Monday, January 18, 2010

The Massachusetts Senate Race

All the other pundits are weighing in, so I guess I might as well.

E. J. Dionne points out the many reasons why Martha Coakley, the Democrat in the race, might lose, and why it's not fully a referendum on Obama (here and here). He goes on to list some things that Democrats might learn from this race.

But I decided to write this post when I read Steve Clemons, who echoes a sort of common wisdom (if we may use that word) on the left. It's the messy health care bill that this is a referendum on, says Steve; President Obama was in office when this extremely messy process went on, and we sensitive beings who would prefer a more perfect bill and would have averted our eyes from the spectacle of politics being made have been forced to see this awful thing taking place, so of course we will stay home or even vote for the Republicans.

Dionne wonders why the Democrats' message isn't taking the way the conservatives' message is. He should be on the listserv I'm on. Or he could look at Clemons's post. How different is that message from the Republicans'? Obama is doing terrible things to the nation with the health care bill. I'm sure that Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Partiers are delighted with Glenn Greenwald's and Marcy Wheeler's attacks on the administration.

I keep wondering why people who call themselves progressives keep lining up on the other side. They're forgetting history and losing sight of the future. If you want to grade the administration, you need to think about whether you're grading on a curve or not. Curving Obama with George W. Bush, Obama's marks are all A++. Improving foreign relations. Getting the health reform bill this far along. Averting the financial disaster that was in progress during the transition. Good cabinet and other appointments. Changes in executive orders and agency regulations that will give us a handle on global warming and better regulation of food and hazardous waste. A wise Latina woman on the Supreme Court.

It's the future I'm worried about, though, in this election and in the constant carping of some so-called progressives. If the health care reform bill doesn't pass, it's pretty much all over for a progressive future. Big Republican wins in November, which will destroy chances for progressive legislation. A failed presidency, which those progressives are already trumpeting. (Why do they want this?) A Republican president in 2012. Do they think that will bring the progressive change they want?

The country has a bunch of trials to get through. We've chosen Barack Obama to lead us. What are we doing to get to the future we want?

Update: Bernard Avishai, Kevin Drum, and Andrew Sullivan. And John Cole, who just broke his shoulder protecting his dog from the cold.


Andy said...

Yes, it never ceases to amaze me how the extreme partisans on both sides of the aisle love to snatch defeat from measurable but imperfect victory with their litmus tests and ideological purity requirements.

Even if this bill passes, I think it has an uncertain future simply because it doesn't have the kind of consensus to make it enduring like Social Security, Medicare and the Civil Rights act. IMO, the fact that this bill is hanging on a single vote is about all that needs to be said.

MT said...

"Hanging on a single vote" and "along party lines" as well needs to be said--and perhaps "during an episode of the kind of bad-faith, zero-sum gamesmanship that prevents consensus on anything and always has."

Andy said...


Except it's not simply just along party lines. The Democrats have the votes to pass the legislation no matter what the GoP does (which seems to suit some Democrats just fine). The main problem for the Democrats is reconciling the competing interests within their party - something that may not be possible in the end. If there was party consensus (much less national consensus), this bill would have passed long ago.

MT said...

Yeah, by "along party lines" I meant something vaguer than what it implies. Anyway, sure there has been dissension among the Dems, but it seems to me that partisanship--by Republicans--that underlies it. The legislative compromises that have divided the Dems were to appease Republicans who--were everyone acting reasonably--should have been appeased, but won't be in the end, because they'll have chosen to follow the Republican game plan instead.

MT said...

Or maybe what really needs to be said is that it's time to end de facto supermajority rule and put the senate back the way the founders intended.

Andy said...

So let me get this straight - you're blaming lack of consensus in the Democratic party on the GoP? That is, I'm sorry to say, absurd.

The Democrats had almost a year with a supermajority and they squandered it. The sooner Democrats start to take responsibility for their own failures and quit blaming the GoP for everything the sooner they'll be able to actually govern.

MT said...

Rather than blaming the criminals, I'd prefer to blame the conditions that beget and abet criminality. That is the liberal way, grasshopper. But if you need it painted in black hats and white hats, of course the Republicans are the bad guys. Go have some fruit. It's high in vitamin C.