Game Changed.

The President likes teachable moments. He just got schooled.

If I were Spike Lee, I’d be telling President Obama and the Democrats to WAKE UP!!!! The alarm clock went off in Massachusetts  and it brought glad tidings and good news for the Republicans.   For the Democrats?   Not so much.

All politics may be local, so the saying goes, but the impact of Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat switching to the Republicans has far-reaching consequences for the nation as a whole.   The president  likes to seize upon “teachable moments?”  This is one of them.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this one.  Maybe President Obama and the Democrats could write off the ominous results of the governor’s office in New Jersey and Virginia as a case of as an unpopular incumbent losing and a formidable G.O.P. challenger winning.   This is nothing but a nasty beatdown.   It’s one thing to lose what was considered a safe Democratic seat.   It’s quite another when the race boils down to a single volatile issue: healthcare reform, and the guy that wins is the one who promises to kill it.

You won’t be able to turn on a radio or television without being blasted by hot air from politicians, pundits and experts as to what happened in Massachusetts and what happens next, both to the chances of  health care reform in Congress, the president’s agenda, and the Democratic Party as a whole when November comes around.

The Democrats should make a hard turn to the Left and galvanize their disillusioned base.    President Obama has not done enough to bring moderate Republicans on board and keep independents.   Martha Coakley ran a lazy and ineffectual campaign and before she looked up, Brown had  seized the momentum.  This vote is a referendum on Obama’s big spending ways and the country’s distrust of nationalized health care.  The GOP is back, baby!   If a Republican can win Massachusetts, they can win anywhere.  Look out Democrats, you are going down and going down hard next November.

Let the blame game begin. The Democrats should take exactly ONE day to point fingers and fight among themselves. Then, they’d better figure out if they what they need to do to get healthcare reform through or there will be a lot more Scott Browns taking their place in November.

Is Brown a one-shot deal or a harbinger of things to come?

Republicans, whom at this time last year looked beaten down and politically impotent, can and should bask in the glory of breaking the stranglehold Democrats had on a Senate seat since 1952.   The day after Brown’s victory the storyline becomes one of dispirited Democrats and revitalized Republicans.   You’ll hear it repeated until your ears bleed.

The Republicans have established themselves as the “Party of No” and the tactic to “give them nothing but hell”  has only been strengthened by Brown’s impending arrival as the man who ended Harry Reid’s supermajority. The danger for the GOP is overreach.  There is a difference between opposing health care reform on principle and blatant obstructionism.    This is illustrated by the fact that in the first year of the Bush Administration 70 appointees to diplomatic and federal positions awaited confirmation.  Contrast that to the 177 appointees submitted to the Senate by the Obama Administration have yet to be confirmed and most have been blocked by Republicans placing a “hold” on the nominees that can only be broken by a 60 vote supermajority.

The Republicans have proven skillful in frustrating the will of the majority by the tyranny of the minority.

There will be no bipartisan outreach from either side 11 months out from the next election.   Republicans have shown no inclination to work with  Obama on any major issue and Democrats have polarized and hardened the GOP opposition with Harry Reid’s ineffectiveness and Nancy Pelosi  one-party rule in the House.   And the Democrats shouldn’t play games trying to delay seating Brown.  Barring any voting irregularities,  Brown should join the Republican minority in the Senate

Point of fact:  Obama is still the president and Democrats still control the Senate and House.   They can remind the GOP of this by passing the Senate’s healthcare  bill in the House as is without reconciliation and avoiding any possible filibuster.  This will provoke howls from Republicans and the right-wing noise machine of Fox, talk radio and the blogosphere, but their bitching is nothing compared to what Democrats will face if they do nothing and allow reform to wither and die.    If the Senate is a lost cause, the House of Representatives where Pelosi is dealing with a stronger hand can still save health care as Jonathan Cohn”s open letter to Democrats explains.

Oh, and President Obama?   The honeymoon is officially over.  In case you haven’t figured it out yet,  while the American people may like you personally and think you’re a smart guy, they don’t like their job situation and feel really nervous and uncertain about the economy and the direction the country is going.    It’s time to prove you’re a smart guy and focus that intellect on what it takes to get people working again.   I have two family members who have been looking for work for months and can’t find any.   I know I get nervous myself each time when I swipe my I.D. card at work  and wonder will the door lock flash green to let me in or stay red to keep me out?

Your reality has just been checked.

The president should be concerned that if he doesn’t demonstrate his leadership and political talents, he’ll look up in January 2011 and find a lot fewer Democrats around him and a lot more Republicans instead.   Blame it on the crappy economy, but he can’t blame in on George Bush anymore.   Blame in on the Tea Party protests but there’s no denying that there’s an anti-incumbent mood out there and it favors Republicans.

Succumbing to panic and recrimination won’t help Obama and the Democrats.  Remembering they were elected to bring about genuine and systemic change to the nation will.   It wasn’t to cut deals with pharmaceutical and insurance companies and water down health care reform until all that remained was a soggy mess of the original idea.     The people watched the Democrats dithering and got turned off by it.

Obama and the Dems can weather this storm and counter the Republican surge with one of their own.  It might not be enough to entirely blunt the Republican chances in November, but if they can  and should remind Americans how lousy the nation’s state of affairs were under GOP rule and start right now in winning back the disaffected and disappointed voters that gave them a shot in 2008,

It’s not too late to get this thing back on the move.   But as the leader of his party Obama has to point them in the right direction.

2 thoughts on “Game Changed.

  1. It’s not time to change the game, only how it’s played. President Obama needs to go back and looked at how he campaigned. You can’t win by playing not to lose. This Republican light shit has to go. The Republicans haven’t had 60 votes since the 1920’s. Seems like everything they got through when Bush was in was through reconciliation. Tell the leaders what you need and tell them to get it done. Stop running these moderate Dems who can’t lead a one man band. Tell the blue dogs to decide who’s team they’re on. What happened to Coakley happened. If the Dems take Ohio, it’s game on. Win in 10.


    • I don’t think it’s enough to tell Obama and the Dems to stop acting like Republican Lite. Nor would I abandon health care reform simply because the supermajority is gone. The supermajority was a overrated phenomenon anyway. Think about it: What exactly did Harry Reid ram through the Senate when he had the numbers in his favor. The supermajority was more of an illusion than a reality because as long as you had people like Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh in the ranks their votes were hardly stone cold locks.

      William Greider in The Nation has some excellent advice for the Dems. Will they be smart enough to take it?

      If comprehensive healthcare reform is out of the question, Obama Democrats can break it down into smaller pieces and try to pass worthy measures one by one. A bill to prohibit insurance companies from banning people with pre-existing ailments? Pass it the House and try to pass it in the Senate. If Republicans want to filibuster, make them filibuster. A measure to allow cheaper drug imports from Canada? Let Republicans vote against that. Repealing the antitrust exemption for insurance companies–Democrats support it. Democrats need to start a fight on taxes too. Do Republicans want to tax Wall Street banks or not? Obama has proposed it, let’s have a roll call. The attack strategy will focus on all the reforms people want and need and create a new political dynamic.

      We are the ones we’ve been waiting for and we are the ones who need to remind Obama, Reid and Pelosi that one special election aside, NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The Dems still hold the reigns of power. They can still salvage their agenda and put the Republicans on the spot. But they need to choose the fights they want to win and go ahead and fight it. Stop trying to kiss Olympia Snowe’s wrinkled ass because at the end of the day she’s still part of the Republican obstructionist caucus and not a secret liberal infiltrating their ranks.

      If President Obama doesn’t want to draw comparisons to President Clinton, another nice guy who was smart, promised hope and change, and failed miserably due to his lack of will and tone-deafness to the interests of regular people who aren’t Harvard intellectuals and Wall Street bankers, he has to get back into campaign mode now. Waiting for 2012 will be too late.

      A politics that is not sensitive to the concerns and circumstances of people’s lives, a politics that does not speak to and include people, is an intellectually arrogant politics that deserves to fail. — Paul Wellstone


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