Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brown Won Because Dems Don't Care

That's right, I said it. The late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat went to a Republican Tuesday night in a Massachusetts special election because apathy is rampant within the Democratic Party.

I'm not talking voters -- there was apparently quite the turnout on Tuesday, in spite of poor weather conditions and the fact that voters never turn out for special elections. I'm talking within the party itself; if Democrats truly cared about securing this filibuster-proof super majority in the Senate, and working to make sure President Obama's agenda was realized, they would be putting up more effort than they have in the year since Obama took office.

My personal theory? Once President Obama was sworn in last Jan. 20, solidifying Democrats' hold on the House, Senate and White House. With 60 members in the Senate, conventional wisdom was that Democrats could do just about anything, and the Republicans could do nothing about it. And even if the Democrats lost a seat -- which was a possibility, given Kennedy's health and Robert Byrd's age -- they were probably sure they'd keep their 60.

Because let's face it ... who honestly thought Kennedy's seat would go to a Republican?

Complacency set in for Democrats, who thought they could milk voters' disappointment in the previous administration long enough to keep their majorities in D.C. Even as health care reform derailed, because some Democrats are less liberal than others, the party figured it would be able to pass Obama's signature initiative.

Even when Republicans won gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, Democrats assumed they were okay. There was no way voters would give control back to the Republicans in 2010 ... right?

If Tuesday night is any indication, wrong.

I won't pretend to know what Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts means for the 2010 midterms -- I'll leave that to the talking heads on cable. But it should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats to a) start finding better candidates, b) either back incumbents or find strong primary challengers and c) actually bring about the change Americans want now, rather than trying to acquiesce to the Republicans.

Give us the change we want now, because your seats in Congress are not necessarily safe. If a Senate seat from a state are reliably blue as Massachusetts can turn red, then no seat is a safe bet -- particularly when a lot of Democrats voted to Congress in 2008 are centrist party members hailing from traditionally-conservative states (i.e., Montana, Arkansas, North Dakota, etc.).

Democrats have been reluctant to use reconciliation to pass health care -- probably because they figure they could defeat a filibuster with their big majority in the Senate. But with Brown's win, reconciliation might be necessary -- which could play right into the hands of progressives, who feel such measures as the public option or a Medicare buy-in can pass through such a process.

But the Democrats have to do something; it's obvious now that they've been sitting on their hands for the past year, and there's a chance they'll pay the price for it come November. If President Obama thinks he's having a hard time getting his agenda passed now, he should see how it will be if more Republicans are in Congress.

Get with it, Democrats. Better now than in 10 months ...

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