Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Special Election In Massachusetts

Most of you have probably heard all about the special election today to fill the late Senator Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. I won't go into the details of the race here but judging by all of the polling data it certainly does appear that the Republican Scott Brown will defeat the Democrat Martha Coakley (that little guy on the right doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell). Now a lot has been made of the fact that if Brown wins he will vote against the current health care reform, seemingly destroying President Obama's main initiative from his first year in office and laying the ground for a massive Republican victory in the 2010 elections. I personally disagree.

If Brown wins (which again, seems pretty likely) it will by no means sound a death knell for health care reform. There are several legislative and procedural methods that the Democrats can still use to pass a finished bill and after a year of ugly partisan wrangling and infighting you can bet your ass that they're going to do everything in their power to make it happen. It won't be a perfect bill of course but this legislation has never been close to perfect from the start. Getting something substantive passed right now should be their main goal; many aspects of the bill can be adjusted and fixed later on. And I also disagree with those who say that a loss isn't so bad because we can always start all over again if nothing gets passed. This is of course factually true but to say that it would be an uphill battle legislatively and electorally would be a huge understatement. Plus, the callous Republican strategy of obstructionism over the past year should not be rewarded with a political victory that only harms the rest of the country in the process. They may not care about the American people anymore but we still should.

And let's be completely clear here: a Republican victory in this election is obviously not a referendum on health care reform, nor even on Obama's administration, no matter how much the right-wing pundits and blogosphere would like to believe that talking point. If it were, why would Obama waste time campaigning for Martha Coakley in a state with the most progressive health care system in the country? The truth is that Coakley is most likely going to lose this election not because Brown is a great candidate or even because the people of Massachusetts (and by extrapolation, the American people) are voting against Obama and his policy agenda; she's going to lose because she's an absolutely horrible candidate. Her words and actions up until now and even her very presence on the ticket indicate that she and the Democratic party in Massachusetts have not taken this race at all seriously, quite possibly out of some misguided feeling of entitlement towards Kennedy's long held senate seat. It just wasn't something he could leave them in his will, and they're learning this fact the hard way.

Polls on the East coast close in about an hour so I guess we'll soon know how everything turns out, unless of course it's at all close and we have to wait for the return of overseas and provisional ballots but even if it isn't the Democrats will still have about two weeks to get this legislation in the can before a formal certification can be issued for Massachusetts' newest senator. As I said, this election will most likely end up helping the Republicans in the short term sound bite media battle that cable television loves so much but hopefully it will also kick the Democrats in their collective butts and get them moving on this essential piece of legislation. The fact that some of them are still weighing their chances of reelection against their support for some version of health care reform is pathetic. The members of that party need to take a page from Obama's personal playbook and try to envision a longer, more pragmatic view of the future. Change is still possible in this country, we just need some semblance of an actually functioning Democratic party to have any chance at making it happen. Although as I look back at this last year of electoral timidity and legislative ineffectiveness on their part, you'll excuse me if I don't hold my breath.

[Update: The Associated Press is now projecting that Scott Brown has won the Massachusetts senate race. It's neither a conservative revolution nor is it the end of health care reform, it's merely the end of Martha Coakley's political career.]

[Update II: The graph below (click to enlarge) illustrates our current health care system, in which we spend more and more money to insure fewer and fewer people, that Senator-elect Brown has promised not to change once he's in office:



Jerry Critter said...

I find it hard to believe that the Democrats would screw up MA so much unless...they want Coakley to lose???

JBW said...

Judging by their general electoral efforts I often assume that the Democrats want to lose most contests they participate in, JC. Watching it is frustrating, to say the least.

Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Some candidates don't deserve our support. Coakley is one of them. I helped on few like her locally. Useless. You do the work but they want the reward. I have no sympathy for her. Been burned by Martha Coakleys too many times JBW.

JBW said...

I agree, T101. Unfortunately she was the lesser of two evils but the other evil ran a much better campaign. Obama doesn't need callous politicians like her but he sure could have used her vote on health care reform.