Barack Obama Criticism Health care Politics The Opinionsphere

Draw Your Own Conclusions

Matthew Continetti:

Scott Brown’s victory exposes NY-23 as a fluke. The trend is clear. Independents have moved sharply right over the course of President Obama’s first year in office, even in Massachusetts.

Matt Bai:

The most prevalent ideology of the era seems to be not liberalism nor conservatism so much as anti-incumbency, a reflexive distrust of whoever has power and a constant rallying cry for systemic reform.

Mike Allen:

By these lights, impatience with the status quo — rather than any rightward turn in the mood of the electorate — is what would fuel a Brown victory.

Jonathan Chait:

But political analysts are more like drama critics. They follow the ins and outs of the tactical maneuverings of the players, and when the results come in, their job is to explain how the one led to the other. If you suggested to them that they should instead explain the public mood as a predictable consequence of economic conditions, rather than the outcome of one party’s strategic choices, they would look at you like you were crazy. They spend their time following every utterance and gesture of powerful politicians. Naturally, it must be those things that have the decisive effect…

Barack Obama:

Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

David Leonhardt:

The current versions of health reform are the product of decades of debate between Republicans and Democrats. The bills are more conservative than Bill Clinton’s 1993 proposal. For that matter, they’re more conservative than Richard Nixon’s 1971 plan, which would have had the federal government provide insurance to people who didn’t get it through their job.

Today’s Congressional Republicans have made the strategically reasonable decision to describe President Obama’s health care plan, like almost every other part of his agenda, as radical and left wing. And the message seems to be at least partly working, based on polls and the Massachusetts surprise. But a smart political strategy isn’t the same thing as accurate policy analysis.

Barack Obama Politics The Opinionsphere

Why Scott Brown’s Election is Good for the Nation and the Democratic Party

[digg-reddit-me]I would have written this post on Tuesday night (before seeing what had become the inevitable results) – but I was busy. And I would have written this post on Wednesday, except my blog had some issues once again, and I was left blog-less.

Now, having the advantage of reading the many responses to Scott Brown’s upset victory from around the opinionshere, let me venture mine:

Brown’s election is a good thing for the Democrats politically. (On a policy level, it makes it less likely a health care bill will pass at all, certainly undermines the chances of a better health care bill, and makes every other policy goal harder to achieve in the short term.) But politically, it works for the Democrats on almost every level.

  • Scott Brown will be faced with choice to either split from the Republican Party on significant issues creating discord within the party or losing the seat in 2012.  If Brown moderates his views so, it’s hard to see him maintaining his credibility with the Tea Party right – but it he does, he will represent a person with credibility on the right compromising with Obama rather than the unified front today. After all, this is a guy who supports the idea behind Obama’s health care plan – and voted for the Massachusetts plan which is similar. His grounds for opposing national health care is that Massachusetts residents would be penalized because they already have near universal coverage which he supports.
  • Though the Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate caucusing with them, there were a handful of members who consistently were willing to hold the Democratic agenda hostage, and the Democrats were only able to muster this filibuster-proof majority on one significant occasion: to pass the health reform bill. Taking this 60th vote away removes the illusion that the Democrats can get what they want done. The Democrats were never organized enough to pull that off. (They only merely have the largest majority in thirty years.)
  • It forces Republicans to take some responsibility as the minority party. The Democrats will still set the agenda – but Republicans and progressives can no longer complain that Democrats just need to get their act together to pass something. If the Republicans continue to vote as a solid bloc against any Democratic proposal in a cynical attempt to win back power through obstructionism, they can block almost everything. But then the focus won’t be on the preening Democrats competing to leverage their individual power to get what they want – but on the Republicans for blocking the passage of legislation and confirmation of nominees.
  • The inchoate anger at the status quo didn’t stop with the election of Barack Obama. Instead, his election radicalized the right wing – those who felt they were “losing their country.” Brown’s election – and the growing anger at the Democrats – doesn’t suggest the country is moving right. Rather, it is a symptom of an anti-incumbent bias. By running as the man who will stop health care reform – and being embraced by the Tea Party crowd – Brown is placing himself, the Republican Party, and the Tea Partiers as defenders of the status quo.
  • Carl Hulse in the New York Times offers an additional reason: “Even Republicans privately acknowledged that the redrawn Congressional landscape could hold benefits for the most vulnerable Democrats in November by easing pressure on them to vote as part of a united 60-member Democratic bloc and sparing them from providing decisive votes on contentious issues.”

Scott Brown and the Republicans will face a choice in the coming months before the midterms: They can either offer to work with the Democrats to actually govern or they can obstruct everything in order to make the Democrats look ineffective and weak. Either way, the 2010 midterms will be a referendum not only on Obama’s agenda but on how the Republicans have handled themselves.

[Image by Rob Weir licensed under Creative Commons.]