Thursday, January 21, 2010

Editorial: Why Brown’s Victory is Not the End of the World

Summary: Dave and Eric at WAYLA ponder the impact of the special election in Massachusetts.

Tuesday’s election in the Bay State sent a Republican to fill Ted Kennedy’s former seat. Needless to say, it’s been considered a devastating blow to President Obama and the Democratic Party.

To be sure, things would certainly be easier for the Democrats if they had a filibuster-proof Senate, capable of passing critical legislation in spite of an obstructionist minority party. But even with the GOP holding 41 seats, it does not mean the end of the world for Democrats.

In fact, it might prove beneficial for them, and for Obama’s legacy.

Following Scott Brown’s victory, Obama signaled that he would not move on healthcare legislation - a key factor in the Massachusetts race and the primary issue behind the slow pace of Congress - until the senator-elect was seated. The president also said he would meet with Brown to discuss the bill before it reappears in the Senate.

Can such meaningful legislation be passed when Democrats have to work with Republicans?

Skeptics readily say “no” to that question. In a Washington Post op-ed today, columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. claims the election demonstrated an inherent contradiction in what he calls “Obamaism”:

"As a candidate, Obama pledged to change the tone in Washington and restore amicable relations between the parties. But he also promised to accomplish large things, including a substantial reform of the health-care system, major action to ease global warming, and a reshaped and more responsible financial system.

At some point, Obama's ambitions were destined to collide with the views of a Republican Party fundamentally opposed to almost everything he wants to do. Obama could try to get big things done or he could work easily with Republicans, but he could not do both."

During his campaign, Obama often spoke about skeptics, critics, and nay-sayers as well.

In 1982, President Reagan was confronted with big losses in Congress to the Democratic Party. In 1994, President Clinton saw Republicans take control of the House for the first time in a generation. These presidents regrouped, shook it off, and worked with the opposition.

Under Reagan, the country saw a defense build-up that scared the Soviet Union, all the while not neglecting domestic priorities. Under Clinton the country pulled out of record deficits and created record surpluses, all the while keeping the economy strong. Plus they both got re-elected the very next cycle.

These were their legacies, and it could be Obama’s too.

There is no shortage of study on why Americans prefer divided government. They do not like the idea of one party being drunk on power.

Well, 2008 was one hell of a wild party, and on Tuesday Democrats began to sober up.

This is important if the Democrats want to hold on to power. For six years the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, passing remarkably poor policy with their dominance. The way they saw it, if voters approved of what you said, they’ll automatically approve of what you’ll do. Karl Rove added the fuel to the fire, claiming the Republican Party would have an unmitigated era of electoral dominance.

Democrats need to steer clear of this sort of arrogance.

Now, we’ll never cheer for a Republican to win. Nor can we be certain that Scott Brown’s place in the Senate will make anything better for anyone. But Brown’s victory is not the worst thing that could happen to the Democratic Party. We should be grateful it happened now, giving us time to learn our lessons before November.

Don’t think of his upset as the end, think of it as a new beginning.

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