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Wednesday, January 20, 2010  

Sack Up, Continued

Go read Athenae:

And I KNOW, okay, about how hard it all is, and how the rules work, but out here in the world where yesterday my family had a chance to not be screwed out of health care and today they apparently don't, I don't CARE, and neither does anybody else. If you are seriously buying the bullshit that people vote against politicians who are OMG MEEEN, if you are seriously taking Chris Matthews and his ilk at their word that it matters who is perceived as bipartisan, I would like you to go outside and hit yourself in the head very hard with something heavy.People vote for those they think are going to make their lives better, first. Second, they vote for people they think aren't pussies. And if you think it's any more complicated than that, you need to go back to People School. We ain't learned this by now, we ain't learning it, so goddamn STUDY.

And Yglesias:

If you think back to November of 2008, Democrats won a sweeping electoral victory that left them with 59 Senate seats, a majority in the House, and control of the White House. Then thanks to Arlen Specter Democrats wound up with 60 Senate seats. Now after an impressive win by the Republicans in Massachusetts, the Democrats are back to a majority in the House, control of the White House, and 59 Senate seats. The Democratic Party continues to be more popular than the Republican Party, and the President’s approval rating continues to be over 50 percent. Which is just to say that while losing the MA Senate seat puts certain objective constraints on what Democrats can do the most important constraints come from within. Nothing about losing an election forces you to bend to the will of the guy who won—just ask the Republicans who lost in 2006, then lost in 2008, then opposed everything Obama proposed, and are now thrilled to have 41 votes in the Senate. The option of responding to this setback with determination exists.

One way of looking at last night's results is that the Republicans won a seat that had been held by Democrats for 57 years in a strongly Democratic state. This augurs poorly for the party's national prospects this fall.

Another way of looking at it is that this was the first GOP Senate pickup since 2004 (seriously--two cycles of shutouts) and only the second outside of the Confederacy since 2002. And it leaves Republicans with 41 seats--the exact number they held a year ago when they were doomed and their policies had been totally discredited. It's the second-smallest caucus they've had in my lifetime.

There is just no excuse--no human reason of any kind anywhere--to just run away because of this. If the Hill leadership wishes to present itself to friend and foe alike as a preposterous collection of lightweights, poltroons, and straight-up bad actors, there would be no better way on earth to do it than decide that now's the time to give up on all that stuff they got elected to do and focus on proverbial monkey taxes.

I'm just a preacher who doesn't even have cable, but I know this much: we were never going to keep 60 seats, even on paper. Even if Obama the political super-genius hadn't decided that sitting senators and potential candidates from swing states would make the best possible cabinet appointments, even if the economy hadn't continued against the predictions of super-genius Larry Summers to stall out at 10% unemployment, even if AHIP and PhRMA had stayed bought on health care--even if all the cards fell our way, we would have lost that 60th seat somewhere along the line. People die, switch parties, run into scandal, make stupid mistakes. Primary electorates choose nominees as pale as boiled chicken. Voters get bored or fickle or distracted. Stuff happens.

And if the Democrats have decided that nothing short of 60 votes will suffice to get even long-overdue and watered-down legislation on the table, then we might as well all hang it up, go home, and let the tea party nihilists run the country into the ground already, because there is no freaking point. You win elections and pile up big majorities so you can do stuff that matters. This isn't about Frank Capra and Bobby Kennedy and finding that rendez-vous with destiny in your own heroically liberal navel; this is about being a grown-up and doing your job and taking the kind of basic risks involved in, you know, governing. I like Nancy Pelosi because she seems to get this. She knows that governing isn't about stockpiling a bunch of members who've shaken the paws of every tick-hound in Alabama like human trophies. It's about getting things done. If the shockingly deep-seated misogyny of the Washington press corps keeps underestimating her, fine with me (and probably with her). She was chosen by her constituents and her caucus to do a job and to a remarkable degree she's been able to do it: stimulus, fair pay, carbon limits, SCHIP expansion, health care.

Now she's got to herd up the cats one more freaking time, and she needs the Senate to not crap out on all of us. And guess what? That's what freaking politics is freaking about. It's about working to do valuable things in fair weather and foul. It's about giving your supporters something, anything to cheer for. It's about accepting the reality that no one is in office forever and no majority is permanent.

If the fudge-pants contingent of the Democratic Congress doesn't like that, they should find another line of work. As, indeed, many of them will this time next year.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 11:43 AM
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