Obamacare is dead.
The voters of Massachusetts today drove a stake through the heart of the beast and nothing can revive it now.
Well, almost nothing.
Some Democrats have been hinting that they might go ahead and jam a health care reform measure through anyway. One option is to bring it to a vote before Scott Brown is sworn in. Another is to treat it as a budget measure (which would require dropping some non-budgetary provisions such as requiring people to purchase health insurance) and then use the reconciliation process to pass it by simple majorities in each house. A third option is for the House to pass the Senate version of the bill.
I don’t believe that, at this point, any of these are serious options for the Democrats. Midterm elections are less than 10 months away. What will be uppermost in the minds of every House member and a third of the Senators is survival. Public outrage at back room deals and vote-buying à la the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback and Cash-for-Cloture have severely limited the ability of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to marshal their troops. They are about to learn what it is like to try to herd cats.
And President Obama will not help his cause any with the “combative response” to Martha Coakley’s defeat that he reportedly is planning. Such a response is based on the assumption that Brown’s victory represents, not anger at Obama’s policies, but a populist backlash against the status quo. Actually, Obama already has demonstrated his combativeness in his highly partisan speech to Coakley supporters on Sunday. In addition, he is scapegoating banks that received TARP money and is proposing a tax on them — even though many banks only took the money because the government forced them to take it.
In even talking about a “combative response”, the White House continues to misread the mood of the electorate, which is how it reached this imbroglio in the first place. Voters in November 2008 were rendering a verdict on the Bush Administration, not voting to nationalize one-sixth of the U. S. economy. And, while voters are angry — and justifiably so — at Wall Street, they are even more angry at the Beltway establishment.
Obamacare isn’t the only thing that was killed in today’s special election. The cap-and-trade bill will die in the Senate. Card-check, the Holy Grail of Big Labor, is dead, too. And another stimulus package is now out of the question.
Obama’s program has been totally repudiated. Not just repudiated, but repudiated by voters in what is arguably the most liberal state in the country. And there is no other way to spin this. Although Coakley ran a horrible campaign, this election was not about Coakley. Brown, who focused his campaign almost entirely on health care reform and out-of-control spending, effectively turned this election into a referendum on Obama’s first year in office.
There is only one thing that can save the Obama program now, and that is Republicans. And, based on past experience, this is a real danger. I’m not nearly as worried about the New England RINOs Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe as I am about those reach-across-the-aisle Republicans who like to bask in the praise of editorial writers at The New York Times and The Washington Post — Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. There is always the danger that one of them could let Obamacare or another one of the Democrats’ pet programs get through to the President’s desk by offering his vote in exchange for some insignificant concession. The Post and the Times would then praise his “statesmanship”.
Also, Republicans, no less than Democrats, can misread the mood of the voters. They can, for example, read the election results as support for the kind of inside-the-beltway Republicanism that got them thrown out of office in 2006 and 2008. In fact, there were signs of this even before the election. David Frum, the neocon and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, has already tried to cast this victory as a vindication of the superior wisdom of the anti-Tea-Party, anti-Limbaugh, anti-Palin Republican elite. (Frum, you may recall, was the first Republican to come out and trash Sarah Palin — on the very day McCain selected her as his running mate.)
I won’t bother to deal with Frum’s arguments here, since Michelle Malkin already has. I’ll just add that the GOP isn’t called The Stupid Party for nothing, and that today’s election is more a victory for the Tea Party movement than it is for the Republicans.
But enough of all this. The meaning of today’s election will be hashed out by pundits and talking heads in the coming days and weeks. For now, let’s just savor the moment. And please join me in saying to the voters of Massachusetts, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”.
From Nolan Chart.