Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Writing at PJM, Rick Moran tells us he's not as thrilled as his ideological soul mates:

I detect a certain giddiness on the right -- something to which I am not immune -- regarding Scott Brown's impending victory today in Massachusetts. But, like the slave who stood behind the Roman generals in their chariot as they received the adulation of the crowds during their triumph and whispered “Remember ... thou art but a man” constantly into their ears, so too must I whisper in the ear of Republicans today: "Remember ... Dick Thornburgh in 1991." From Pollster.com:

I am sure that there are other example, but the one that stands out for me is the victory of Democrat Harris Wofford in 1991. Wofford, appointed earlier that year to fill a vacant Senate seat, began as a virtual unknown and began trailing by more than 40 points against popular former Republican Governor Dick Thornburgh. Although the final round of public polls showed the candidates running about even, Wofford's momentum helped carry him to what turned out to be an eleven point victory margin (55 percent to 44 percent).

Yup -- and Wofford's big issue was health care (he advocated universal coverage). He beat a much better known Republican, former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney general Dick Thornburgh, who underestimated him in the campaign.

And then Wofford lost his reelection bid in 1994, to Rick Santorum. In the interim health care had seemed like the right issue for Democrats to pursue -- but Bill Clinton, following Wofford's lead, pursued the matter and foundered, and the Democrats lost control of Congress.

Moran isn't worried that Brown's bashing of the health care bill will eventually mark him as a guy out of step with the electorate -- though maybe he should be. Here's what Moran worries about:

The base will be celebrating the destruction of the Democrats' liberal agenda. But the independents won't want to stop there. They may actually expect the GOP to work with the Democrats to get things done. Fixing the economy for starters; then, perhaps looking at some kind of health care reform that makes sense. Finally, with gas set to rise again, it may be prudent to come up with an energy policy beyond "drill baby, drill." These are three issues that independents may very well expect the Republicans to help deliver on.

But Moran understands his party:

... the the chances of Boehner or McConnell lifting a finger to address any problem facing the country are just about nil.

... there is the real danger that the charge of "obstructionism" by Democrats may carry a little more weight given the circumstances of Brown's victory.

... the question of whether the bulk of the American people will stand still for gridlock with the economy in the shape it is in today needs to be answered. The Republicans may want to think long and hard about that in the run-up to the 2010 midterms, when voters may decide that those who obstructed measures that might have lifted the economy out of its malaise without offering any realistic alternative of their own should not be rewarded with the keys to power....


Are you listening, Democrats? Because Brown, assuming he wins, isn't just going to give Republicans a cloture-proof superminority on health care -- he's going to give the GOP a cloture-proof superminority on everything. And the Republicans are going to use that superminority -- over and over and over again. And they're probably arrogant enough to think that will make voters like them.

And it might be enough -- if (as usual) the Democrats react to this election like terrified mice and the press recites nothing but GOP talking points from now until November.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

This is more or less what I was getting at last week when I wrote "Is a Coakley Win Even Worth It for the Democrats?" I wasn't rooting for a loss -- I was just saying that a Brown win could make Republicans seem partly responsible for the state of the nation in a way that wasn't true all last year. Moran agrees.

But it won't happen unless Democrats get out there and call Republicans on their obstructionism. It's far from certain that they'll have the sense to do that.

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