Massachusetts election could save Democrats from themselves
Democrats must use this moment to recommit themselves to the progressive agenda that got President Obama elected.
As a Massachusetts voter, I was not happy to see Scott Brown win the Senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for 47 years. The loss is no doubt a huge boon for conservatives, a monumental embarrassment for Democrats across the nation, and a massive political problem for progressives.Skip to next paragraph
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The election, however, does offer a silver lining. The Democrats can no longer pretend they are on the right track. Indeed, the end of the “supermajority” held by the Democrats held in the Senate may force them to fight – boldly – for serious change. If they do not, they will be unable to fend off this effective populist, right-wing movement, which now has all the momentum going into the midterm elections this November.
The Democrats should use this moment to make a sea change in their strategy and move in a far more populist, progressive direction on healthcare, jobs, and financial regulation.
In the past year, the Democrats have shunned their base. These loyal liberals donated sweat, time, and money to elect President Obama and helped cement large majorities in both chambers of Congress. Yet within days of his historic victory, Mr. Obama started keeping his base – and more important, its progressive goals – at arm’s length.
Obama’s appointments were the first ominous signs of the troubled direction he would take with his administration. His choice for chief of staff was the first mistake: progressives have long disliked the centrist Rahm Emanuel. His appointment of a group of Wall Street insiders who had ties to the financial crisis – most notably Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers – was another major mistake.
Obama’s team has acted predictably. They have been woefully soft on banks, having failed to pass any meaningful financial regulation.
Just days ago, news leaked that Sen. Chris Dodd (D) of Connecticut, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was considering dropping the major cornerstone of the Democrats’ proposed financial regulatory reform – an agency that would regulate financial credit products. The Democrats did pass a needed stimulus bill, but it was too small and the rising unemployment that followed its passage is hampering the Democrats greatly.
The healthcare plan has been the biggest misadventure. Progressives were rightly excited about the prospects for a public healthcare option, and most were willing to concede a universal, single-payer plan and back this effort. When the public option collapsed, supporters were still willing to get behind an expansion of Medicare.
But Obama did not see fit to fight hard for these issues and they soon died at the hands of Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. The president did, however, seem eager to make nice with Big Pharma and the insurance companies, who celebrated the final bill that came out of the Senate as an unambiguous victory and cheered as their stock prices rose on the day the public option died.