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The Writing Is On The Wall. But Who’s Reading It?

Photo by jonjk

Photo by jonjk

The spin war over what happened to the Democrats in Massachusetts is still going on, but if common sense isn’t enough (delivering less than what Obama was overwhelmingly elected to deliver is too liberal for Massachusetts?), this poll makes an absolute mockery of the liberal overreach argument.

The Obama 2008 voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Coakley are strongly in favor of the public option, don’t like the current public-optionless Senate bill because it’s too weak, and don’t feel that the Democrats are fighting hard enough for healthcare reform.  They sound an awful lot like us, and I can’t remember the last time anyone at FDL said that Obama was too liberal and needed to compromise more.

And yet, here we have Democratic consultants like Mark Penn and Lanny Davis, and Senate Democratic caucus members Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh, Claire McCaskill, and Mary Landrieu insisting that Obama’s underreach is somehow too ambitious and scary for the people who voted for him.  Interestingly, Bayh is the only one of those Democrats who is actually running for office right now.

Fortunately, there are some encouraging signs that despite all the hard work of the party’s Grima Wormtongues, some Democrats have gotten the Massachusetts message loud and clear.  The House leadership is talking about using “sidecar” reconciliation to fix (most) of the shitty parts of the Senate health care bill.  Senate Democrats (probably not Bayh, McCaskill, or Landrieu) are at least thinking about how they might get around the filibuster that’s been killing them.  And someone seems to have left  Bernanke’s cakewalk out in the rain.

What this sudden-but-still-inconclusive flurry of activity suggests to me is that our elected officials value their skin more than they value spin.  It’s all fine and dandy to pretend that Brown’s victory means the exact opposite of reality, but not when it’s your own ass on the line.  It also suggests that maybe there is a tipping point where actual voters count more than money, where congresscritters realize that all the corporate cash in the world won’t save their seats if the American people know they sold them out.  Of course, it still remains to be seen whether all the Democrats’ talk is anything more than that – they talked a good game in 2008, too.

And what of Obama?  Sadly, I think he might still be in the talking-a-good-game camp.  He’s come out for more oversight and taxes on the financial industry, but seems content to passively leave the details up to Congress, as he so disastrously did with health care… and apparently plans to continue doing.  And he still supports the Bush appointee who missed the housing bubble and doesn’t seem to think that creating jobs is part of his.

I think Obama understands what happened in Massachusetts, but he’s still not ready to leave his comfort zone by cutting loose corporatist enablers like Bernanke, Geithner, Summers, and Rahm, insisting on some progressive core elements in health care and financial reform (i.e., “I will veto any bill that does not contain a public option/consumer protection agency”), and calling out Republicans for their role in driving the economy off a cliff and sabotaging its recovery.  Of course, he’s not up for election this year either.  Maybe he’ll start firing people next December.

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