Publisher’s Letter: February 2010
Republican Wins Senate Seat in Massachusetts: 8 Quick Thoughts
1. After President Obama won the election in 2008, the Republicans have won the last three major statewide elections — all in states that voted Democrat for President Obama in 2008 — Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey.
2. This is the first time the Republicans have won a Senate seat in Massachusetts in 44 years (1966). The Republicans winning Massachusetts is viewed generally as about as likely as the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series.
3. The healthcare reform bill, for various reasons, is viewed negatively to very negatively by 60 percent or more of the American public. Commentators reason this is due to concern that the plan will increase the deficit by adding a large entitlement program at a time when most Americans are concerned about the country’s debt problems and other economic problems, that it is due to backroom deals with a wide variety of industry participants — unions, Senator Nelson, big pharma, Senator Landrieu, the AMA and others — or that it is due to the fact that 80 percent of Americans are generally pleased with their healthcare. In any event, the bill is very unpopular.
4. The Democratic leadership will need to make one of two choices: They can, as some commentators on the left suggest, push further left and try and jam this bill through and other legislation through. The theory, which seems incredibly misguided as a read of the American public (read: crazy) goes that President Obama and the Democrats are struggling because they have not gone hard enough left to deliver on campaign promises. Here, their concept would overwhelmingly be that the American public just doesn’t understand the good we are trying to do for them yet (i.e., reform is good but the American public hasn’t heard it correctly yet). If they pursue this course, they will galvanize the center and right and the mid-term elections will be a debacle for the President and the Democrats. Centrist Democrats and Democrats in centrist districts will face a very tough choice: Do they upset President Obama or do they upset their district? Virginia Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat in a more traditionally Republican state, hinted last night that some Democrats will be smart enough to side with their district and not follow the party line down the proverbial plank.
5. Alternatively, as Bill Clinton did and Arianna Huffington said on the evening of the Massachusetts election, the Democrats can choose to course correct and tack center. A great deal of centrist Democrats and Democrats in balanced districts would strongly prefer this. The White House, with David Axelrod and others, has some smart people in it. It is not at all clear, however, that President Obama nor the Reids and the Pelosis of the party have an ability to tack middle. Certain of the Democrat leaders have seen this year as a once in a life time chance to redo how America does business. When the candidate Obama said last year, “the business of America is still business”, it now hardly seems that he really believed that. I believe many centrist Americans who voted for President Obama feel somewhat to deeply betrayed.
6. The Republicans, for their part, can easily squander their position by, again, being a party either that pursues huge government spending as they did under President Bush (those were not my father’s (Mort Becker) Republicans) or they can blow this opportunity by over-reading the mandate and allowing far right candidates to drive the party.
7. As to healthcare reform, it is not yet possible to speculate how intent the Democratic leadership in the White House is on pushing this agenda over the will of the American public. However, the longer the debate goes on and the closer this gets to mid-term elections and the more concerned centrist Democrats become, the greater chance that healthcare reform doesn’t pass, at least in anywhere near its current form.
8. Many Americans want a law that doesn’t allow insurances companies to be able to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, want to make it easier for working poor to have health insurance and want to standardize Medicaid. However, the polarizing nature of the debate and the fairly outrageous catering to special interests has caused many Americans to simply not want to touch nor hear about healthcare reform right now.
Very truly yours,
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