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So What The Hell Happened in Massachusetts? (updated)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
1. A weak campaign
2. A bad economy
3. A special election (which generally favors Republicans because the electorate it whiter, older, and richer)
4. An enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. The D's are dispirited and the R's are hyped up.

So, whose fault is this disaster? Coakley is ultimately responsible for #1, nobody for #3, and Obama and the congressional Democratic party for much of #2 and #4. The beltway Democratic Party thought the economy was going to be just fine in early 2009 and slow-walked the progressive agenda, cozied up to every corporate interest group in Washington, and played the same stupid game they've been playing since 1995. Let's just say the results of that era have not been impressive. And now Obama is talking about doing something about the deficit. In a recession. With 10% unemployment. Are they trying to lose their majority?

Here's what I would do if I was running Obama's show:
1. Get the House to pass the Senate bill as is and then press for additional changes under reconciliation (maybe in 2011). No, I don't like the health care bill, but from a strictly political point of view, Obama's presidency is over if it doesn't pass. Ugh.
2. Shift to employment issues, tying it to talk about green economy.
3. Pick a big, nasty public fight with the banks. If the corporate Dems don't like it, they can be triangulated against.
4. When the Supreme Court strikes down the campaign finance law and the financial reform fails, push clean elections laws - but only after you lose our fight in Congress with the financial industry.
5. Start bashing China's economic policies. No it's not necessarily smart diplomacy, but it's right substantively and politically.
6. Come up with 3 or 4 high-profile public issues that divide the Republicans and/or make them look bad and make a big stink about them. Make them vote on them. Yes you'll fail to break the filibuster, but then you can make the election about Republican obstruction rather than Democratic incompetence.

That's just an outline, but you get the idea. Are the Democrats going to do any of these things? I doubt it. I think the odds are 50-50 they're fumble health care on the 5 yard line and dither away the next year. Then they'll take massive losses in the next election, although they might narrowly hold control. And we'll be back to political stalemate. The national Democratic Party leadership are tools, and can be reliably predicted to make the most stupid political decisions possible. Yippee.

Update: I think Amanda Marcotte is spot on here.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:59 AM
  • Nice analysis, but sir, please... what will happen now on the national Dem agenda? Are we totally screwed?

    By Blogger Belle, at 8:59 AM  
  • I'm afraid we probably are. The Blue Dog "Democrats" have been queasy about the national democratic agenda anyway, so this election is probably going to spook them sufficiently to get them to abandon any meaningful progressive legislation. It still might be possible to get the Senate health care bill through the House, but I think even that might fail. I'd like to think that the Blue Dogs realize that if health care fails they're the ones who are going to suffer for it - by losing their seats in the next election - but if they were smart enough to figure that out, they would have behaved very differently in the first place. And if health care reform collapses, that is the definitive end of Obama's agenda - and very possibly of the Democratic majority too. It's all extremely depressing.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 9:40 AM  
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