Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Why Scott Brown is good for the Democrats
Conventional wisdom holds that anything that moves a President toward the center is a good thing. After President Clinton's own mid-term election results sent him a message, it changed how he governed and, many argue, made him more effective. It seems that America loves the opposite of whatever we have at the moment... and Scott Brown is the opposite of what we have at the moment.
But here's another theory. House and Senate Democratic leaders have been working overtime to support their president by advancing reform packages with critical differences between them, numerous open questions regarding implementation details, and some seriously nagging concerns about overall affordability. Sensing that there's a general public that also wants health reform has made President Obama's pedal-to-the-medal tactics much more tolerable for congress. I suspect that Democratic senators and representatives have been conflicted over wanting to secure a stunning and historic victory for their leader while also worrying about all the open issues and how the public would ultimately feel about it upon passage.
And now they have a poster child for the defeat of the President's headline agenda item. A scape goat. Imagine being a member of Congress up for re-election this year. Now, to the more liberal constituencies, he or she can say that but for the unexpected results of the Massachusetts special election, they would have gotten it done. Those darn Republicans. And to more conservative voters, the campaign can suggest a more conciliatory tone. This has already begun with President Obama saying today that: "The people of Massachusetts spoke." He is recommending that the Senate resume debate after the new senator has been seated. Perhaps more importantly, he said he's slowing the process of debate and that "nothing should be rammed through".
Ultimately, if we go at a slower pace and come up with a package that Republicans and Democrats can agree upon, we're all better off. I remember the Massachusetts reform process and the culminating signing event at Faneuil Hall where then Governor Romney, then Senator Kennedy, and the then Massachusetts House and Senate leaders (where has everyone gone?) sat together and shared the spotlight. The question is, is this even possible in the national arena? The election of Scott Brown probably means that nothing will be "rammed through", thus preventing the subsequent political blood bath.
Last night a tidal wave hit the beach in Massachusetts. It's likely that it will prevent a tsunami from hitting the rest of the country in the coming year, however.
Photo by Ed Spadoni. For more of his work, click here.