Favorite Post-Mortems on Massachusetts Senate election

Setting aside the likely end of the health care bill for the moment…

If there is one positive aspect to Martha Coakley’s loss is that is has exposed a fracture in the Democratic Party. If there is a downside, its that the loss is being misinterpreted by the Right in both parties to blame progressives for the loss. This despite the fact that “the Left” in the Democratic Party has gotten exactly nothing in the last year from the Obama Administration, as Glenn Greenwald points out in his Salon column today.

People who have always considered themselves to be Democrats, or ‘independent progressives’ are waking up to the fact that they have nothing no more say in the ‘clapped out, gut-free lobbyist machine’ that is the Democratic Party.

A demobilized and demoralized progressive vote didn’t turn out for Coakley as they had for Obama. I doubt Obama could rouse them again. As the national Democratic party tacks against the left again, the disappointment among activists will be palpable. The results could be interesting. I think there will be more of a push to run national and congressional progressive campaigns in 2012, probably with results a little better than last time.

It will be more interesting to see how local politics develop, if ward committees are reestablished that could become independent of the Democratic center.

Here are a few of my favorite articles from the last few days covering the progressive Democrat reaction to the Coakley loss.

January 15, 2010:

  • Russell Mokhiber. Coakley’s Corporate Connection. Published on Friday, January 15, 2010 by Single Payer Action.

    On the big screen at Cato is an invitation to a corporate fundraiser – that night at the Sonoma Restaurant on Capitol Hill – for Coakley…Coakley is in the middle of a tight race and she’s flying to DC one week before the election to be with a group of corporate lobbyists? Yes. She is. And then Carney went down the list of 22 members of the host committees – meaning they each raised $10,000 or more for Coakley. “Seventeen are federally registered lobbyists, 15 of whom have health-care clients,” Carney said. “You see the names – Gerald Cassidy, David Castagnetti,, Tommy Boggs – those are all lobbyists I’ve highlighted there who have clients who are drug companies, health insurers, hospitals or all three,” Carney said. “AHIP, Phrma, Pfizer, Blue Cross – everybody is covered there. Aetna somehow isn’t. I don’t know how they got left out. These are the special interests,” Carney said. “These are the people trying to elect Martha Coakley to be vote number 60 for health insurance.”

    January 17, 2010:

  • Robert Kuttner. A Wake Up Call. Huffingtonpost.com

So, how did Democrats get saddled with this bill? Begin with Rahm Emanuel. The White House chief of staff, who was once Bill Clinton’s political director, drew three lessons from the defeat of Clinton-care. All three were wrong. First, get it done early (Clinton’s task force had dithered.) Second, leave the details to Congress (Clinton had presented Congress with a fully-baked cake.) Third, don’t get on the wrong side of the insurance and drug industries (The insurers’ fictitious couple, Harry and Louise, had cleaned Clinton’s clock…

The politics got horribly muddled. By embracing a deal that required the government to come up with a trillion dollars of subsidy for the insurance industry, Obama was forced to pursue policies that were justifiably unpopular — such as taxing premiums of people with decent insurance; or compelling people to buy policies that they often couldn’t afford, or diverting money from Medicare. He managed to scare silly the single most satisfied clientele of our one island of efficient single-payer health insurance — senior citizens — and to alienate one of his most loyal constituencies, trade unionists.The bill helped about two-thirds of America’s uninsured, but did almost nothing for the 85 percent of Americans with insurance that is becoming more costly and unreliable by the day — except frighten them into believing that what little they have is at increased risk of being taken away.

All of this made things easier for the right, and left people to take seriously even preposterous allegations such as the nonsense about death panels. It got so ass-backwards that the other day Ben Nelson, who successfully held out for anti-abortion language and a sweetheart deal for Nebraska’s Medicaid as the price of his vote, found himself facing a wholesale voter backlash.

Nelson began running TV spots assuring Nebraska voters that the Obama health plan is “not run by the government.” That’s one hell of a slogan for a party that relies on democratically elected government to offset the insecurity, inequality and insanity generated by private commercial forces. If not-run-by-government is the Democrats’ credo, why bother?

January 18, 2010:

  • Andrew Sullivan. A Looming Landslide For Brown. The Atlantic online.

    In fact, any legislative moves with this Democratic party and this Republican party are close to hopeless. The Democrats are a clapped out, gut-free lobbyist machine. The Republicans are insane. The system is therefore paralyzed beyond repair.

    January 19, 2010

  • Ryan Grim. Coakley Pollster Defends Campaign Against White House. Huffingtonpost.com

The feeling among voters, said Lake, is that Washington prioritizes Wall Street over Main Street and that, despite Coakley’s credentials as a state attorney general who has taken on and beaten Wall Street banks, sending her to Washington would not make a difference. “On the eve of the election, Martha Coakley had a 21-point advantage over Scott Brown on who would fight Wall Street and deliver for Main Street. But it didn’t predict to the vote, because voters thought, even if they sent her down here that it wouldn’t happen. ‘Fine, she had done it in Massachusetts, but no one was doing it in Washington,'” Lake said. “Voters are voting for change and we have to go back to that change message. And we have to deliver on change, especially an economic policy that serves working people.”

January 20, 2010:

He worked on the unrealistic assumption that his really was a post-racial, post-partisan, post-red-state-blue-state America. He spent a year and endless energy in trying to please and recruit the Olympia Snowes and Charles Grassleys and Max Baucuses and Big Pharmacies. He let them dictate the pace and the terms of the health care debate, making it hostage to the virulent town hall meetings of the summer of 2009. They were never going to be his allies. He should have identified them as his foes early on, and attacked them as such.

Think about this: the public option was supported by a huge majority of the public. At times, 70 percent of the public supported it. Did 70 percent of the population vote for Barack Obama? No! The public option was an idea that found common cause with progressives, moderates and McCain voters. Congressional Democrats, with filibuster-proof supermajorities, could not manage to fight for — let alone pass — a bill with something broadly supported by massive swaths of the public.

And so the public, predictably, has soured on health care reform. (And Democrats know that a cross-section of generic opposition to health care reform is against it solely on the grounds that it is not progressive enough — this, they believe, is “good news!”)

The very idea that an administration run by Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel and staffed with centrists, Wall Street mavens, and former Bush officials — and a Congress beholden to Blue Dogs and Lieberdems — has been captive “to the Left” is so patently false that everyone should be too embarrassed to utter it. For better or worse, the Democratic strategy has long been and still is to steer clear of their leftist base and instead govern as “pragmatists” and centrists — which means keeping the permanent Washington factions pleased. That strategy may or not be politically shrewd, but it is just a fact that the dreaded “Left” has gotten very little of what it wanted the entire year. Is there anyone who actually believes that “The Left” is in control of anything, let alone the Democratic Party? The fact that Lanny Davis — to prove the Left’s dominance — has to cite one provision that was jettisoned (the public option) and another which the Left hates (the mandate) reflects how false that claim is. What are all of the Far Left policies the Democrats have been enacting and Obama has been advocating? I’d honestly love to know.

If Americans are repudiating “big government,” it’s because they see the government helping Wall Street, rather than working people–hardly an endorsement of Republican trickle-down economics.

But if Democrats are the party in power and seen as fronting for Wall Street or the insurance cartel, an angry electorate looking for some bums to throw out of office will toss the Democrats. And as long as there’s no credible third party alternative from the left, the Republicans and the right will benefit from Democratic losses.


Posted on January 20, 2010, in Analysis, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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