Other than the Open Thread, already posted, this will be today’s only article here. I’m sure you all know that the unthinkable has happened. Scott Brown has defeated Martha Coakley for the Senate seat previously held by Teddy Kennedy and JFK before him. The spread was five points, so it wasn’t even close. I knew it was over when I heard the recriminations coming out of MA, even before the polls closed.
First, lets take a look at what happened.
The problem began during the primary, when the Massachusetts party and corporate Dems threw their weight behind Martha Coakley, when the more progressive Michael Capuano could have better represented the party’s progressive agenda. Capuano had the support of Michael Dukakis and Nancy Pelosi. As a candidate, Coakley was a disaster. She actually went on vacation from 12/19 through 1/5. That’s half the final month’s campaign time! She displayed all the charisma of a wet dishrag. Brown, like other accomplished con men, drips charisma. She did not take take Brown seriously. She allowed him to define himself and did not expose his record that proves that, when he says “the people’s seat”, the “people” are all rich, white, sexist, homophobic bigots. She did not make herself available to voters and, when asked to define her views, she answered in political doublespeak.
We could not have put up a worse candidate, and the national party took the seat for granted as she did. However, this election goes way beyond Coakley. She was running against Scott Brown, for goodness sake! If the Democrats put up a mentally retarded, flatulent chimpanzee, with halitosis and BO, who masturbates in public and throws feces at the crowd, any fool in their right mind would vote for that monkey over Scott Brown! Why didn’t they?
The demographics of the election were clear. There was a strong voter turnout among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. The Democrats were heavily in favor of Coakley, and the Republicans goose-stepped behind Brown. There’s nothing unexpected there. With three times as many Democrats as Republicans, that was good for Coakley. But the race turned on the independents, who comprise 51% of the electorate. They voted heavily for Brown. Why would they do that when these same people delivered Obama a huge spread just over a year ago? They are angry, and that anger goes beyond the inept Martha Coakley.
When Barack Obama campaigned for President, he promised “bipartisanship” and “change we can believe in”. Readers of the previous incarnation of this blog will remember that I repeatedly said that the two are mutually exclusive. One cannot effect change while attempting bipartisanship with an entity that refuses to compromise on anything. Obama had a choice. He could choose bipartisanship or change, but he tried to have both. The result was “business as usual”, not “change we can believe in”. Now I’m not saying that Obama accomplished nothing. He accomplished quite a lot. But his attempts at bipartisanship foiled the major items on his agenda.
On health care, Obama promised a national plan that covered everyone and provided the choice of a public option, paid for by raising the income taxes on people making over $250,000 per year. Instead of designing what he wanted and pushing it through Congress, he left it to Congress to craft, eventually turning it over first to Max Baucus. Instead of Obama’s plan, Baucus delivered BARF (Baucus Against a Real Fix), which is now the basis of the Senate Bill. From there the Nevada Leg Hound, Harry Reid, humped every GOP and DINO leg in the Senate, weakening the bill even further and loading it with special deals to buy votes. The resulting bill is a monstrosity that voters cannot understand. Therefore they were easily confused by the lies from big health care and the GOP, and over 50% now oppose it in its present form. In Massachusetts, this was exacerbated by voter fear that they would have to pay more for others’ health care when they already have their own universal plan.
On the economy, Obama promised to side with Main Street against Wall Street. Instead he associated himself with Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke, the same corporatist conservatives who enabled the Wall Street banksters’ greed that caused this financial crisis. He allowed Republicans and DINOs to reduce the amount of and water down the stimulus package. He did these things in the spirit of bipartisanship, and bipartisanship defeated change. Now the banksters are reaping huge bonuses from profits earned speculating with our money while refusing to lend that money to Main Street. When voters see this, they feel justifiably angry that this is not the change they voted for in 2008. It’s the business as usual they rejected. In Massachusetts, the economy was the key issue. Brown presented himself as the “change” candidate. The voters, desperate for change and seeing business as usual, fell for the lie.
On foreign policy, Obama did promise to expand the war in Afghanistan, and at the time, the majority of Americans supported it. In the spirit of bipartisanship, Obama has kept Gates at Defense and left the Bush/GOP ideologue generals, Petraeus and McChrystal in charge. Since then, the corruption of the Bush/GOP puppet, Karzai has made that expansion untenable, and the majority of Americans have turned against the war.
On transparency, Obama promised it, but he has shielded the Bush administration from investigation and prosecution by continuing to cover-up their crimes in the spirit of bipartisanship.
Progressives, feeling abandoned, were not energized to work to convince Independents to vote for Coakley. This may have been the principal difference in the race.
Now it may appear that I am blaming Coakley’s defeat on Obama. I am not. In my opinion, Obama has depended too heavily on the wrong advisors. They have led him astray. Obama needs to become the strong leader he promised to be.
Second, let’s look at where we go from here.
First, we need to start to enforce party unity. We no longer need traitor Joe Lieberman to be the 60th vote. Since he is the principal reason the health care bill became such a mess, the time to strip him of his Homeland Security Chair is now. In addition, Senate Democrats need to be informed that siding with Republicans against Obama’s key priorities will cause them to be stripped of their leadership roles and cut off from party funding when they face reelection.
Second, we need to pass health care reform. There are a couple ways we can go. One is to pass BARF as is in the House, coupled with a deal to fix it using the Reconciliation process, including the addition of a strong public option. The alternative is to start over using Reconciliation. That has the disadvantage that certain reform elements, such as the ban on denial of coverage for preexisting coverage and rescission for illness, cannot be included. They would have to be proposed separately, subject to GOP filibuster.
Third, we need to fire the corporatists in Treasury, regulate Wall Street seriously, impose a steep windfall profits tax on banksters, and increase the income tax on the very rich. We can use the money to reduce the deficit and fund jobs programs.
Fourth, we need to start withdrawing our military from Afghanistan.
Fifth, we need to deliver on the transparency Obama promised.
Sixth, and perhaps most important of all, we need to abandon bipartisanship completely.
I’m sure there is much more that I have not covered, but to summarize briefly, unless the Democrats actually become the party of change promised in 2008, we will face severe losses in 2010, and in 2012 we will return to No Millionaire Left Behind, with a generous dose of Theocracy, as we goose step into the future at gunpoint.