Friday, January 22, 2010

Scott Brown: Salvation of the DNC?

When the acting Democrats were voted in, everyone wanted healthcare reform. It was a very high general priority and the DNC made it part of their platform; they promised us health care reform and they won elections.

But since they took office, health care lost popularity. [Why this is the case is another article altogether, but in IMAO the American people lost a game of chicken to a mirror.] If just a quarter of a certain group of people change their mind about health care reform, support can go from +30 to -5 overnight (do those numbers sound familiar, Martha?).

But if I were the Democrats, I would have ordered Coakley to tank the election. Whether or not a decision was made, or an order was given, is pure speculation; the fact that Coakley tanked the election is not.

Let's go back to last week to see what the Democratic conundrum looked like. If they passed the bill, they'd be unpopular with the moderates they need for 2010. If they didn't pass the bill, they'd be unpopular with the liberals they need in 2010.

There were two extremes available. One would be to pass health care by any means necessary, including the nuclear option. Doing so would have been a giant white flag. The strategy that move indicates would be to appeal to their base to build a stronghold while conceding the majority back to the Republicans. But speculation that Democrats would use reconciliation to pass health care turned out to be untrue. And since they have made it a priority to seat Brown before continuing, it is obvious that cutting corners is not an option for them.

The other extreme would have been to drop healthcare altogether and do a complete pivot, trying to save face with the moderates. Doing so would alienate their base, which would kill their fundraising and put them in more jeopardy than the other extreme. On top of that they would be vulnerable to the RNC’s claims that they wasted year accomplishing nothing during an economic crisis, which would be difficult to defend. Although it is still a possible option, I don’t think that the Democrats are seriously considering it.

Short of turning the tide of general opinion within the next few months, their predicament had two major exits, and both involve the Republican Party. The first was to find at least one Republican to come along with the ride so the bill gets the bipartisan stamp, however weak. But it was difficult enough for them to get the Democrats in line and there was no reason for the Republians to involve themselves at all from a strategic perspective.

The second would be to force the Republicans to kill the bill so they could absolve themselves of its failure, claim due diligence to their base, and pivot back into the economy without losing face. This option was not possible, however, because they had a filibuster-proof control of the senate. Losing a Senate vote that they had previously counted on would indicate regression of the bill and mark the first loose threads of its unraveling. Without any recourse, the Republicans had absolutely no way to sink the bill on their own and therefore no reason to involve themselves in the process whatsoever.

Until now.

Cut to present. With the filibuster back in play, the Republicans have the ability to go on the offensive and attempt to derail the health care bill once it comes back to the Senate. Whether they do or not doesn’t matter, it's their newfound capability that plays. Because if they decide not to act on their capability and let the Democrats pass healthcare, the bill will have a faint bipartisan stamp that the DNC needs for 2010. [The Democrats will at least be able to say that the Republicans had the opportunity to stop the bill and did not, which could be effecitve in general elections.] If the Republicans block the bill, the Democrats will be able to put the blame of its failure on the Republicans and allow their own fate to rest more heavily on the resurging economy.

There is no way the Democrats can prevent a little fallout from their mistreatment of health care, but either scenario will provide them with much needed damage control to soften the Republican edge and give them an opportunity to keep the three branches through 2012.

The Democrats are still in a very tough place with healthcare. But losing seat 41 opened up options that they didn’t have last week.


  1. I think what is significant about Scott Brown winning is that Mass. has a health care plan much like what was planned for the rest of the country and they voted for a guy who promised to try and keep the rest of the country from implementing it. There is also the possiblility that Coakley shot herself in the foot. She was, from every description I have read, arrogant to an extreme. As a DA she prosecuted some of the day care child molestation cases that made national news and even after it was found that the testimony given by the children in one case was coached and false, she went to the parole board and argued to keep him in jail. Her comment was that she did not want to let someone convicted of child molesting out of jail even if they were innocent. Then she ran some ads suggesting that Scott Brown might be Billy Buckner (widely hated in Mass for dropping a ball and keeping the Sox out of the Series) that just made no sense. Also I think people are pissed off about the Pelosi Reid secret meetings where even CSpan is not allowed in the room despite Obama saying the bill is being crafted in the open. I think Evan Bagh said it best when he said, "If losing a senate seat in Mass. is not a wake-up call you are just not gonna wake up."

  2. If health care was a big issue for voters, Brown would make sense for both camps. If you're not happy with your state's health care system, you are motivated to vote for the guy who opposes a national version of the same thing. If you like the health care you have in your state, you are not motivated to vote for someone who will take the same plan national.

    Brown's victory could mean that residents are not happy with the state health care system. It could just as well mean that they are very happy with it.

  3. Polls have indicated that voters were overall unhappy that health care reform had not gone FAR enough.

    Whatever that means.

    There was some interesting discussion of how national health care policy would work with the existing Massachusetts health care; one side was afraid it would add to the amount of money that Massachuestts residents would pay; others were concnerned that it would replace it, but not be as comprehensive or cost-effective.

    I don't know, as a Minnesotan, how Massachusetts citizens feel about either their own state health care plan OR the national plan, but at the very least it suggests that confusion about how it would play out was a factor.

    Thanks AB! for another excellent post; I look forward to what you have to share with us on the 'meat massage' incident (no, not even close to what the rest of you are probably thinking that is about) LOL.

  4. Welcome new commenter Igor.

    Would you care to clarify who the 'goons'are to whom you refer?