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The Massachusetts result

Some not necessarily original observations about Republican Scott Brown’s victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election Tuesday to fill the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts.

–The result is especially significant, and damaging to President Obama and the Democrats, because it gives Senate Republicans 41 votes, enough to filibuster health care reform or any other legislation. As The Village Voice noted sardonically, the Republicans now have a 41 to 59 majority in the Senate.

–Clearly Coakley was a weak candidate who tried to sit on an early lead, and paid a price for it. But contributing to the result was a national sense of frustration over the still-weak state of the economy and the drawn-out battle over health care– which Republicans have successfully exploited.

–Massachusetts has its own health care program which is similar to the Democrats’ plans now stuck in Congress. Even though Brown has promised to join the Republicans in blocking the Democrats, he supported the Massachusetts plan.

–It may still be possible for the Democrats to pass health care reform if members of the House are willing to accept the Senate bill without changes– thus eliminating the need for a revote in the Senate.

–The worst thing for Democrats to do now– both in terms of politics and policy– is to panic or take a defeatist, curl-up-and-die attitude. Health care reform is still worth fighting for. Obama was elected in 2008 on the promise of it. If voters have to choose between assertive Republicans and apologetic, backtracking Democrats, guess what they’ll do?

–The result of one special election doesn’t mean political doom for Obama and the Democrats. Far more important is what happens with the economy and unemployment. It’s still the economy, stupid.

–Putting aside political calculations for the moment: after Republicans and conservatives are finished gloating and high-fiving, the need to do something serious about health care won’t disappear. When people line up two days in advance for the opportunity to see a doctor in the wealthiest country in the world, something is fundamentally wrong.

Update: While celebrating his victory, some conservatives are unhappy that Brown is pro-choice on abortion. And Glenn Beck strongly suggests he may someday murder an intern. I’m not making that up.