Special election in Massachusetts lost
Rich Gardner | 01.20.2010
Why did the Democratic Party lose what seemed a sure thing? Simple. President Obama was too far off to the right-wing side of the national debate. He needed to run things closer to the way his base thought about things.
Well, Al Franken was sworn in as the Democrats' 60th Senator on the 7th of July 2009 and a bit less than 200 days later, on the 19th of January 2010, Democrats lost the special election held in Massachusetts in which the late Senator Ted Kennedy was replaced. As the fake-news comedian Jon Stewart put it, "the Democrats won't be able to pass health care reform with an 18-vote majority," a majority that George W. Bush NEVER had and remember, he could do whatever the %#@ he wanted to do!!!
Is this all bad news? Hmm, not necessarily. The Senate could give up the pipedream of getting things through with a filibuster-proof majority and could concentrate on using tactics like reconciliation and possibly modifying the filibuster rule (It's not in the Constitution, so it won't require a Constitutional amendment to remove or modify it) so that it would be a great deal tougher for the minority party to stop up progress and toss all sorts of obstacles in the way. It means that Democrats would no longer have the excuse of having to cater to minority Senators from small states like Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Max Baucus (D-MT) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). There's strong evidence that spending time and attention on these fringe players and specifically, that re-working the health care bill to meet their demands has crucially deflated the morale of the Democratic Party's progressive voter base.
Progressive bloggers in general didn't feel appreciated and most certainly weren't listened to. As the late Molly Ivins put it, quoting an old Texas saying "Ya dance with the one who brung ya." Obama and his people didn't spend any time "dancing" with progressives, they were too busy chasing "centrist" (Read: "fringe" i.e., off to the right of where the party's base voters are) votes to see to it that progressive voters felt that the Democratic Party was concerned about their priorities.
What do liberals/progressives have to show for our roughly 200 days of a filibuster-proof majority? Damn little. There's very little that we can put up on the wall to say "See? We accomplished that with our filibuster-proof majority!" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) admitted a few days ago that trying to get Senator Snowe to vote for the health care bill was a complete waste of time. Yeah, it would have been great to have had a least one Republican vote so that Democrats could claim a "bipartisan" victory, but
"As I look back it was a waste of time dealing with [Snowe]," Reid is quoted as saying
The House health care bill was voted out of its various committees right before the August recess and got their combined bill out by early November, but the final Senate committee didn't get its bill out until October and the Senate didn't get their combined bill out until late December. So the Senate was very significantly slower than the House and it made a great many more compromises, compromises which might significantly affect how well the final bill might work in practice. As progressives have pointed out, the public option, which was jettisoned to get Senator Lieberman's vote, is not just a "nice to have" feature, it's absolutely critical if the health care bill is to work.
"Our priority on the public option, the emphasis was not on 'public' - the emphasis was on 'option,' on something 'other than,'" [Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)] said. "The president said from the start, 'I believe that the public option is the best way to keep the insurance companies honest and increase competition. If you have a better idea, put it on the table ... So we will see what they have on the table."
Critics such as Dr. Quentin Young, of Physicians for a National Health Program, see a public insurance plan as having been sacrificed for conservative Democratic votes. "We are very dissatisfied with the way the end of stage negotiations are going," he said. "It seems to use from the very first day the administration has made concessions to the conservative wing who dominates the Senate."
Solution? Dump the provisions that the Senate's rogue, fringe (allegedly "centrist") Senators insisted on, restore the public option and dump the anti-abortion provisions. Make this bill something progressives can be proud of and ignore the beltway press when it squeals "You're not being bipartisan!" Just tell the press corps "No, we're not being bipartisan, we're seeing to the needs of the American people. That means we have to toss this idiotic bipartisanship fetish out the window and concentrate on producing good policy."