Right and wrong lessons from Brown Massachusetts victory

Republicans and rightwingers are, predictably, crowing about Brown’s victory, declaring health care reform dead.

And right on cue, rightwing Democrats like Jim Webb and Evan Bayh are already pitching their claims that the MA race was about hcr and only about hcr and, further, was a repudiation of a Democratic party utterly beholden to the far left.

I would lament how two people elected to ‘the greatest deliberative body in the world’ could make such monumentally wrong headed assertions, but last night’s election, along with countless other examples, show that such vacuousness is no stranger to the senate.

If the Democrats decide to backpedal, or even soft pedal, on hcr now, they will consign themselves to minority status for a generation. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but they came into 2009 with huge majorities and support. They had difficult problems to deal with, but they had the momentum to take them on.

The wars. The economy. Immigration and hcr. And these are just the big ticket items. Still, they could have pushed hcr through in the summer instead of chasing the rainbow and unicorn cupcakes of supposed bipartisan reform.

Had they listened to the multitude of voices, including those of every Republican, telling them that the Republicans only goal was, literally, to ‘break Obama,’ they could have dispensed with the slow, self disemboweling kabuki theater of the last eight months and passed a hcr bill before August.

But they faltered. And now, some are calling for them to pull even more punches. That would be colossally inept.

However, I am cautiously optimistic that they will, finally, figure out that 59 — or, importantly, 58 — is still more than half of 100 and, along with their majority in the House and, y’know, still holding the presidency, are enough to get things done.

First, dump Lieberman from the caucus, strip him of his chairmanship and shrug when he stomps his feet and finally makes it official and becomes a Republican. Then watch the fun as he and his new party figure out how much they actually don’t care for each other so much.

Then, tell the blue dogs, also known as the conservadems, that, since the mythical 60 seat ‘super majority’ is no longer attainable, their votes matter as much as Mitch McConnell’s. If they’d like to stay in the caucus and continue to get money and support from the party, that they better start voting with the party on things that matter.

If they don’t want to play for the winning team, then cut them loose. It’s not as if anything would be lost.

The silver lining for liberals and progressives here is that the Republicans are very likely to misread the lessons of this election as well. The teabaggers are emboldened and will demand ever more rightward movement going into the primaries and then the general next November.

They think this special election for a senator in one state was a national referendum on hcr and Obama more generally. They are wrong. But they will probably go in this direction nonetheless.

The Democrats’ only hope to stave off generational minority status is to get something done on hcr, start immediately fixing the many flaws such a bill will have, and demonstrate to the public that it is a good thing with instant benefits — like ‘pre existing condition’ protection and bans on lifetime and yearly caps.

And then they need to make the Republicans commit to taking those benefits away if people vote for them in November.

We know the Republicans will play their part. Will the Democrats have the sense to set them up for this fall?

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