Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Demoralized Democrats

Reader MK writes:

I've voted for Democrats all my life. I've campaigned for and donated to the Democratic Party. But if they say they can't or won't go any further on health care because they only have 59 votes in the Senate, they deserve to lose.

I'm hearing a lot of this. Last night, I was talking to a committed Democrat. A Massachusetts Democrat, in fact. And her despair was persuasive. "I didn't vote for a party that would abandon my agenda because it lost one seat in the Senate," she said. "The party I voted for, and want to be part of, would recognize political opportunity in the waning days of its supermajority and pass what it could pass, and then keep coming back for more."

The loss in Massachusetts was a terrible disappointment to Democrats. But it can be explained away. Martha Coakley was a terrible candidate. Scott Brown ran an excellent campaign. These things happen.

But the reaction congressional Democrats have had to Coakley's loss has been much more shattering. It has been a betrayal.

The fundamental pact between a political party and its supporters is that the two groups believe the same thing and pledge to work on it together. And the Democratic base feels that it has held to its side of the bargain. It elected a Democratic majority and a Democratic president. It swallowed tough compromises on the issues it cared about most. It swallowed concessions to politicians it didn't like and industry groups it loathed. But it persisted. Because these things are important. That's why those voters believe in them. That's why they're Democrats.

But the party looks ready to abandon them because Brown won a special election in Massachusetts -- even though Democrats can pass the bill after Brown is seated. What that says is crucial: Whereas the base thought it was making these hard compromises and getting up early to knock on doors because these issues are important, the party thought all that was happening because, well, it's hard to say. It was electorally convenient? People need something to do? Ted Kennedy wanted it done?

If Democrats let go of health care, there is no doubt that a demoralized Democratic base will stay home in November. And that's as it should be. If the Democratic Party won't uphold its end of the bargain, there's no reason its base should pretend the deal is still on.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 20, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Democrats  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The difference between Democrats and Republicans
Next: Breaking up is hard to do


I completely agree. The House should pass the Senate's bill and then fix the problems through reconciliation. Anything else puts the vanities and fears of individual House members over the very real needs of the people who put them in office.

Posted by: MikeinChicago | January 20, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the Dems have the backbone to vote for the Senate bill.

Posted by: truth5 | January 20, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I also agree wholeheartedly. If Democrats cannot pass health care reform under the conditions available over the past year (60 senators, 255+ House seats, an AMA endorsement, and a new president) it cannot be done. No voter should ever listen to a Democrat promising health care reform again. They had their chance, and they couldn't deliver.

The only viable option is to pass the Senate bill and then tweak it later using reconciliation. If they can't do it, they don't deserve to hold power.

Posted by: FrancesLee | January 20, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I have been saying what MIC said above for about a month now. Pass the senate bill and fix it through reconciliation. It is mostly how to pay for HCR that is the most contentious and budget things are what reconciliation is for.

Posted by: srw3 | January 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I don't get- the numbers in Congress are now exactly what they were for the first 3 months of Obama's presidency, until Specter switched on April 28. No one was saying that health care was DOA because there weren't 60 votes because Martin lost to Chambliss in Georgia. To go with your previous post- Republicans care about how they can use the power voters have given to them. Democrats worry about what voters might do to them if they use the power they've been given.

Posted by: _SP_ | January 20, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: AZProgressive | January 20, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Agreed. The Congressional Democrats are pathetically disgusting toads. If they want to accomplish anything, Obama and Pelosi need to get their acts together, now.

Posted by: jlk7e | January 20, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I won't be demoralized if the House doesn't act, I will be FURIOUS. And I would be glad to see so many petty useless fools voted out in November. And they'd be lucky to get me back in 2012.

Posted by: Chris_O | January 20, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Well said. Political leaders are like any leaders-- the people willing to come to your side would be willing to jump off a cliff for you. Their is an implicit understanding, however, that you are not going to tell your loyalists *to jump off a cliff*. Realistically, it is taking advantage of the voters' loyalty to expect them to come out and vote and volunteer and support their leaders to then buckle at the first sign of trouble and *go on to blame the people who supported you* for the attendant problems.

Posted by: constans | January 20, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I'll be furious if the Dems cave and let health care die because they "only" have 59 Senators, but I won't stay home in November. My Congressman is the conservative whackjob Paul Broun. There is no question that whoever the Dems nominate to oppose him would be vastly better. See you at the polls.

Posted by: redwards95 | January 20, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't know when this seat is up, but if he thinks he can just filibuster everything for the rest of his term, I have a hunch he won't be sent back.

Posted by: huskerag | January 20, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"And that's as it should be. If the Democratic Party won't uphold its end of the bargain, there's no reason its base should pretend the deal is still on."

You don't get it Ezra, the defeat in Massachusetts was an indicator that voters there already realized that the Democratic Party wasn't holding up its end of the bargain. Democratics in Congress and the White House broke their bargain to seek health care reform last January when they decided to start by making deals with industry and their colleagues rather than doing spade work in their constituencies.

Obama's web site never solicited any input from voters other to ask for sob stories -- they just instructed them to support whatever the inside deals had been struck. Democratic Senators told their constituencies that they had to wait until tBacchus was done before they would talk to them about health care.

The whole exercise has been a sellout of b asic Democratic principles .Democrats in Congress will no doubt find some way to pass "something" but that something won't be reform or the overhaul that most people wanted to see. By focusing on politics rather than principle, the Democrats have squandered the mandate they were given last fall. Unfortunately, it is Democratic voters who will bear the consequences of their actions.

Posted by: Athena_news | January 20, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the base staying home in the midterms is that the crushing GOP sweep will likely be taken as a result of the Dems over-reaching, instead of the base staying home because the Dems are weak.

None of this would have happened in Senate Dems had any semblance of party discipline. They let Baucus take an entire summer over a process that everyone but him knew was going nowhere and they let Lieberman keep his chairmanship despite slapping them around time and again.

The day that the Dems enforce party discipline and can effectively put a message across is the day the GOP are finished. Unfortunately, that day looks a long while from coming.

Posted by: thedave | January 20, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree. The house needs to vote for the health care bill as is and move on to jobs, quickly. We only lost one Senate seat ! We didn't lose our majority. I feel like suddenly health care reform is being held hostage not by the republicans but by the democrats in the house ! I could believe Coakley lost. She was a horrible candidate. But I cannot believe my eyes and ears this morning with the House Dems just giving up. It is sickening.

Posted by: jstipich07 | January 20, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

If Democrats are going to spend the next 10 months acting like Republicans, I'd prefer they just hand power over now. I'd much rather have the implications of enacting Republican policies tied to actual Republicans.

Posted by: cog145 | January 20, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Spineless hacks.

Do they have any campaign issue other than "even though we can't accomplish anything, we're not as bad as republicans?" That's not going to be enough.

Posted by: fuse | January 20, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

What happened to the stock market surge that was supposed to happen? Was that built in to yesterday's rally with anticipation of a Brown win? I just find it interesting that there was all of this talk about the markets going up in the election aftermath, and instead there has been the biggest fall since October.

Posted by: gocowboys | January 20, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I also agree wholeheartedly. If Democrats cannot pass health care reform under the conditions available over the past year (60 senators, 255+ House seats, an AMA endorsement, and a new president) it cannot be done.

i think this just shows how screwed up and dysfunction our current system of government is. if you can't pass anything with a SUPERMAJORITY then nothing can ever be passed. that's a problem because we face some serious issues and if we can't address them, and everything that's happened in the last year tells me we can't, then we're in serious trouble.

Posted by: freaktown | January 20, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Falling back now would provide a new high (low?) in fecklessness. What is the best way for those of us who agree with you to register the fact that we share your views?

Sadly, I live in DC, so I can't write my congressperson...

Posted by: Sophomore | January 20, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

In our two party system, the only way to send a message is to vote for Republicans. Mostly the same Republicans who drove us off a cliff a few short years ago. Great.

But it's naive to wish there was a progressive 3rd party. We'd split the Dem vote and throw elections to the right! Instead of voting for Republicans, we'd vote for a 3rd party and get Republicans anyway. Which is basically what we have now when we vote for Democrats. Hmmm....

Posted by: BigTunaTim | January 20, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

The last thing Democrats (and everyone else) should do is stay home. First, they should call their senators and scream holy hell, why haven't they passed health care yet and why haven't they done anything about jobs, cap and trade, and everything else they said they going to do. Then they should start pouring money into primary challengers and start working for them. Then after the primaries, they should start working for third-party candidates. And if their senator isn't up for re-election, they should find out where they are getting their lobbyist money from and start protesting outside of their corporate offices.

The only thing Democrats seem to respond to is fear so if voters want any results, they need to put some fear in these candidates.

Posted by: caed | January 20, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I think, looking at these comments and reading coverage elsewhere, that if Democrats don't pass this bill through the House (and *especially* if they just let reform die altogether), 2010 will be a disaster of epic proportions for the Democrats.

It will be *far* worse for them than if they just passed the bill and tried to sell it after the fact.

Posted by: bmrobert64 | January 20, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I've been on a number of boards counseling liberals/progressives to accept half a loaf, keep moving forward, be realistic about what can be accomplished, etc.

If the Dems give up on HCR, I take it all back. I'll become an independent and take special glee at screwing with the overly cautious, smug centrist Dems that leech off of the system without showing any type of leadership.

Posted by: danimal1 | January 20, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

This is why August was the month that healthcare died -- at the time I posted here and elsewhere that the Blue Dogs would be spooked by all those guns at town hall meetings and desert en masse. And lo! it has come to pass.

If Dems as diverse as Barney Frank, Evan Bayh, Anthony Weiner and Jim Webb are publicly signaling the collapse of reform, then it's time to stick a fork in it, maybe come back and do pre-existing conditions, the one item that does have bipartisan support. The only consolation is that it takes healthcare reform off the table for the fall elections -- the GOP can't run on a platform of repeal because it's already been dead for months, and the media's attention will have drifted elsewhere. A pretty thin gruel, I admit.

What a friggin' debacle. I've never seen anything quite like it. The SOTU will make for some high drama -- I predict more Joe Wilson-like outbursts and open heckling of the President.

Posted by: scarlota | January 20, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I also see a bit of the "kick the dog" problem going on here. The Republicans have been kicking the Democrats. The Democrats have been kicking their voters. The voters are kicking their own willingness to vote. We have a bunch of learned helplessness all around.

The question of course is why the Democratic politicians are such willing targets of Republican abuse.

The proper response from the Dems is, "we have not yet begun to fight!" What we get instead is, "Sorry our troublesome supporters forced you to abuse us. Is there anything we can do to make you Republicans feel better?"

Posted by: constans | January 20, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"The question of course is why the Democratic politicians are such willing targets of Republican abuse."
Yes! The first thing I saw this morning on TV was Axelrod and Gibbs, sitting side by side, letting the show's host repeat over and over, "wake-up call." How can these two Democratic leaders sit there and not smack down that "wake-up call" narrative by declaring fiercely, "Nonsense! We have NOT been asleep!!! We know what we have been doing and what we are going to do!"

Our Dems simply keep behaving nicely and politely and cooperatively. For that, I say, wake up!!!!

Posted by: edfunk1 | January 20, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Bingo, Mr. Klein. You're dead on. I will never vote for a Republican again -- ever -- but that doesn't mean I have to vote for Democrats. I don't have to vote at all. You can joke that you don't belong to an organized political party, but this has gone far past funny. Lousy candidate recruitment in your own backyard, lousy campaigning, a ridiculous level of static at all levels of the health care debate, appalling oversight of the pass-through money under the TARP program. Who needs it? Where did we get these morons?

Posted by: mfloydhall | January 20, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Why Public Support For Health Care Faltered

"Negotiators cut parochial deals for individual lawmakers—extra Medicaid spending for Nebraska, exemptions from Medicare Advantage cuts for parts of Florida, special help for some Montana residents suffering from asbestos disease. 'All this helped secure the 60 votes to get the bill through the Senate, but it bolstered the perception that the measure was pork barrel spending aimed at helping some more than others. 'They say, 'Look, God knows what other dirty deals they did,'' says Uwe Reinhardt, a health economics professor at Princeton University."

I voted for Obama with the expectation that we would *finally* get onto a path of universal health care. What he and Congress delivered is more care and feeding of special interests within a broken model.

Posted by: Athena_news | January 20, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Pass the damn bill!

Posted by: mattcw | January 20, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

scarlota, it's impossible to do pre-existing conditions without a mandate and without subsidies for the poor. If you do, the healthy people stay out of the system and private insurers go bankrupt, and then no one has health insurance.

redwards95, you would NOT see me at the polls. I suppose I might go to vote for governor, but I won't vote for Democrats in Congress who run on the platform of "we're too spineless to do anything but the Republicans might bankrupt the country slightly quicker."

Posted by: Chris_O | January 20, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

@mfloydhall -- in total and complete agreement!!!!

My handle is demsRwimps not because I'm for republicans but exactly because of what Klein writes about in this column.

Obama has shown complete spinelessness, his administration and the dems in both houses have exhibited all the rookie mistakes of past arrogant dems elected to CHANGE things who keep doing the same thing over and over.

Whether D or R, they are in it for themselves, their acquisition of power, wealth, for themselves, their cronies, their families, their bank accounts and those of their corporate masters. We the people are a convenient after thought with a few crumbs thrown out in order to keep getting re-elected.

We no longer have a representative democracy. Government at the federal level is completely broken. If the dems don't understand the fury of the people, if the repubs use it to over-reach (again, which they will because they too always repeat their own mistakes), it is we the people who continue to suffer by returning these fools and these self-interested political parties into power.

WE HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY as does journalism to expose what is really going on. But the fourth estate also has been bought lock stock and barrel by the same corporate masters who own 'our' elected representatives.

It's our fault however, for still believing the B.S. that comes from democrap or republicon.

I am now an independent because neither party represents me.


Posted by: demsRwimps | January 20, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see you using your platform to push for something dangerously truthful, Ezra. Think you'll last at the WaPo?

Posted by: janinsanfran | January 20, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

YES. This is exactly the way I was feeling without quite knowing it. The reason I'm feeling so completely awful about the Massachusetts election is that Democratic leaders are acting as if health care reform is now dead, when it doesn't have to be.

I feel this desperate need to hear something from President Obama right about now, even the briefest statement saying there's still hope.

Posted by: laurahazardowen | January 20, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

If indeed Obama and Dem leaders want to abandon HCR, they will need to 'sell it politically' to their base:
- How do you account for all the time and political capital spend for last one year?
- What about the compromises which base accepted? In place are more going to come?
- If Dems do not do HCR, then are we going to get series of smaller things? Why would GOP support any of those smaller measures? How doing all that through 51 vote reconciliation possible?
- Why would GOP not point the failure of 'governance' otherwise also? How that political liability is lesser than any flexibility Dems get by going away from radioactive HCR?

Current HCR is bad, but there is no alternative here. The only positive thing about failure of HCR will be - our system in incapable of doing any big reforms like HCR or serious cost controls down the line too. This means in reality there is no hope for cost control down the line which is exasperated by this HCR.

But then the core philosophy of Left Base is they believe in such dramatic changes initiated by Government. In past that is what they got it. Obama promised that and if he and Dems do not want to do that; base will not come with them.

The real possibility will be new Left Party to emerge. That is what the Politics is about. If Obama is 'waste' for Left Base, the Base will move on.

Posted by: umesh409 | January 20, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Wow, how I hate the Republican strategy. They somehow forced the removal of the Medicare savings from the bill. They are so unwilling to make the hard cuts that are needed AND are willing to blame the Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility.

The way to get back the trust of the voters we are losing is to go straight into Medicare and start saving that program by changing the reimbursement model. Attack the cost of health care directly using forced market mechanisms, and all of the other problems become easier to solve. If the Republicans oppose it, we can begin to make the case that they are the fiscally irresponsible ones.

Posted by: staticvars | January 20, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, Democrats seem not to know what it means to be progressive. People used to understand that progress is when we reduce the cruelty of our institutions. Now Democrats seem to have forgotten that, and instead act more and more each decade like Republicans. As Republicans have begun to care only about a limited form of economic heath, and "projecting power" around the world, and not to care at all about the cruelties Americans suffer in being denied healthcare, a living wage, fair pay, environmental safety, etc, Democrats have begun follow the same trend, but just a bit behind the Republicans. Now someone makes a loud noise, and they all run to heel like little dogs. Disgusting! Focus on reducing the cruelties of our institutions, Democrats. Nothing else matters. Pass the Senate bill because it will do that.

Posted by: Chris48 | January 20, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"If Democrats let go of health care, there is no doubt that a demoralized Democratic base will stay home in November. And that's as it should be."

Because the Dems couldn't get the base's agenda passed, the base wouldn't vote in November, thereby ensuring that the base's agenda would be even harder to enact? Really? That would be really stupid. What kind of idiot ... oh, never mind, right - the Democratic base.

Posted by: ostap666 | January 20, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

ostap666, on the contrary, it would be idiotic to vote for people who promise you things, have the ability to follow through, but instead run and hide. Such people do not represent my values, and thus will not be rewarded with my vote, money, or time. Anything else would be the equivalent of battered spouse's syndrome.

Posted by: Chris_O | January 20, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry, but any analysis of the Coakley loss would suggest that Coakley lost because of her ineffective campaign and because Brown appeared more personally appealing. As of January 1, Coakley was ahead by 20 points in the polls. Her collapse was not due to any change in voter perception of national issues -- there hasn't been any real change in either the issues or in the polling about people's thoughts about the issues.

This was not a test of national politics. It was a test of Coakley. She failed the test. If there is any lesson here, it is that democrats need to take elections and candidate selection seriously, and not assume that they will win based on history.

Posted by: PatS2 | January 20, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"But the party looks ready to abandon them because Brown won a special election in Massachusetts -- even though Democrats can pass the bill after Brown is seated."

Exactly. It's worth noting that Arlen Specter's switch made health care reform possible. In the days when Obama could do no wrong, Republicans (even Judd Gregg!) were flocking to Obama.

Yeah, the mood's shifted a bit since then. HOWEVER, the Dems still have a historic majority -- the same that they had at the beginning of Obama's presidency! -- and they were given a temporary chance in the Senate to pass HCR because of Specter. They did. Now, things have gone back to how they were prior to Specter's switch.

So this is the time for Dems to give up? That just doesn't make sense to me. Given the choice of

a) give up, look like losers, lose a ton of blue dogs in 2010, and become too unpopular for any "jobs bill" (whatever that is) or anything else, or,
b) pass something, look like winners, lose *some* blue dogs in 2010, move on to other things to stop the bleeding

it makes no sense that Dems would rather choose the worse of the two options, and destroy their chances in 2010 or their chances at getting this thing sealed up.

Posted by: Chris_ | January 20, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Friends, it's not a mystery...we know the answers, sen-elect Brown is giving them to us. Today he said what's happening in the US is "bigger than the president," meaning that democrats, republicans, and independents are upset at the closed-door, back-room deals. They want what Obama promised: transparency. He had a year to deliver and came up dry. The answer? For democrats, republicans, and independents is simple: try someone else for a change.

Posted by: Narquan | January 20, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"The loss in Massachusetts was a terrible disappointment to Democrats. But it can be explained away. Martha Coakley was a terrible candidate. Scott Brown ran an excellent campaign. These things happen."

Good grief Ezra, you are suggesting that the democrats lost this election due to poor campaigning? You shouldn't trust your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. The dems are in control of the White House, the Senate and the House; yet, they still can't get any health care reform passed. Why? Because the American public is against it. Only 40 percent of Americans even support the President's health care reforms. Over 50 percent outright oppose it.

If you really think that the Kennedy Commonwealth elected Scott Brown due to "poor campaigning", then neither you nor the democratic leadership is listening.

Posted by: TonyinKC | January 20, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Does the Democratic base really support party leadership going behind closed doors creating programs "for the people" that merely enriches unions, bureaucrats and their own special interests?

If so, where's Senator Joe McCarthy when you need him?

Posted by: cprferry | January 20, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

What part weren't you listening to in yesterday's victory for Brown? Republicans, Independents and many Massachusetts Democrats don't want Obamacare. Why would they want to see rates climb still higher, experience less service, or fund other states efforts to realize full insurance coverage?

I have no problem with someone being a loyal Democrat. I mostly disagree, but that's besides the point. What's troubling is the left's finger pointing away from the core problem; Obamacare is a dog. Blame Coakley, blame angry tea party participants, but never contemplate that liberal legislation is flawed. The hubris of the left, wrapped in self sanctimony and righteousness is appalling.

Posted by: ecrutle | January 20, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Everybody here seems to be missing something. I don't believe health care is what gets people upset. They are upset about the economy and the fact that the only demographic that is not hurting right now is Wall Street fat cats.

When in fall 2008 Obama supported the bailout, I was worried he was gonna lose the election. He didn't (perhaps because his opponent also supported the bailout) but he may still have lost the presidency. He is tarnished by his administration's association with Wall Street while right wing Republicans have managed to paint themselves as the anti-bailout populists. That nobody in his circle seems to get this is a huge and perhaps tragic failure. Would the Democrats have lost the seat of Geithner had been fired and the Wall Street tax been enacted months ago? No way!

Posted by: carbonneutral | January 20, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Is that why the Dems won all FIVE of the last special elections? Does one election prove that those others were anomalies? Please. You must have "not been listening" to those wins, or the huge wins in 06 and 08. There's still historic majorities, and Obama's approval rating is similar to Reagan's at this point in the presidency.

I think the fact HCR can't get passed is the requirement that it need 60 votes, rather than the 51 that the founders intended.

My solution to this mess: Elect the GOP ASAP, let the Dems filibuster, let the GOP get rid of the filibuster, let them over-reach, let the Dems take over, watch as the GOP moderate their message and policies in the face of the public finally realizing that governing the country like Alabama won't fly, watch as the Dems finally pass HCR.

In countries where super majorities are not required, conservatives have embraced such reforms because they are popular. I mean, Scott Brown even embraced it in its Massachusetts state-run incarnation.

Posted by: Chris_ | January 20, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans, Independents and many Massachusetts Democrats don't want Obamacare. Why would they want to see rates climb still higher, experience less service, or fund other states efforts to realize full insurance coverage?" This explanation makes the least sense of all. Massachusetts already has its own version of Obamacare and the people are happy with it. There is no way in which national HCR could hurt Massachusetts. Maybe voters are dumb enough not to get this but I suspect other motivations. The media will of course never get this because of the (intentionally?) dumb way in which they frame these issues.

Posted by: carbonneutral | January 20, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"Because the Dems couldn't get the base's agenda passed, the base wouldn't vote in November, thereby ensuring that the base's agenda would be even harder to enact?"

The problem is that a lot of the base doesn't believe that the Dems couldn't pass the agenda. We believe that the Dems won't, either because they don't support it (Bayh, Nelson, Lincoln) or are unwilling to do the heavy lifting. If that's the case, the chance of getting the agenda enacted is pretty much zero no matter what the base does.

Posted by: zimbar | January 20, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

You ignore that much of the left opposes this "liberal legislation." (See FiredogLake and their opposition to Obama, Rahm, the Senate bill, etc)

Many people in the middle support the bill in good faith, and think it's good policy -- despite it dragging on forever and becoming unpopular in the process. I think there's finger pointing because it's clear Ted Kennedy would have won the seat, and that Coakley lost it on her own. While you think it's "Obamacare," the voters supporting the winning Dems in the five special elections this year probably think otherwise.

Posted by: Chris_ | January 20, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm a rock-ribbed conservative, and I don't particularly see the Coakley defeat as a defeat for Democrats or Obamacare. As Ezra mentioned earlier, an appropriate response would have been to blow it off and ram healthcare home (which I'm very glad they aren't doing, btw).

And, despite the loss of the Ted Kennedy seat to a Republican, the Coakley defeat in and of itself doesn't mean much for conservatism or the Republicans. The Democrats ran a terrible candidate, and the base is not motivated, and did not show up to vote.

That being said, the elected Democrats reaction to the Brown victory seems to be very good news for Republicans. Treating this as a "wake up call" will be good news for Republicans. It'll demotivate the base, suppress liberal turnout in the midterms, motivate the Republican base, and probably heard Obama's efforts with healthcare, cap and trade, immigration reform and so on. Which will only serve to further alienate the base and motivate the Republicans.

A good day for conservatives, but not because of Brown's win. It's because of how the elected Democrats are reacting to it.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 20, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Ezra and most people posting comments - what message did you not understand yesterday. Do you really think more government in any form is the answer to reforming health care. Especially after the special interest payoffs and not bringing in bipartisan ideas to the legislation? It isn't just about health care - progressive/liberal ideas - you know, the elitist attitude - we know what's best for you approach to governing so just turn over control to us doesn't cut it. You are in the minority and are way out of touch with reality.

Ezra, I venture to guess that you and most of the commenters have never had to meet a payroll or figure out how to cover employees with good private health care in an affordable way. I venture a guess most Democrats in Congress are of the same ilk. This will be the most screwed up, costly mess if it passes but will create a tremendous amount of power in a few people. The people spoke yesterday and November and what they said was less government is more - get out of our lives.

Posted by: rbloomer2 | January 20, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Chris. Ask Evan Bayh; ask Arlen Specter. These dems are not alone in facing an electorate that does not support the dems health care reforms. That's why there is so much skiddishness in Congress in passing the President's health care reform. Although most of us wanted Bush gone, the majority of this country is still right of center. Most of us don't believe that the President's health care reform will be a savings. Most of us believe that it will add to the deficits. You can look at the polls yourself. They are easy to find. Run a web search for Real Clear Politics. The updated polls are in there.

The democratic party is fracturing like the Titanic. One part demands the type of radical reform that Obama promised in his campaign. The other half are those moderate or conservative dems that have electorate at home that are mad as hell. The latter group is going to start pushing away from the President's health care reform because they understand just exactly what Scott Brown's election represents: a majority of American are pushing back from Obama's health care reform.

Posted by: TonyinKC | January 20, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh, grow up! This is all about money.

Obama came into office promising he would act in the best interests of the people.

What do we get? A health care bill that only exists because of giveaways to the largest health care/medical/drug complexes. A financial regulation that does not in any way address the 'too big to fail' and other key issues, since it, too, was written by large donors, for large donors (the large banks).

Mr. Obama has spent his first year appeasing instead of leading.

To save his Presidency, he should act in concert with why he was elected. Put the people, not large donors, first. Do what's right for the country, not the large donors. And, while he's at it, work to dismantle the money & politics complex that is keeping the country on the wrong track, whomever is elected.

Mr. Obama is perhaps the best orator of his generation. Now, he has to lead not appease.

Posted by: commonsensevoter1 | January 20, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Most of you just don't seem to, or maybe just can't get it. I am probably mostly an Independent, or Republican, but I have voted Democrat; actively street campaigning, opening local Dem HQs, etc.. I try to pick the person, not the party. I think I have seen both sides. It is about personal freedom vs. government intervention and control. I read the above and it’s all about "making it happen; pass something now, fix it later; these "issues" are important, we need to ram them in while we can...., etc. The other side, and the vast majority of the American people just want you the Hell out of their lives. Their plea is, "Let us live in freedom, do what we want, live like we want, take our chances and live with the results". And, they want everyone to take personal responsibility for themselves and their actions, and not expect the government to take care of everything. It is what this country was founded on. They are sick and tired of government intrusion, nanny bureaucrats, and "others" trying to legislate every aspect of their lives; and taking their hard earned money to pay for it. Stay out of individual’s lives, families, and kids, stay out of business, etc. They don’t want the government to do anything, if it was possible, except protect us, provide a level playing field to live and operate in, and keep the rules, regulations, and laws to the necessary minimum...there are a lot of Socialist “Utopias” you can move to if that is what you want. We don't have rulers and royalty here…we have our representatives. Anyway, it is two different world views, and I doubt they will ever really understand each other. And, I guess I am on the side of personal freedom and responsibility; and am tired of seeing it continue to be eroded by government fiat…

Posted by: robgla | January 20, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

robgla, we see that when you let corporations and insurance companies and banks "live in freedom, do what we want, live like we want, take our chances and live with the results", it tends to screw up the lives of people like you and me.

Also: stupid wars, torture.

Posted by: constans | January 20, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, being a Democrat is not synonymous with being brain dead but I have my concerns about you and this article!

LOOK AT MASS.!! The American voter is not stupid but impotent. They elect candidates who make promises they trust. Then on both sides of the aisle become baldfaced liars let alone in the White House.

Independents ARE GIVING a last chance to Republicans. They better deliver on their promises: no earmarks, corruption better cease (lobbiests), AND the perks of office (salaries/pensions/healthcare) come into line,cut graft (contributions), NO BIG DADDY GOV, OR DIE AS A PARTY.

You and Obama have heard nothing. You are wrapped up in extreme left partisan politics. In the grandest political mistake of the century you have failed to see the USA is a center - center right country idologically STILL!!! The vast perponderance will not support big government particularly not in that most sensitive and personal area, healthcare.

Posted by: PRRWRITER | January 20, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Does the Democratic base really support party leadership going behind closed doors creating programs "for the people" that merely enrich unions, bureaucrats and their own special interests?

Posted by: cprferry | January 20, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I won't be outraged if this bloated porker of a bill doesn't pass, I'll be overjoyed.

That said, it would be great if they'd all get together and address healthcare together, openly and after the economy is fully functioning.

But, I doubt they will. They are way too busy being republicans and democrats to be worried about the rest of us.

Posted by: deadmanwalking | January 20, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Most of the posters here still don't get the message of the voters. Most voters do not like the Obamacare bill as it stands now. Furthermore, they don't like the process of a partisan behind closed doors deals using tax payer money to bribe fellow Democrates. They also don't like the deals cut with unions plus the hugh deficit special interest social spending.

Posted by: hfarmer2 | January 20, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

*Independents ARE GIVING a last chance to Republicans. They better deliver on their promises: no earmarks, corruption better cease (lobbiests), AND the perks of office (salaries/pensions/healthcare) come into line,cut graft (contributions)*

Republicans never promised any such things, nor does the Republican base support those policies. I think you are misreading the whole thing. Not to mention the fact that Republicans are in no position to deliver on anything at all at the moment. Your comment makes no sense at all.

Posted by: constans | January 20, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse


Evan Bayh and his fellow blue dogs are *always* in trouble. They represent conservative states. Now, will they be in more trouble is health care is passed? Depends on if it's popular or not. "Passing things" is always somewhat good, though -- for either side.
Will they be in less trouble if it's not passed? No, because they're always in trouble. In fact, as the bad news builds and Dems can't do anything, they become more vulnerable. That makes them more likely to be unelected.

Scott Brown's election represents a lot of things. So did the five other special elections Democrats won. Basing your electoral strategy on one special election, however, is not good politics. It has been a foundational idea of Democrats that universal health care is important: a GOPer getting elected after 5 consecutive victories in special elections should not change that.

"Ezra, I venture to guess that you and most of the commenters have never had to meet a payroll or figure out how to cover employees with good private health care in an affordable way."

I am so sick of these types of comments. It's total projection: "I provide a payroll, therefore people I disagree with must not." Where is the connection? On the other hand, HCR made covering your employees easier. This sort of "I'm a businessman, therefore I'm a Republican" idea is lazy, and ignores that most "business" is done in blue states in terms of per-capita GDP.

Posted by: Chris_ | January 20, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Chris. Thanks for your comments. We'll see how much relevance last year's five special elections will have on the future of health care and the upcoming mid-term elections. Voters who always vote for democrats or who always vote for republicans never decide elections. It's the moderate middle that actually decide elections because the moderate middle can be persuaded. Even we moderate republicans got our fill of George III. But America's right of center tendancies are returning and that spells future trouble for the President's progressive and deficit-expanding social agenda.

I think that there is a growning sense that the best economic days are behind us. At a time when Americans are trying to deleverage and live within our shrinking financial means, Washington is sending out the message that it wants to grow government and spend spend spend. No wonder the Chinese are growing concerned about our future ability to repay our debts. No wonder the Chinese are building their reserves of gold, silver, platinum and other strategic metals. Perhaps they are positioning themselves for a collapse of the dollar.

I think Americans right now are attaching their frustrations to a government with noble social goals, but a government that can't can't cash the checks that they are wanting to write. I think that's one of the lessons we should learn from Scott Brown's stunning victory.

Posted by: TonyinKC | January 20, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

If Mr. Klein had any common sense he would read some of the comments on this page. Maybe, he would learn something.

The working, tax-paying, actual citizens of this nation do not want socialism or communism or Stalinism. We do not want an arch-leftist like Obama telling us what we should do and think. Mr. Klein, you will really see something November. The average American was fooled by you and Obama and the leftist, mains stream media in 08. Never again.

Posted by: walterndebby | January 20, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

This is not about weather Democrates should pursue health care reform. It is about how they precede. The voters don't like the product and they don't like the process used to develope the product. They told us that last summer in the town hall meetings. they told us that in the tea party marches and they told us in the November elections.

The questions is are the Democrates going to continue in a partisan elite fashion with secret meeting behind close doors cutting deals for special interest groups such as the unions and continue to use tax payer money to maike bribes for support of the bill. Or on the other hand, will they open up to a bi-partisan transparent process that excludes special interest groups and produces the best product for the American people?

Posted by: hfarmer2 | January 20, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everything Ezra said.

If they can't pass the legislation they promise, then there is little reason for me to give them money or take my time to go out and vote.

What could they possibly be thinking?!?

Posted by: zosima | January 20, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Jesus, did this post get linked to from Instapundit or something? Newsflash to all you "git the government off my lawn!" folks: we tried it that way in the 00's, and the result was complete and utter catastrophe. Sure looks like we're heading for a repeat of that yet again.

Posted by: Chris_O | January 20, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein,

The Democrats have 256 seats in the House and 60 seats in the Senate. Republicans have been shut out for some months now. If the Democrat base is pissy and upset, it's because not all Democrats fall into lockstep with the far left wing of the party (progressives). Democrats have more than enought votes to pass anything they want anytime. So, why didn't they do this months ago? Looks like they'll be eating their own shortly. Get real Mr. Klein. Brown's win had nothing to do with the base being upset and feeling put upon. What's more you actually know this, but are restrained from revealing the terrible truth about the fractious Dems, especially the pesky ones who answer to a slightly moderate constituency west of the beltway. I suspect the "base" will target them in this year's primaries. Good luck, ya'll.

Posted by: dougmatt | January 20, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Republicans ROWE








Posted by: theoldmansays | January 20, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I think you miss the mindset of congressional Democrats (understandable, since it is misguided). Its the electorate that betrayed you.

Assume that you believe your leadership worked hard to draft a bill that acheived most of the party's goals. Certain aspects were compromised to gain the necessary votes in the face of unwavering Republican obstructionism.

Now you are getting hit on the left by those saying you are selling out the progressive movement. The right continues its nihilistic march in an effort to stymie all progress. You have done your best to communicate all of this to your constituency.

In the face of all of this, an election is held in your stronghold. This electorate is well-educated and generally agrees with your goals. Sure, the Democratic candidate ran a poor campaign, but its obvious to you from your position that even a flawed Democrat is better than a liberal Republican in the current environment. And you believe that message is clear to this electorate that is already pre-disposed to support you.

Instead what happens is this group you are working so hard for turns on you. Either it refuses to vote or even considers voting for the Republican. This makes no sense to you from a strategic standpoint. And you can't chalk it up to rednecks in the South who simply don't understand the stakes. This is a betrayal on par with Macbeth.

What's crazy is this viewpoint isn't entirely without merit.

Posted by: TheRaven4th | January 20, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Good Column. To paraphrase FDR, the democrats have nothing to fear but the democrats themselves. And many of them in Congress are quite fearful, of their shadows (otherwise known as lobbyists) and above all, of doing anything that might smack of principle.

Better to be hanged for a sheep than for a goat, as the saying goes. By running away from health care reform, they ensure their defeat. By passing either the Senate version in the House (with reconciliation fixes thereafter) or doing what can be done quickly through reconciliation, some may lose their seats anyway but they can, all other things being equal, save their souls.

The Democrats ran on fixing health care (not perfectly, but making it a lot better than it is today). If they can't keep that promise because they fear the mob, then neither party is fit for public office.

Posted by: frankmcneil | January 20, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Pelosi and Reid decided to overhaul healthcare -- all parts -- broken or not. My health care is not broken; I love it -- I pay for it and I worked hard my whole life to afford the care I get.

I am not willing to pay more in order to pay for Nancy and Harry's HC.
Lower premiums for all would be great. This HC bill can be made up of tort reform that allows for lower premiums with the savings.
If the medical industry -- doctors and hospitals-- don't have to cover themselves against ravenous personal attorneys, who make a mint off of a "victim", then the premiums go down. This is the "simple" version, but that's essentially the way it works.
Democrats do not want tort reform because they are "in bed" with the trial lawyers.
Always the special interests -- a la unions.
Sickening politics from Democrats who don't get it that we know their dirty self-serving agendas.

Posted by: pjcafe | January 20, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh my -- just read some of these posts. Can't believe the attitude here. Obviously, I am an "outsider."
No wonder Mr. Klein writes such biased articles with only "selective" facts.

I have been anti-democrat and anti-Obama since he made his "special Olympics" remark on the Leno show, since he criticized the Cambridge PD in support of his friend, the race-playing professor, since he appointed czar after czar to put on OUR payroll to accomplish his "socialist" leaning agenda, since he played Chicago politics making back room deals for votes, and since he "gifted" the unions with $60 billion at our expense.
I'm not even touching on the scum association with George Soros.
I'm sorry for those of you here who think that government should think for us and tell us what to do.
I think that Barney Frank should be held accountable for the mortgage crisis -- he was let off the hook because he is a democrat.
I'm also for enforcing the borders and the existing laws.
I know that law enforcement is not politically correct.
I want a "transparent" system in DC -- not these sneaky back room criminals.
OK -- call me names. The facts are there --- and Obama says people are just frustrated. Sorry, we're tired of being treated like incompetents who can't think without gov't help.
Incredible remarks here - I won't be reading anymore Klein!

Posted by: pjcafe | January 21, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Could there be another bite of the apple in the Senate?

Just yesterday that seemed implausible to me, but Kent Conrad flew a trial balloon suggesting that he would be open to a reconciliation package to amend the Senate bill.

In practice this would mean the House would confirm the Senate bill, which the President would sign into law, while the Senate introduced a reconciliation package which amends the bill to include a Medicare buy-in, modification of the excise tax, perhaps a progressive millionare tax, but no public option, no change in the Senate abortion language, and no addressing the banning of illegal immigrants from the health care exchanges.

The various caucuses in the House would have to stop throwing fits and get with the program. In the Senate however, we have a miraculous new world. Debate on the package is limited to 20 hours, and no amendments can be offered. Even with Senator Brown Harry Reid could afford to lose 8, or conceivably 9 votes (with Biden casting a tie-breaker) and still pass the reconciliation package.

Reid would definately lose Lieberman, Nelson, and a few others, but the reconciliation package would be mainly consist of popular ideas that were scuttled by Lieberman and Nelson for reasons which do not seem politically smart for them, and few goodies for special interests such as unions. Remember that only a few weeks ago progressives were almost giddy with excitement over the idea of a Medicare buy-in. There should be solid majorities in the House and Senate for that single issue, and it's a good fit for reconciliation.

I'm really straining for a silver lining here, but Brown's victory does us all a favor by replacing Lieberman as the 60th Senator. Nelson and Lieberman have been adamant that they wouldn't accept much changes, and the factions in the House have been balking and hawing and hemming until the Mass. debacle upset all plans. But it also wipes out the deal Lieberman and Nelson and Reid made on the bill because there will never be another Senate vote on the bill. Either the House will pass it or it will die. Lieberman and Nelson are likely headed to electoral defeat. They will complain about being backstabbed, but ignore them. Every Democratic Senator already put their jobs on the line by voting for reform once. Maybe, just maybe 50 of them have sufficient survival instincts to do what it takes to beat the Republicans.

Posted by: philogratis | January 21, 2010 12:50 AM | Report abuse


It makes a lot of sense. One by one each representative needs to stand tall and represent the constituents AND THE PARTY NEEDS TO THROW ANYBODY WHO DOES NOT UNDER THE BUS!

Posted by: PRRWRITER | January 21, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

For Klein and others to blame Ms. Coakley for Mr. Brown's victory is unfair and quite unbecoming. No one thought she was a weak candidate when she was ahead in the polls by twenty or more percent. Much of the House of Representatives and Senate is taken up with mediocre or weak politicians. "Weak" candidates usually win safe seats.

Pundits and politicians need to be straight with people. Obviously Brown's election was partly a rejection of some or most of Obama's agenda.

Obama said today he does not want the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill. Hopefully he will not be persuaded by Pelosi or his inept white house advisors to change his mind. A scaled down bill emphasizing reforms to be implemented this year should be passed. More comprehensive health care legislation can be worked on afterward and hopefully passed by early next year.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 21, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

The democrats will not stay home, but go vote Republican. Why? A health plan that is not fair and full of special interest treatment and taxes for the rest of us. Our congress is more interested in party crashers than the economy and foreclosures. I have voted democrat all my life, but no more. The democrats are worst than than the republicans...

Posted by: billisnice | January 21, 2010 2:12 AM | Report abuse

T see a fresh new face for the republicans presidentual hopeful.He has the charisma of JFK. All natural.I'm sure Obamma feels he is a threat . After all he knows to say what the people want to hear, which he use to, he can talk to the American people he don't have to make it clear the people can understand him. A lot were swooning over Obamma thinking he was so good looking. Sen. Brown has it over him there also Sen. Brown is the best looking candidate in history. The Marlboro man. Some are already saying he reminds them of J.F.K. Jr. in looks. That is looks only. For myself HCR leave it alone My is fine. I worked many years for mine. They complain about Medicare which the people pay for however Medicaid the people get for nothing.

Posted by: sbhappe34 | January 21, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if HCR is just an issue too valuable to ever win, like abortion is for the right. They owned the entire government for years and they never passed any of their issues with a captive court, House, Senate, and White House. Is abortion still legal? Is there mandatory prayer in schools? Do we still pay taxes? Is there still a Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid/CHIP program?

If they ever delivered, they might have to actually think of something else to do.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | January 21, 2010 2:46 AM | Report abuse

If the Democrats pass the Health Bill they now have on the table, and I hope they do, they will lose the thinking independents, of which there are many, and the smart people in their own party. I'll admit that there are only a few smart people in the Democrat party, but that nevertheless they will account for a few thousand lost votes.

Posted by: nychap44 | January 21, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

This piece by Ezra Klein who, although a reporter, has made no secret of his allegiance to the Democratic base and a single-payer health plan, should be taught in courses on Constitutional theory.

He argues, essentially, that the Obama Administration made a pact with the Democratic base to secure enactment of a "radical" health care reform law and that Democrats in the Administration and Congress have betrayed the base, deserving to be excoriated and abandoned by the base.

Most of the comments on his article seem to support this notion.

But I submit that it is precisely this attitude that produced the rage that produced Scott Brown. The Democratic "base" cannot constitute more than 20% of the electorate. Polls show some 60% of the public nationwide opposed to passage of health care legislation in anything like its present forms. Klein has no hesitation in urging that the wishes of the 20% should prevail over the wishes of the 60%. And his sense of the moral superiority of his position is impregnable. But it betrays a profoundly anti-democratic impulse, what becomes in common parlance "ramming the bill down our throats".

It won't do to focus on the loss of the 60th Senate vote. The real impact of Tuesday's vote was that it generated near-panic among Congressional Democrats up for election in the fall -- all of the House, nearly a quarter of the Senate.

Nancy Pelosi will never in a thousand years put together 218 votes for the Senate bill. You've just lost Mr. Klein. Deal with it.

We will have some health reform enacted during the next year or two with bipartisan support. But it will bear little resemblance to the sausage made in and out of public view in the House and Senate.

Posted by: miglefitz | January 21, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

All politics is "local" still remains rule #1. What Mass. voters wanted may not be what Alabama voters want. Mass has universal health care, but also no jobs.

No one cares anymore about the "base" of either party. The "base" hasn't won an election this century. The people who do get elected are elected by the Independents. Mass was a near perfect example. Republicans did not elect Brown. Even if he got 100% of the "base" votes, he would have lost by 40 points. He won because he got 4 out of 5 Independent votes, while Coakley only got the remaining 1.

That's the lesson....forget the "base", they are insignificant in both Parties and don't win elections for either.

Posted by: wmboyd | January 21, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Like the ole' Frank Sinatra song goes, "ridin high in April, shot down in May.....'. Lotta truth to this music.

Posted by: Maximus6 | January 21, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I, like many who voted for Obama, am disgusted with the Dems.
They bicker among themselves forgetting who brung them to the dance and losing sight of the reasons they were put in majority status. Republicans stick together with their corporate, market slanted agenda and get what they want, while they laugh at the disjointed Dems and attack them as big govt promoters.
Dems don't get it and can't handle being in power. They have squandered the biggest opportunities in history.

Posted by: ernieson | January 21, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm a life long Democrat, but I'm seriously considering becoming an "independent". The Party appears to be an incoherent collection of fiefdoms, somewhat analogous to the Israeli parliament. If the Democratic Party could not formulate a position on health care acceptable to an adequate majority of its factions over the many months available, and execute in a timely manner, then what is it?

Posted by: genelg | January 21, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

If you want elections to show how the electorate feels stop allowing money from people who can't vote in the election.

Posted by: VinnieTheSnake | January 25, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company