The aftermath

I've been thinking over the past few days about writing something about this loss, but have resisted until I could come up with some constructive thinking that isn't about the issues or the candidates or the leadership. Its basically about transparency and accountability, and I'll write that piece shortly, but thought I'd pass along what Lawrence Lessing has to say for now:

Today is the one-year anniversary of President Obama's inauguration, and it comes at a remarkable moment in his presidency.

Yesterday, the voters in my home state of Massachusetts elected a Republican to serve in the seat once held by Senator Ted Kennedy -- a stunning reminder that for millions of people, the last election wasn't just about one man, but about a deep-seated desire for change.

One year ago today was a moment when many things felt possible, whether or not you supported Obama and his agenda -- when it seemed as if a broken political system might finally have gasped its last breath.

One year later -- with the fate of its signature legislative priority in jeopardy and voters even in a deep blue state saying they still aren't satisfied with the ways of Washington -- it's clear that this administration is an opportunity missed. But it's not, I believe, because Obama is too liberal, nor because he's not liberal enough. Not because this administration has been too defensive, too aggressive, too slow or too quick to act. It's because we have a system in Washington that simply does not -- will not -- allow the kind of change we urgently need.

After one year, we've now seen conclusively that even a transformative figure in the Oval Office can't transform the way Washington works, or dispel the skepticism the voters feel toward their government.

I've filmed a new installment of the Change Congress Chronicles explaining why progressives and conservatives alike should be outraged by what we've seen this past year. Please watch it today:

Watch the latest Change Congress Chronicle video

As you know, today is also the day we might get a landmark decision from the Supreme Court that could poison the system even further, giving corporations unlimited license to use their money to affect elections in this country. It's a big day.

Tags: Lawrence Lessing, 2010 (all tags)




<blockquote>It's because we have a system in Washington that simply does not -- will not -- allow the kind of change we urgently need.</blockquote>


And that's about it.  The Coakley-Brown race was a Change Election.  People voted in 2008 for change, and they did it again.

by Dumbo 2010-01-20 09:39AM | 0 recs
I couldn't agree more.
But it's not, I believe, because Obama is too liberal, nor because he's not liberal enough. Not because this administration has been too defensive, too aggressive, too slow or too quick to act. It's because we have a system in Washington that simply does not -- will not -- allow the kind of change we urgently need.

This was a repudiation of the system--not President Obama.

by psychodrew 2010-01-20 09:57AM | 0 recs
RE: I couldn't agree more.

This is nothing but an excuse. If you want to make change happen you have to fight for it. Obama delegates everything off to somebody else to do the work. Obama is NOT a fighter and he is in love with the status quo. Time to face facts and quit making more and more excuses for him.

by Ga6thDem 2010-01-20 10:18AM | 2 recs
The problem is Obama believed his own hype - that he is (was, never was) a transformative figure. And don't things just transform without any work? He just has to "be" and the world changes. I have never seen a POTUS as unwilling to get into the fray and work than I have with Obama. Of course, it's even more likely that he likes the way things are going. Being a one-term POTUS will still make him and his friends rich.
by Shazone 2010-01-20 10:54AM | 0 recs
RE: Absolutely!

Look everyone!  It's CoyoteCreek, everyone's favorite PUMA!  Alegre's corner slow?

by fogiv 2010-01-20 12:18PM | 0 recs

Not that you're interested in the truth or anything, but MA Gov. Deval Patrick's approval rating (as reported by the Boston Globe on January 10th) was 41%.  Today, the Washington Post reported that Obama was at 56%.  This was a repudiation of Massachussetts Democrats.  Take the Obama hate back to Alegre's Aslyum.


by psychodrew 2010-01-20 01:55PM | 0 recs
Brown is a worthy heir to JFK's old Senate seat

Scott Brown is a worthy successor, and the true heir to John Kennedy's old Senate seat, much more so than Ted Kennedy was. As President, JFK showed the power of tax cuts, and used them to ignite a vigorous period of economic growth. Moreover, President Kennedy believed that it is not when we are strong, but when we are weak that we invite foreign aggression. JFK was a true centrist, in the best sense of the word.

Based on his belief in supply-side tax cuts, as well as a muscular foreigh policy, I suspect that President Kennedy is up there in Heaven smiling today (maybe with President Reagan at his side) over the outcome of this election.

by BJJ Fighter 2010-01-20 10:02AM | 0 recs
RE: Brown is a worthy heir to JFK's old Senate seat

Kennedy cut the top tax rate from 91%!!!  This has as much relevance to today's policy decisions as World War II has to the invasion of Iraq.

by Steve M 2010-01-20 10:47AM | 0 recs
RE: Brown is a worthy heir to JFK's old Senate seat

Kennedy was called a socialist, a commie, a weak leader (esp. in FP) and all sorts of sundry things by the rabid right back in the day. We can take comfort that they are today calling Obama the same thing.

by vecky 2010-01-20 05:58PM | 0 recs
oh yeah?

Is that why Kennedy pulled our missles out of Turkey when the Soviets pointed one at Washington?

by ND22 2010-01-20 12:11PM | 0 recs
RE: oh yeah?

If you're referring to US Jupiter missiles, the area they covered was already on the targeting schedules of Polaris missiles, which were based on submarines in the Mediterranean Sea. Serious policy experts on both sides of the aisle agreed that this was a sensible move on Kennedy's part.

by BJJ Fighter 2010-01-20 01:07PM | 0 recs
RE: oh yeah?

Weak excuse. We already kno Kennedy withdraw long-standing missles from turkey becasue the Soviets were determined to put them in Cuba. Ofcourse for the Soviets it was no biggy. Given their lead at the time in ballistic missles (missile-gap!) they didn't need missiles in Cuba to wipe out the US east coast.

Not to even mention that Poalris missles, with a range 1/3 shorter than that of the Jupiters, based in the Med were a very very poor subsitute for Jupiters in Turkey.


by vecky 2010-01-20 06:07PM | 0 recs
RE: oh yeah?

He also pushed back against generals who pushing him to attack Cuba.  If JFK had followed the GOP "strong on defense" line they push today, that the commander in chief has to bend over and do whatever the generals want, then we would have had a nuclear conflict back in 62.

by psychodrew 2010-01-20 01:57PM | 0 recs
Wrong analysis

Spending , deficits and corruption in the healthcare debate....Take an incremental approach on healthcare  and not the massive corrupt bill  being debated in the senate.... Focus on the economy ...At this point the healthcare debate looks more like an ideological exercise than common sense...


by lori 2010-01-20 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: The loss in Massachusetts

The loss in Massachusetts was devastating on many levels, but most importantly because the majority of voters there demonstrated that they simply had no loyalty to the Ted Kennedy dream of universal health care. 

In effect, the state whose politics was defined by the Kennedy dynasty for if not the past century, then at very least the past sixty years, assassinated the collective goals of the Kennedy brothers.  This was bitter irony indeed, considering two of the Kennedy brothers fell to actual assassin bullets.

I find this act of supreme disloyalty as unforgivable as anything else I have witnessed in politics in my fifty-six years.  Granted the Democratic candidate was lacking in both charisma and forethought.  Still, to have shattered the dream of the last surviving Kennedy brother of the generation of the Second World War, on the ground of his home state, can only serve as a black mark against the state itself for all of the foreseeable future.

Having noted the above, there is also no doubt much blame for our Democratic establishment.  For those of us who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries (and let us not forget that she herself carried Massachusetts by a wide margin, although the entire Democratic establishment there, including nearly all of the Kennedys, supported now President Obama), we are reminded anew why we wanted someone to lead who had considerable national political experience.

Surely our many political counterparts on the other side will argue the fact that the Clintons failed to establish health care the first time round, and the 1994 Republican rout must fall upon their own failure to define its cause before the opposition defined it for everyone else.  And that is certainly true.  But it is also true that having failed the first time round and knowing how one's enemy proceeds gives one the cardinal experience of how not to go about it if one tries again.

We will never know now, because of course Hillary Rodham Clinton will never be a United States President, but surely most of us who supported her believed during the 2008 primaries, and believe now, that she would not have permitted the Congress to define the health care process.  And certainly, before the "tea-bagger" movement even stated, she would have known, instinctively, to define them and their real motives first.

And I think it fair to say that the Clintons (Hillary and Bill have ever been and always will be a "two-for" power tandem) would have first tackled the problem of the dreadful economy, absolutely making certain that key working class communities nation-wide felt the positive effects of stimulus money.

For me, Bill Clinton was the finest president of my lifetime, and I certainly include in that assessment Ike, JFK, LBJ, and Ronald Reagan.  There were far too many Cold War shenanigans in the 1950's and 60's to give great marks to Presidents of that era, and Reagan's policies, as fully practised by the younger Bush (in Reagan's own time a Democratic Congress prevented him from implementing many of his platform's most egregious elements), have amounted to the near-death of the United States itself.

Indeed, now that the "tea-baggers" have triumphed and we are again in the throes of unbridled Reaganomics, I truly do not believe we have very long to survive.  Our nation was already in shambles in 2008, and we desperately needed an FDR figure to counterbalance the long-implemented Right-wing policies.  Now, we have little to look forward to but the inevitable return of those wrong-headed policies.

In spite of the triumph of the Right Wing noise machine's "tea-bagger" movement, perhaps the greatest irony of all is how their own manipulation of voters dooms the United States itself, the country to which they too belong.  In their war-with-the-Democrats myopathy, they simply cannot conceive of the fact their GOP policies have lethally impacted the existence of the United States itself. 

With now trillions in debt due to foreign wars with no definable enemy and without end; an infrastructure badly dated and stressed to the limit; bank bailouts whose corporate executives with inflated salaries care nothing for the many clients whose personal debt cannot be alievated; and a malaise of helplessness throughout the land, the United States is not so very far away from the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, just some two decades ago.

The greatest irony of all is the fact that China, a Communist Empire, largely carries the debt of the United States.  Corporate capitalists cheering the death of national health care and a the coming to power of a Right-winger to kill the Ted Kennedy legacy, are lost in the fog of that most sobering fact.

For if America was to survive, then the Reaganites needed to take a leave of absence, if only for a few years.  Now they have assured the inevitable collapse of our nation.

Tragic indeed that the rest of us most go down with them on this Titanic, when so many of us could see that this Ship of State had already crashed a malevolent iceberg two years ago. 

by lambros 2010-01-20 10:24AM | 2 recs

I am baffled at why anyone ever bothers to campaign, show up for debates, GOTV, etc., since every election is apparently a referendum on national trends and nothing more.

I have not seen one single person whose opinions were altered by the outcome of this election.  Instead, every last individual has found a way to interpret the election as confirmation of their pre-existing beliefs.  In other words, all the punditry regarding this election is one big wank.

by Steve M 2010-01-20 10:44AM | 2 recs
RE: Heh


Of course much of that opinion depends on who is opining and who is hearing. If it is some out of touch Democratic Senator like Evan Bayh who is bought and paid for by the insurance lobby or Joe Lieberman, then it is all about voters rejecting progressives, although the health care bill (and for that matter much of what's happening in most bills in Washington) is neither progressive nor transparent. But when someone asked why people who voted for Obama sat out this election, here are some answers:


Commissioned for three progressive organizations -- the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and -- the firm discovered that 18 percent of Obama backers who voted in the Senate race ended up casting ballots for Brown. Of that group:

  • 82 percent said they favored a public option for insurance coverage, with 14 percent opposed to the public option
  • 32 percent said they favored the Senate's health care bill, with 48 percent opposed to it.
  • And of those who opposed the Senate's bill, 36 percent said it did not go far enough, and 23 percent said it went too far.

The firm also interviewed the state's Obama backers who sat out Tuesday's Senate election. Of that group:

  • 86 percent favored the public option, seven percent oppose it
  • 34 percent favored the Senate's health care bill, 43 percent opposed it
  • And of those who opposed the Senate bill, 53 percent said it did not go far enough, and eight percent said it went too far.

As you can see people are mad because they have been lied to yet again. When you make a promise during election you better pony up and deliver, even if that means pissing of a few corrupt senators and being branded a partisan. Unfortunately the lesson that will be learned, as always, will be exact opposite.

by tarheel74 2010-01-20 12:15PM | 0 recs
So people wanted a public option

voted for a Republican who wants not only a bill with on public option, but no bil at all.

The idiocy of the voting public astounds me.

by ND22 2010-01-20 12:25PM | 0 recs
RE: So people wanted a public option

You do realize that these people had nothing to lose if the health care bill got defeated because by all accounts their state health care is probably better than the bill being proposed.

by tarheel74 2010-01-20 12:38PM | 0 recs
RE: So people wanted a public option

Actually MA health care is considerbly weaker than the senate bill (includes no medicare payment reforms for example).

by vecky 2010-01-20 06:09PM | 0 recs

makes them even worse.

by ND22 2010-01-20 10:17PM | 0 recs
Very well put!

I completely agree!

by psychodrew 2010-01-20 01:58PM | 0 recs
One year is way to early to tell.

Lessing writes;

After one year, we've now seen conclusively that even a transformative figure in the Oval Office can't transform the way Washington works, or dispel the skepticism the voters feel toward their government.

Let's wait and see if Obama kills or changes the filibuster, the backlash against Republican killing his jobs bill, and the results of the 2010 elections.  Then we can BEGIN to assess how much change Obama is capable of accomplishing.

by Georgeo57 2010-01-20 11:47AM | 0 recs
RE: One year is way to early to tell.

i don't know why people seem to think it is in the realm of possibility to kill the fillibuster. I really don't see that happening at all.



by jeopardy 2010-01-20 12:25PM | 0 recs
It doesn't matter if it's impossible.

If he doesn't do it, he's selling out.


by psychodrew 2010-01-20 02:00PM | 0 recs
please no more process and meta

Great, Perot/Nader redux. "It's the system!"

Nobody ever wants to know how the sausage is made, but you're not going to get the sausage you want by going meta. You have to engage in politics.

The tea parties are an interesting example of engaging to get what you want. They use anti-Washington rhetoric but they are entirely, ideologically, in the service of the Republican party. Their movement is proudly partisan, they offer no concessions to Democrats, and the last thing they're worried about is campaign financing. The post-partisanship Obama offered was always a false hope.

Lessig's video is astoundingly misleading. The problem with the stimulus wasn't pork, all stimulus is pork for someone. The problem was that the stimulus was too small and too much was spent on economically inefficient tax cuts. The Obama administration insisted that the bank bailout law be neutered, not Congress. Obama negotiated the handouts to pharma and the insurance industry, many of them were in the health care plan he campaigned on in the primaries. 

Lessig's refusal to hold Obama responsible for his political choices is the real problem. All of Lessig's complaints about pork and campaign finance are just McCain style distractions from the real political choices we face.


by tib 2010-01-20 12:31PM | 0 recs
RE: please no more process and meta

Yea, Obama is to blame too. But you are wrong about the process. The outrage at the Nebraska buy-off showed exactly what is wrong.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-20 12:55PM | 0 recs
From Nate Silver

what Obama has wound up with is an unpopular, liberal sheen on a relatively centrist agenda.

It's not just on health care -- but let's talk about health care for a moment. The bill that the Senate Democrats passed did not substantially restructure the system of private insurance, nor the health care delivery system. It did not include a public option.

It did, rather, about the minimum that you could do if you want to prevent people with pre-existing conditions from being denied health care.You can't require insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions unless you're willing to put a mandate into place (otherwise, everyone's premiums would rise substantially). And you can't put a mandate into place without having some reasonably generous subsidies (otherwise, a lot of folks would go broke.)

The Senate's bill was about the least radical way to achieve something approaching universal coverage that can be imagined. It was nevertheless a bill that I think would do a tremendous amount of good for tremendous number of people, and so I've advocated for its passage. But with the possible exception of Wyden-Bennett (which not identifiably left or right although much more radical than what the Congress is considering), virtually any attempt to achieve universal coverage would be further to the left of this bill.

The stimulus? The pricetag was much less than what most economists were advocating for. And about half of it was tax cuts -- although you'd never know it from the White House's poor messaging on the subject.

Cap-and-trade? It's a market-based solution, and one that includes significantly less ambitious emissions targets than have been adopted by virtually any other Westernized country.The version of the climate bill that the Senate would consider would in all likelihood have included offshore drilling and an expansion of nuclear energy, making it almost literally identical to the one that John McCain advocated on the campaign trail.

The War in Afghanistan was escalated. Robert Gates is still the defense secretary. Obama's foreign policy has been prudent, but hardly dovish.

The bailout? It was a continuation of a policy adopted under the Bush Administration -- an exceptionally unpopular one, but not one that's identifiably liberal or conservative.

Obama has adopted a few progressive social policies, like the hate crimes bill and the fair pay act, which he perhaps does not get enough credit for. They also happen to be things which are supported by an overwhelming majority of the population. He hasn't pushed on ending Don't Ask Don't Tell (even though that too polls well) or repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.

His position on same sex-marriage -- civil unions, but not marriage itself -- is the centrist, plurality position. His Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, was a good one, but not one of the more liberal nominees that he might have considered.

Financial reform? The House's bill was fairly watered down, and the Senate's bill will be more so. Nevertheless, Republicans opposed it uniformly, even though polls show the public overwhelmingly favors stricter regulation of Wall Street.

A jobs bill? The House's version is quite centrist, consisting of about $50 billion apiece in infrastructure projects, tax breaks, and aid to state and local governments. Nevertheless, not a single Republican voted for it.

What's more alarming still is that some of the policies which have become unpopular -- like the health care bill and arguably the stimulus (although the polling is more equivocal there) -- did not start out that way. With the exception of the bailouts -- a policy which the White House certainly wasn't pursing for political expediency -- virtually every policy that the Democrats have advanced polled reasonably well when it was first proposed. It did not always end up that way after it had been through the legislative meat grinder.

The reflexive Republican opposition to virtually any policy that the Democrats advanced -- they've overwhelmingly opposed policies as benign as delaying the digital TV changeover date! -- has in retrospect been exceptionally effective.

by jeopardy 2010-01-20 02:51PM | 0 recs
Republican opposition

was only effective becasue Democrats let it be so. Had Congress passed HCR reform even 1 week, or 2 weeks, after the pre-Christmas Senate vote all the Republican obstructionism would have been for naught, and the 60-vote senate could have accomplished something.

But they didn't... they didn't accomplish a thing since Franken was sworn in as the 60th vote (the stimulus and most other legislation passed before that).


by vecky 2010-01-20 06:58PM | 0 recs


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