Posted on 19-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

There will be enough postmortems about the Coakley loss in Massachusetts.  Wonder how many of them will actually bother to mention that Massachusetts voters had the least cause to be upset about Obamacare, since they passed Romneycare in 2006 which is pretty much the same thing and they are perfectly happy with it.  It is a distinction that Senator-elect Brown (who helped craft Romneycare) has twisted himself into knots about in trying to clarify why he conceptually opposes extending what his state has (and it is a benefit he explicitly supports) to the national level.  See link.   While this hypocrisy has been highlighted often enough on various blogs, the inept Coakley campaign failed to properly utilize this manna from heaven.

Andrew Sullivan’s rant (link here) on the subject captures my feelings on Republican nihilism and the newly found advocates of fiscal prudence who are unwilling to implement it in a meaningful way and is quoted in full below:

Since so much of the energy behind the Brown candidacy seems to be driven by anti-government sentiment, why is someone like me – who actually criticized Bush for being big government long before these late-comers – so dismayed?

Here’s why. The rage is adolescent. It did not exist when the Republicans were in power and exploded government during years of economic growth. Fox News backed Bush to the hilt through it all, as he added mounds of unfunded entitlements to the next generation’s debt, and then brought Beck in as soon as Obama inherited the mess. Scott Brown, moreover, has no plans to cut the debt or control government: none. He is running in defense of every cent in Medicare. He wants to increase the deficit by more tax cuts. He favors an all-powerful executive branch that can suspend habeas corpus and torture people. He has no intention of cutting defense. His position on the uninsured is: get your own states to help. His position on soaring healthcare costs is: stop the first attempt to control them.

We hear Karl Rove lamenting big government! We hear Dick Cheney worrying about deficits! The cynicism here is gob-smacking. And the libertarian right is just happy to go along.

There is, moreover, the incredible lie that somehow all the debt that lies ahead was created by Obama in twelve months, in a recession, when austerity would be fatal. This was a lie propagated mercilessly by the FNC/RNC and by partisan bloggers like Glenn Reynolds. And it has stuck, as Obama has pressed for centrist reform between the screamers on the left and the haters on the right.

I’m sorry but this is not an anti-government vote. It’s a hissy fit because reality has finally hit and the conservative bromides of the 1980s work as poorly as the liberal bromides of the 1970s. If Brown were urging big, structural cuts in entitlements, if he were proposing junking health insurance reform because he has a plan to balance the budget in five years, if he were pledging to vote against the wars for the deficit’s sake, if he were proposing ways to restrain private healthcare costs and Medicare’s GOP-passed Medicare D – whose fiscal impact makes the current reform look like a tightwad’s – it would be one thing. But he isn’t and they aren’t.

They merely want to kill a reform presidency. They have no alternative. They have no policy that could restrain health insurance costs and the desperate plight of the uninsured. They have no plans for tackling climate change, when they can bring themselves to admit it exists. They have no plans to win or end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that Obama himself isn’t trying. They have no idea how to balance the budget – except more tax cuts!

 

There is the no substance (other than tax cuts in all scenarios) in the strategy that is supposed to revive the Republican party.    The intellectual dishonesty and the willful blindness of their recent record is also breathtaking.  Sometimes a country does deserve the people it elects.  But in the meantime blue-dog Democrats led by Evan Bayh are already preparing to run for the hills.

One question has always puzzled me.  If the blue dogs are so intent on being Republican-lite (Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, etc. and the ever present narcissist Joe Liberman) how does it really help them against a charge that their state might as well elect the real thing.  There is a line between sensible moderation to reflect the values of your base and craven surrender at the first hint of Republican opposition, which the blue-dogs specialize in lately.  While the Democrats should not start weeding out moderates, it is past time for them to take a stand, grow a pair and identify what values are worth fighting (and if it comes to it, risking losing elections) for.  Otherwise they will by default return to their rudderless existence under George W. Bush, with a profoundly dispirited base.  It is also time for them to aggressively challenge the alternative set of facts that the Republicans have been peddling since inauguration, instead of relying on the media (which is wedded to the idea of balance for its own sake with no fact checking).

I will close with a clip by Jon Stewart a couple of days back, whose monologue directed at the Democrats at the end of the clip is very much on point.

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Comments

Yogi on 20 January, 2010 at 1:37 am #

Jon Stewart was right on the money today making essentially the same point you are – Mass state already has health insurance for everyone. So the people of Mass elected someone who essentially is going to vote against a plan at the federal level something he supported at the state level. Are these people dumb?


G.A. on 20 January, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

“Are these people dumb?”

The answer is “no.” This election is a victory for Federalism. If Mass citizens are perfectly happy” with their own system, the obvious conclusion is that individual states rather than national government should be in the business of health care.

The “laboratory of states” is a wonderful mechanism. Why vote for one massive national plan (that happens to be subject to perverse side deals with unions, Louisiana, and Nebraska) when you can have 50 different systems – some of which will work, some of which will fail, and all of which we can study to determine whats effective/not effective.

More importantly, the individualized state plans will more accurately reflect the preferences of each state. If Massachusetts has a great system, people and medical providers will move there. If South Carolina happens to develop the better system, people and medical providers will move there. Since it’s much easier to move states than it is to move out of the US, a state-by-state approach is best anyway.

Coakley did not lose this election because of Romneycare. Coakley lost this election because her party has moved too strongly to the left… in favor of huge, federal programs. This was a small government vote – pure and simple. Any notion that the Democrats need to be more progressive or an even bigger healthcare plan is delusional. If the continue down this path, they will more.


G.A. on 20 January, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

oops…

“If they continue down this path, they will LOSE more power


Rashtrakut on 20 January, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

Take this for what its worth, based on who commissioned this poll…but a large part of dissatisfaction does not seem to stem from big federal programs or a concern for federalism. Link here and here

95% of voters said the economy was important or very important when it came to deciding their vote.

53% of Obama voters who voted for Brown and 56% of Obama voters who did not vote in the Massachusetts election said that Democrats enacting tighter restrictions on Wall Street would make them more likely to vote Democratic in the 2010 elections.

51% of voters who voted for Obama in 2008 but Brown in 2010 said that Democratic policies were doing more to help Wall Street than Main Street.

Nearly half (49%) of Obama voters who voted for Brown support the Senate health care bill or think it does not go far enough. Only 11% think the legislation goes too far.

I have not searched for any other polls yet…saw this one linked in my twitter feed, but if they come up with different results I will be happy to see them.


Rashtrakut on 20 January, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

Some other polls-
This poll supposedly by a republican finds similar approval to the health care bill, but does not break down why the opposition. 38% said it was based on opposition to Obama, 32% said based on support and 27% said it was not a factor. See link

This is a poll by a liberal group which does not show the opposition to big government.

There is a lot of populist angst out there, but not a lot of support in the polling that I have seen that supports the proposition that people want small government. Almost every poll on the issue shows a majority of the public actually supporting some form of public option. As some of the anecdotal evidence suggests, some of the teabaggers were not aware Medicare was a govt program


G.A. on 20 January, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

From an ABC News/Washington Post poll of a 1,083 American adults taken over January 12-15 (admittedly not exclusive to Massachusetts):

The poll asked: “Generally speaking, would you say you favor smaller government with fewer services, or larger government with more services?”

Fifty-eight percent said they favor a smaller government with fewer services, and only 38 percent said they favor a larger government with more services.


Rashtrakut on 20 January, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

People always say that generally, but when you get to specific brasstacks the opinion switches drastically.

Public support has pretty much always been around the high 50s like this poll in December for a public option.


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