Time to Kick Ass
by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Every time I hear the bleating heads on cable news and NPR say the Massachusetts special election to fill Teddy Kennedy’s seat resulted in the Democrats losing their super majority in the Senate, I want to throw up. Or throw something.
The Democrats never had a super majority, the 60 votes needed to break the Repugnicans’ stranglehold on doing anything. The Dems had 59 votes and Joe the Jerk (in private discourse I use a different word than jerk, a Yiddish anatomical term that would never appear in print in its English translation, so I won’t use it here.) Now they have 58 votes and Joe the Jerk.
It’s time they stopped letting the Repugnant party get away with blaming the Democrats for failing to get anything done. Surely there is someone in the Administration who knows how to explain the implications of neverending holds and filibuster notices in the Senate, in terms of the interests of ordinary people, without making it sound like inside baseball.
They could, for instance, create ads featuring that demented DeMint person (R-SC) saying the Repugnicans want to defeat health care reform because it will be Obama’s “Waterloo” and will “break” him. Ask yourself: What patriotic American wants to break the nation’s president? How would America benefit from that?
[The video runs about 15 seconds; if you haven’t heard what DeMint said, it’s worth a listen.]
Obama’s response was to the point, but it didn’t get heard enough. He only said it once:
This isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics. This is about a healthcare system that is breaking America’s families, breaking America’s businesses, and breaking America’s economy.
Obama wasn’t just blowing smoke. In no other country in the industrialized world do thousands of people die each year because they can’t afford health care. Nowhere else do families lose their homes and go bankrupt trying to keep a relative alive. Nowhere else must employers pay for their worker’s health insurance. America’s auto industry is a prime example of how having to bear that expense makes American products unaffordable. No wonder we import so much more than we export. Why don’t the Democrats show how unpatriotic and inhumane the Repugnant Party’s efforts to break Obama are?
Back to Massachusetts. Remember: I live in the state. I vote here. I do politics here.
Scott Brown won in large measure because Martha Coakley was the most inept major party candidate I’ve seen in almost 60 years of political activity. Coakley coasted until it was too late. Then her campaign panicked. Nobody I know heard Word One from her until the Friday before Tuesday’s election day. She took part in debates, but she didn’t wade into crowds, shake hands, listen to people’s stories, show any interest. While Brown was up to his elbows in personal contact, Democratic workers in the well-to-do suburbs surrounding Boston, where Brown was cleaning up, begged for lawn signs and visibility aids but got nothing.
The legendary Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neil used to tell about meeting his next door neighbor, an elderly lady who’d known him all his life, the day after one of his many re-eletions. “You know, Tip, I didn’t vote for you,” she told him. “Why not?” he asked. “You didn’t ask me to,” was her answer. O’Neil said he never again forgot to ask people to vote for him.
Coakley never got that memo. And when her campaign finally got the idea that winning might not be a slam dunk, it was a week before election day. Between Friday and Monday my household got 11 robocalls and two live calls from the Coakley campaign. One of those recorded calls, late Saturday, was Coakley herself, sounding strained and annoyed. And even then, she never asked for my vote.
Yes, the economy was bad in Massachusetts, but not as bad as in many, probably most, states. Yes, people here were – and are – ticked off about the financial industry bailouts that required no quid pro quo, allowing millionaires to pocket millions in bonuses merely for staying alive. Yes, the legislative sausage-making machine we all got to watch was sickening.
But if the administration’s detachment from the health care reform process hadn’t turned off so many voters, Coakley still could have won.
The bottom line is that for the president there was no bottom line on health care reform. Experienced politicians know you don’t declare your vote until it’s time. Barack Obama had the biggest vote of all — the veto — but he gave it up at the beginning when Rahm Emmanuel said this: “Look, we want success, and we’re willing to make a deal about anything.”
Obama is a poker player, and he knows better than to show his cards at the beginning of a hand. He sold us out by not firing Emmanuel right then, or at least contradicting him. By “us” I don’t mean just progressives, I mean the people who put Obama in the White House — working class people, middle class people, progressives, moderates, Democrats, independents, and even Republicans.
I heard this time and again when I was making phone calls for Coakley: Obama sold us out. He has never stood up for us.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. I say this to the Democrats: it’s time to go all in. Grow a backbone and fight for us. If you do, you may lose, but you also may win. If you don’t, you’ll lose the majority in the Senate, maybe even in the House, and you can kiss a second term in the White House goodbye. What’s worse, you’ll be condemning us to 40 years of Republican rule and unbridled capitalism. Is that enough to motivate you?