has conducted a campaign – and I use the term “conducted” very loosely – that will most likely become the case study on how to lose an election in a state in which your party is the prohibitively dominant party. And a seat that has been in Democratic hands for almost 50 years. She’ not only a politically unattractive candidate, she is about as inept a politician as one can find. Combine all of that with a campaign that has mostly been missing in action and you can begin to understand why she’s trailing in the polls. I mean who else but the clueless would call beloved Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling a “Yankees fan”. Her campaign is trying to sell that as a joke gone wrong, but in Red Sox mad Massachusetts, you just don’t joke about some things.
So even with all of that going against her, other politicians have run poor campaigns in states which heavily favored their party and still won. Why couldn’t that happen in Massachusetts? Well, it could – let’s not fool ourselves. But in this case as inept and poor a candidate Martha Coakley has been, Scott Brown, the Republican, has been a good candidate. He’s been on message, on target and all over the place. The little known Republican, prior to the race, is pretty well known in the state now. And polls have him up slightly (by a point or three). Even internal Democratic polls show Brown with a lead.
This has prompted Democrats, over the last couple of weeks, to go from being a bit antsy to outright panic. First it was sending in operatives from the DNC. Then it was escalated to having Bill Clinton do a little campaigning for Coakley. And now the big boss, Barack Obama, has been summoned to the fray in an effort to somehow revive the flagging Coakely campaign.
It may be too little too late – one of the things I’ve been pointing too and I’ve seen others cite is an apparent “enthusiasm gap” among the two side. Scott Browns supporters are very enthusiastic about his candidacy and his chances of winning. Martha Coakley’s – not so much. In fact Blue Mass Group, a Massachusetts Democratic group blog recently entitled a post “I know it sucks but vote for Coakley” or words to that effect. A ringing endorsement if ever I’ve seen one. Enthusiasm is what drives voter turnout. And obviously voter turnout is the key. The enthusiasm the Democrats had for their brand just a few short months ago, has gone with the wind.
Secondly – independents aren’t staying under the Democratic umbrella. In fact, polls show them deserting in alarming numbers. Again, not a good sign for Democrats in general, but surely not a good sign for Coakley.
And, during my reading this past week (sorry no cite) I remember a poll which said about 20% of Democrats in Massachusetts don’t like the state’s health care program and are leaning heavily toward Brown. That means it may be Democrats who put the final nail in the Coakley coffin.
That brings up the question that is constantly asked and consistently denied by David Axelrod – is this election a referendum on the Democrats and the Obama agenda?
How could it not be? Look at the state. Look at the stakes (Brown means the HCR bill is dead). It is fraught with national political implications. To contend otherwise is simply whistling past the graveyard. If Brown wins the US political world is turned upside down. It will energize the right as has no recent election anywhere – a Republican in the “Ted Kennedy seat?” Are you kidding? That would be like electing Ariel Sharon to the presidency of Egypt.
It would also be the death knell of the liberal attempt to pass their agenda in Congress as the filibuster proof Senatorial majority would exist no more. Axelrod knows that. Obama knows that. And so do Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
The next day or so should see a spin up of the dirty tricks department like none in recent memory. Already the DCCC has released a smear mailer that simply isn’t supported by facts (and that FactCheck.org has specifically refuted). More to come I’m sure.
But the bottom line is that there is a good chance that Scott Brown will win this thing. And per the GOP’s attorneys, if he does, Paul Kirk, the interim appointee there to fill the seat until the special election, may not be eligible to vote after Tuesday. What a wrench that throws, if true, into the machinations of the Harry Reid scheme to pass the bill before Brown could be seated.
This has the possibility of being a game changer of an election if Brown succeeds. And I’ve got to tell you, I’m ready for the game to change, that’s for sure.
There is a lot of analysis going on about Obama’s first year and why, it seems, his job approval numbers are so dismal. And why, given the promise he brought to the White House, at least according to the PR faithfully pushed by his campaign, are Democrats looking at the possibility of large net losses in both houses of Congress?
The first hints of the dissatisfaction of the electorate came in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races where Republicans won – in VA handily. The Democrats claimed their candidate there ran a lack luster campaign and it wasn’t at all a referendum on the Obama administration and the Democratic agenda. But now, the very same thing is happening in Massachusetts with an unknown GOP state legislator giving the Democratic candidate for the “Ted Kennedy” seat, a run for her money (and, in the latest poll, up by 4 points over the Democrat).
Is this too the result of just a lackluster campaign and a poor candidate? Certainly a case can be made for that – except in this case, it is reliably and overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts. It doesn’t work quite as well there as it might in VA. It is beginning to sound like a bit of whistling past the graveyard.
In fact, as with VA, it is a reflection of some deep-seated dissatisfaction with Democrats in Congress and yes, with Obama as well. Charlie Cook nails the problem today in his analysis of why the Democrats are in such deep electoral trouble:
Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.
The latest unemployment and housing numbers underscore the folly of their decision to pay so much attention to health care and climate change instead of focusing on the economy “like a laser beam,” as President Clinton pledged to do during his 1992 campaign. Although no one can fairly accuse Obama and his party’s leaders of ignoring the economy, they certainly haven’t focused on it like a laser beam.
Cook is actually minimizing the problem somewhat. In fact, Obama and his party leaders have given little but lip service to the economy, unemployment and job creation while they’ve spent enormous time on agenda items which mean very little to a country suffering the depth of joblessness and economic hardship now prevalent. Add to that their extremely obnoxious handling of what they have focused on, the blatant partisanship in which they’ve conducted their “business” and the total lack of transparency in that process and you have a pretty toxic picture painted of Democrats in general.
Why, then, did Obama’s promise fail to materialize in his administration – at least in the first year? Well there are many reasons. Among them is a rookie politician (Obama) who got rolled by an experienced Democratic leadership that saw a small and closing window of opportunity to pass huge social welfare agenda items that had repeatedly failed in the past and chose to tackle them while ignoring the obvious elephant in the room. My guess is they miscalculated in more than just the way Cook contends. With their majorities, I’m sure they thought they could quickly put these bills together and pass them, leaving plenty of time to work on the economy. But, of course, given the diversity of opinion and interests even among Democrats, that wasn’t the case. It has dragged into the new year while work on the economy has been essentially non-existent (they threw a $787 billion pork bill out there and called it “stimulus”, figuring their usual panacea – throwing money at a problem – would work. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t).
Voters are mad about that. Rightly or wrongly, they blame the government for what does or doesn’t happen on their watch economically. For the most part, government can best affect the economy by making it easier for markets to expand and create jobs – tax cuts, less regulation, etc. Spending rarely sets up the conditions to do that. But regardless, of what action the government takes, voters expect the economy to be the absolute focus of government in times of economic crisis.
That has not been the case at all with this administration or Congress. And, it appears, they’re going to pay a huge price for that in 2010 and possibly 2012. What was a bright Democratic future less than a year ago has now become a scouting trip for a good place in the “wilderness” for Dems. If, as many economists expect, unemployment remains at 9% through 2012, we may be reading the obligatory columns about the “Death of the Democratic Party”. And while Obama’s personal popularity may remain high (while his job approval numbers tank), that doesn’t mean such perceived economic negligence will be rewarded with a second term.
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.
That scene is incredibly muddled and getting more muddled every day. In some ways, such as the Democrat retirements, it reminds me of the political atmosphere of 1994. Charlie Cook, who knows Democrats and their electoral chances, pretty much writes the Democratic Senatorial majority off as a dead loss after 2010:
Come November, Senate Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress.
When the Republican in the race for Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts is competitive, you know the electoral landscape has changed and just about anything is possible.
Of course, in terms of divided government, that’s very good news. The fact that it is Republicans, who for the most part, still don’t seem to have a clue, not so much. Of course that obviously depends on who the Republicans end up running, or winning, those seats. Florida’s race between Crist and Rubio is a good example. Crist is the moderate establishment (business as usual, McCain type Republican) while Rubio is more of the Tea Party conservative.
And it is there that the establishment Republican party seems to be missing the boat – again. After a sweeping victory by Barack Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans quite naturally tried to do a little soul searching and, for whatever reason, came to believe that their problem was they didn’t appeal to enough moderates. Yet in the year that has passed since the Obama administration has been in office and the Congress with prohibitive Democratic majorities has been wreaking its havoc, independents, who establishment Republicans choose to characterize as “moderates”, have been abandoning the Democrats in staggering numbers. And they’re looking for a place to go.
Why are they abandoning the Democrats? Because they bought into a myth a compliant and noncritical media aided and abetted concerning the new administration and now they’re seeing the radical truth. And they don’t like it.
However, what they don’t want is a merely less radical replacement. Democrat lite. What independents are in the middle of doing is rejecting, in toto, the Democratic agenda. Rasmussen and others have been providing these clues for months. In the latest Rasmussen poll:
With Democrats in majority control of both the House and Senate, it’s not surprising to find that 79% of Republicans are not confident that their congressional representatives are actually presenting their best interests, but 74% of voters not affiliated with either party agree. Democratic voters are evenly divided on the question.
74% of voters “not affiliated with either party agree” that their Congressional Rep (obviously that includes some Republicans) is not actually representing their best interests. Now that could be for any number of reasons, but on thing for certain, if 74% aren’t happy with their Rep, I’d guess they’re not happy with what the establishment Republicans are selling either.
Enter the Tea Partiers. First written off as brownshirts, angry whites, red-necks, un-American, ‘teabaggers’ and any other pejorative the left-wing thought it could get away with, the movement has grown into a political force. But make no mistake about it – it’s a populist movement. Regardless it has, to a large degree, managed to tap into this unhappiness with what is going on in Washington and give it some structure.
And what continues to astound me is the establishment Republicans seem to think that they “own” the movement – that when push comes to shove, this group will fall in line and vote for them.
There is going to be a war between the Teapartiers and the establishment Republican party. The Teapartiers don’t necessarily support or even like many of the establishment Republicans. As a result that war is going to be waged in primaries. And much like it was on the left (Lamont/Lieberman) it is a war for the soul of that party. Establishment Republicans really don’t seem to understand that – yet. So we see stories like this one where the establishment party is said to have “soured” on Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, she represents as well as anyone, the populist nature of the movement that the Republicans don’t seem to yet understand. Add the stupidity of the leadership and the visible infighting within the establishment wing of the party, and you hold little hope that they will wake up in time to smell the roses and figure out the formula for electoral success.
Where’s this all headed? To more polarized politics, if that is possible, with the sides much more differentiated – if the Teapartiers get their way. Republicans are going to be moved in a much more conservative direction, come hell or high water, if they want Tea Party support. And the Tea Party movement is going to attract (has attracted?) enough of the independent voters to make the electoral difference.
Conventional wisdom says the electorally successful win by appealing to their base, picking off enough independents to make the difference and then governing from the center. I don’t think that CW is valid anymore. It appears that the public has finally had the scales removed from their eyes with the present administration. The premise that a centrist government is what America wants has been overcome by events. Those events, products of that centrism, have given us the state of affairs with which we’re now afflicted – a welfare state with huge deficits, a debased currency and a behemoth government that is out-of-control. Listen closely to those who spoke up at the summer town halls. It wasn’t just about Democrats and Republicans, folks – it was about the direction of the country and the realization that both parties had participated in creating the horrendous mess we now enjoy.
All of that to say that CW is ready to be turned on its head and, in fact, people (to include independents) are demanding action to roll back government and reduce spending. That should be right in the Republican’s wheel house. Yet instead of really talking their supposed principles and actions to accomplish them, establishment Republicans still insist that it is more important to ensure they have a “big tent”. That is a complete sell out of their principles. The “tent” is established by those principles. What Republicans have to do is fashion a message that makes that tent attractive and brings people to them. That’s what will make it “big”. Compromising their principles to fill the tent is a sure way to lose – and that’s precisely what they’ve proven over the last few elections.
Politically, 2010 is going to be a very interesting year to watch. For libertarians, the best hope is divided government and a Republican party that rediscovers its primary principles and decides to live up to them. I think we’ll get the divided government. However, my concern is the midterms will see enough Republicans elected, despite themselves and their lack of a principled stand, that the important message about principles will continue to be lost on them – again. That will result in a Senate not much different than we have now, where compromise and collegiality are more important than principle and the people. That means big government, more spending and more deficit. And that means Republicans will remain the minority party and out of the White House in 2012.