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OMG! Wake-Up Calls and Queasy Stomachs

Two posts that should be read in full—“A Wake-Up Call [1]” by Robert Kuttner on what the Massachusetts special election for senator tells us about the Rahm Emanuel White House’s wrong priorities—and another by a reader at Talking Points Memo [2] who was calling voters in Massachusetts to vote for Martha Coakley and found too many presumed Democrats who are planning to vote for the Republican—to fill the seat once occupied by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

From “A Wake-Up Call” by Robert Kuttner:

How could the health care issue have turned from a reform that was going to make Barack Obama ten feet tall into a poison pill for Democratic senators? Whether or not Martha Coakley squeaks through in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the health bill has already done incalculable political damage and will likely do more. . . . The measure is so unpopular that Republican State Senator Scott Brown has built his entire surge against Coakley around his promise to be the 41st senator to block the bill—this in Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts. He must be pretty confident that the bill has become politically radioactive, and he’s right. . . .

Cutting a deal with the insurers and drug companies . . . associated Obama with profoundly resented interest groups. This was exactly the wrong framing. This battle should have been the president and the people versus the interests. Instead more and more voters concluded that it was the president and the interests versus the people. . . . [T]he Massachusetts surprise should be a wake-up call of the most fundamental kind. Obama needs to stop playing inside games with bankers and insurance lobbyists, and start being a fighter for regular Americans. Otherwise, he can kiss it all goodbye.

Read the whole piece here [1].

From “Phone Banking the Sea” by TPM’s reader “BK”:

I called into Mass. today via Organizing for America and it did not give me a good feeling about tomorrow. . . . considering that I was presumably calling a list of reliably Democratic voters (the script was GOTV, not persuasion), I got too many Brown voters.

It makes me sick to my stomach—almost literally—that just when it seemed that health care reform would be enacted after so many decades and so many failures, defeat could be snatched from the jaws of victory because of this stupid Senate race. The fact that health care reform would already be law if Ted Kennedy hadn’t developed brain cancer and that this is what kills it makes me even sicker.

I am afraid there are too many weaselly, scared, chicken shit Dems . . . Ironically, the reason we got to this place was entirely because too many Dems governed on the defensive despite winning two landslide elections in a row. . . .

Sadly, part of the blame has to go to the administration, for not insisting on a stronger stimulus that might have kept unemployment below 10 percent, for not being more assertive until now in making health care reform happen, and for letting the narrative of why Americans urgently need health care reform slip away.

I don’t think this means that Dems will inevitably lose Congress this coming fall, though it will be overwhelmingly spun in the media that way. But if Dems start putting their tails between their legs and focusing in deficit reduction, that might well come to pass. Instead, we need to start governing like the majority party we are and taking consistent, direct action that puts the quality of working families’ lives first, including passing health care reform and then passing a strong jobs bill (though reconciliation if necessary). Working families need to see that Democrats are actually fighting for them!

Read the whole post here [2].

Also read Steve Clemons’s post at The Washington Note [3], “Senate Race in Massachusetts: Obama’s Health Care Effort Looks a Lot Like Afghanistan Mess [4],” where Robert Kuttner’s piece is  quoted.

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