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Sometimes, a bunny is just a bunny

One of my favorite scenes from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" features King Arthur and his knights creeping up on the cave of a feared beast. Peering over the rocks, they see bones, smoke and the black maw of the creature's lair. And then out hops a bunny.

That's pretty much the situation Democrats are in right now. So they lost their 60th seat in the Senate. Bummer. But they were always going to lose that seat. In fact, they only got it because of Arlen Specter's defection and the few thousand votes that provided Al Franken's margin in Minnesota. And frankly, they got the better draw: Democrats are going to have an easier time defending seats in Minnesota and Pennsylvania than Republicans will defending a seat in Massachusetts.

Democrats are left with the second-largest Senate majority either party has enjoyed in 30 years. They have a 40-vote margin in the House. The filibuster is a problem, to be sure, but the Senate has already passed the health-care bill and the House could simply ratify that legislation and send it off to the president.

In Monty Python, the bunny turns out to be a bloodthirsty killer. But Brown is no mythical beast. He's one senator with one vote representing a constituency that's far to his left. And he's up for reelection in 2012. Sometimes, a bunny is just a bunny. For Democrats to sacrifice their most important legislative priority on the altar of Martha Coakley's underperformance in Massachusetts is so absurd even the Python crew wouldn't believe it.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 20, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
 
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Comments

and yet, that appears to be what's happening.

nothing has really changed. they lost 1 seat. so what? they still have a 19 seat majority, and a majority twice that size in the house. and yet, they refuse to do anything with it.

the only thing that has changed is that dems lost the will to get it done. they still have the numbers, they still have the ability. they just lack the will.

and that is unacceptable. if they let health care reform die, they deserve to be wiped out in the midterms.

Posted by: freaktown | January 20, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats are going to have an easier time defending seats in Minnesota and Pennsylvania than Republicans will defending a seat in Massachusetts."

That is so true. It's why, as a long-time Republican--because that's the best party from which to vote against Democrats from--I am much more excited by the Democrats reaction to the Brown victory than the Brown victory itself. It's always nice to win a seat that has long been held by the opposition, sure. But it's one vote, and it'll be a hard seat for Republicans to hold onto. The election showed evidence of an unmotivated base and a terrible candidate, and certainly the Democrats can fix that by 2012. And if not by then, then by 2018. Scott Brown will not hold onto that seat for 40 years. You can take that to the bank.

That having been said, I'm loving the Democrats right now. If they torpedo healthcare because of Scott Brown (and, to be fair, punditry and polling data), then that will kill two birds with one stone. It'll help demotivate the base, which ends with a political sea change in November, and cripples healthcare reform.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 20, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The fact of the matter is the bill stinks! Until the dems can see this they'll be lost.

Posted by: obrier2 | January 20, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure the best party from which to vote against the Dems is the Dems. You occupy a slot on the voter reg roles that way. If you vote in every election every year against them, you appear as a 4x4 voter, who, they will assume, is voting for them. You're wasting your time registered with the GOP. If you don't believe me, you can call some members of Congress who have perfected this strategy.

Posted by: eRobin1 | January 20, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

You just keep on writing posts on how irrational everyone is but you.
My background is in physics. When the facts don't fit my theories, my theories have to change.

Posted by: MikeR4 | January 20, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The facts do fit my theories. Are you denying that Democrats have a 19-vote margin in the Senate and much larger than that in the House?

The people don't. And if you want to understand them, you look to psychology, not physics, and psychology is well-acquainted with irrationality, risk aversion, and herd behavior.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | January 20, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

MikeR4:

Theory: Dems lost because they're just so unpopular!

Facts: Dems win five of the last six special elections, including a safe GOP seat. Dems have huge majorities in the House and Senate, elected by many, many voters.

Conclusion 1: They're not *that* unpopular, as compared to Republicans.

Conclusion 2: IT'S A REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION AND HEALTH CARE REFORM MUST GO!!!!111

I'm thinking #2 is pretty irrational; looks like you need to change theories.

Posted by: Chris_ | January 20, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

@MikeR4: By that line of reasoning, you're basically saying that clearly Copernicus was wrong because he said that everyone else's theory of planetary motion was irrational.

"My background is in physics." (LOL)

Posted by: blah1 | January 20, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

With all respect, Klein is delusional.

The "constituency that is far to his left" just elected Brown on the explicit and cornerstone promise to stop the so-called healthcare "reform." That is what we call a mandate.

And this mandate, as Klein agrees, came from a vote in a liberal bastion.

So, a liberal bastion just humiliates the Democratic Party for doing X by electing the guy who says he will stop X, and Klein is saying, "The Democratic Party should do more X"?

How about this: The Democratic Party's desire to take over the US health industry is massively out of step with the American people. This is manifestly true, hence the catastrophic polls for Democrats from coast to coast.

In 1994 the Dems barely held this same MA seat, while being wiped out across the country as punishment for trying to socialize medicine. In 2010, they actually lost that seat. If the Democrats keep playing this tune, they're going to suffer something way beyond 1994.

So, Republicans today join lefty Democrats and hope and pray that the Pelosi-Reid-Obama regime follows Klein's advice.

Posted by: SARileyMan | January 20, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Chris: "Theory: Dems lost because they're just so unpopular!" Could you try a slightly more refined theory, or are you picking a really dumb one so you can knock it down? How about something like, Dems are losing now because _what they are doing now_ is so unpopular.

"you look to psychology, not physics, and psychology is well-acquainted with irrationality, risk aversion, and herd behavior" Could be. Maybe irrationality and herd behavior was happening in 2008 as well. It's irrelevant, near as I can see. Congressmen are not being irrational. They are looking at the political environment, and seeing that there is a tremendous groundswell against what they are currently trying to do. Maybe you can breeze past zillions of angry Massachusetts liberals screaming, Stop Already!!, but members of Congress have a better ear.

And Democrats never had "a 19-vote margin in the Senate and much larger than that in the House", who were in favor of any particular health reform bill. It was always a matter of piecing together jillions of disparate points of view. By the end of the process, I think loads of Congressmen on the margins wanted out but couldn't justify it. Now they can.

Posted by: MikeR4 | January 20, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"They have a 40-vote margin in the House."

Ezra, I think you've been in spectacular form today, but you've said this twice now. The Democrats hold 256 House seats to the Republicans' 178. That's a 78-vote margin.

Posted by: thehersch | January 20, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Yep, don't sweat it.

You're the Black Knight, you're invincible.

I wouldn't change a thing. The 2010 elections will be a sweep for the Dems, you'll stay in power forever. So definitely don't change anything.

Posted by: gekkobear1 | January 20, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

It's the policies, stupid.

The American people have been rejecting Obama's policies for the last year. This is obvious to anyone with eyes. If the public was clamoring for Obama's healthcare takeover, his higher taxes, his exploding deficits, his spending sprees, his energy policy, his anti-business programs, or his provision of criminal-defendant status to terrorists, I think we would see some evidence of that. We don't.

Obama's policies have been rejected. If he keeps pushing them, the American people will soon conclude that he is the problem. So far, he's avoided that, but he's getting mighty close to it.

Obama, unlike a lot of long-time politicians, does not have a history for people to judge. From the standpoint of the American voter, his whole career in elective office has only been the last year. He is making an awful first impression as a leader. If not reversed, that impression will continue to harden and become fatal to his ambitions, both in terms of policy and re-election.

It is almost embarrassing that it needs to be said, but I will say it again: Continuing to try to pass unpopular policies that most Americans resent is not the way to recover or prosper politically.

What about that simple fact is so hard for the liberals to grasp?


Posted by: SARileyMan | January 20, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Obamacare can become law whenever President Obama casts his vote against taxpayer funding of elective abortion.

He says his plan will not fund abortion. It does right now. The Senate bill, as Senator Boxer points out, is just an accounting trick to make it look like it is not funding abortion.

The President told Planned Parenthood that "reproductive care is basic care". But then he told the American people and a joint session of Congress that his plan "will not fund abortion".

Ezra can adopt this winning position today if he chooses. Instead he opts to run interference for the abortion for profit industry.

"Reproductive care is basic care" is a 20% position in the United States. Feel free to scale that mountain.

Posted by: snannerb | January 20, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Whack that strawman, SARileyMan! Whack it good!

If the public was clamoring for tax cuts to the super-rich and the government in your bedroom, I think we would see some evidence of that. Oh, and if the public was clamoring for one party to behave like spoilt brats, I think we would see some evidence of that.

We don't.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | January 20, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Wrong Python sketch Ezra.

It should be "It's only a flesh wound" for the cognitive dissonance you liberals have.

Posted by: HughJassPhD | January 20, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

who would a thunk that Obama could have destroyed the Democratic unity that elected him in one year?

Amazing. How was he so successful?
answer: Bipartisanship, Corporate shilling and No looking back, for starters.


Gosh who'd a thunk Obama was a Republican in Democratic clothes. now we know.

"to the right until we hit that iceberg", says the captain of the Titanic.

Posted by: BernardEckholdt | January 20, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

@pseudonymousinnc:

Sorry, but if you open your eyes, you will see the rejection of Obama's policies. You may not like it. You may resent it. It may give you indigestion. It may cause you night sweats. Or you may be upset by it because you want some government goodies, and the building fury of the electorate against Obama's insane spending now threatens that. Who knows?

But it's true: the American people have rejected Obama's core policies. He's a tax-and-spend-and-appease president who has tried to govern in a way far different from how he campaigned. The false pretenses of his campaign are now coming down on him. The jig is up.

He's a liar who says one thing and, time and again, does another. He is a poor leader. He saw Americans nearly get killed in the sky over Detroit, and it took him three days to make even a tepid statement and that he only made because his chosen Homeland Secretary made a fool of herself. World leaders use him for a doormat. He's the laughingstock of our enemies.

The only people who fears Obama are the American Middle Class.

He's the handmaiden of the public employee unions, and the poster boy for the Chicago-style politics in which he cut his teeth and whose practitioners now surround in the West Wing.

Sure, he speaks well. That and change will buy you a cup of coffee. Words mean nothing unless supported by the truth. The truth, out of concern for the company it keeps, fled the Obama Administration a long time ago.

He promised unemployment would not go over 8 percent. It's now 10. He said he would govern with fiscal responsibility. He has tripled the federal deficit. He said he would be uniter, and I don't even need to point out the obvious failure and mendacity in that.

This is fact. The real Obama has been unmasked. He had his moment, and his moment is passing.

If I am, as you say, whacking at a straw man, it is only because your man is made of it.

Posted by: SARileyMan | January 20, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

we all like "holy grail", but when your allusion requires a paragraph like the one concluding this post that says "oh but this situation is the opposite of that one"... pick a different metaphor?

Posted by: rusty_spatula | January 21, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Please, keep plucking the poultry.

Posted by: member8 | January 21, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

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