Thursday, January 21, 2010

Voice of Reason

I took a stroll over to Daniel Larison's site this evening. I am glad I did.

For most of the past year, Larison's focus has been on matters of foreign policy—something I find mostly uninteresting. But tonight his front page is centered mainly on the events of this week, and he put together the most calm, rational and, in my estimation the most accurate assessment of the situation going into the special election, the aftermath, and what can/should happen next.

The best part? Remember my complaint about no one is discussing the fact that Massachusetts already has universal health care, or connecting it to the vote? Larison does. Repeatedly.

Yes, Larison is small-"c" conservative. But he's no idealogue. And he is also, in my opinion, one of the sharpest political observers around, and maintains an impressive degree of neutrality to party and politics that, in this day and age, is pretty fucking amazing. His posts are sprinkled with his opinion on matters, not partisan talking points, but what he believes. Some highlights [emphasis and snark, mine]:

On Hardball: Chris Matthews vs Howard Dean:
The damning thing about this segment for Matthews is that he did not even attempt to consider the evidence being presented [a shocker, I know. —Mr. F]. All that he needed to know was that Brown won, Brown opposes this particular health care bill, and therefore it is obviously an endorsement of policy views on the national level that even Scott Brown doesn’t hold. The conventional wisdom has already become entrenched that Massachusetts independent voters recoiled from “statism” or “big government,” when the survey data indicate that the independent voters who backed both Obama and Brown expected much more from Obama than the shabby corporatist compromise in the Senate, and they were angry enough about his underwhelming performance to go so far as to elect a Republican to demonstrate the depth of their dissatisfaction. As Matthews’ and Bevan’s reactions show, their protest message is one that virtually no one is going to hear or understand.

We’ve Got Ours, You Can’t Have Yours
As I suggested yesterday, Brown’s opposition to the current Senate health care bill is a product of “I’ve got mine” sentiment: Massachusetts has its own health care plan, so there’s no need to tamper with it at the federal level. Chait poses a reasonable question when he asks, “So why should the rest of the country feel bound to heed this decision?” The answer many Republicans prefer to give is that the voters have spoken and it has been “proven” that health care legislation is unpopular and politically toxic, but this claim doesn’t actually hold up very well. [Democrats, please pay attention, here] If Massachusetts voters’ disapproval of federal health care legislation is driven in large part by satisfaction with MassCare, which is what Brown’s win would suggest, this is obviously an argument in favor of passing a health care bill in order to win the kind of popularity that MassCare already has. The very “parochial” defense Brown has mounted drives home that most Massachusetts voters apparently like universal or near-universal health insurance coverage mandated by government, which is not really a “wake-up call” telling Democrats that the public will destroy them if they pass a health care bill. The experience of at least the last forty-five years tells us that the public tends to like specific government programs and never wants to reduce or eliminate them [...]

Whether this federal health care legislation or MassCare is good public policy is a different question. Obviously, I think they aren’t because they are unsustainable and unaffordable, but that isn’t my point here. The core of the Republican argument right now is that most people don’t like the health care bill, Brown’s election shows this, and therefore Democrats should give up. [...] It is understandable why they would say this, because we all know that the measures instituted by federal health care legislation will rapidly become popular and politically untouchable.

The disillusioned among us would do well to digest that post (and the comments) in its entirety. And I wish every chickenshit Democrat in Congress whould have it read to them repeatedly as they sleep. Those two posts go a long way to shift some of my blame and anger towards the voters in Massachusetts to the feckless pussies in the state party and D.C.

Learning The Wrong Lessons
Tedisco [NY-20], Hoffman [NY-23] and Coakley have something important in common: all of them had every advantage in terms of party registration, funding and and voting patterns, and they squandered all of these. As a result, two solidly Republican districts are now represented by Democrats (Owens and Murphy) and one of the most politically liberal states in the country will have a Republican Senator. There is a pattern, but it is not one that fits self-congratulatory narratives from either party. Parties and candidates that exhibit feelings of entitlement and/or disdain for the voters, the places they live and the issues that actually matter to them will be voted down regardless of how those electorates voted in the past.

Caught in the Loop
Democrats have convinced themselves for years that the public overwhelmingly favors “health care reform,” which they pretty readily identify with their own ideas on what that reform should be, and now Republicans have convinced themselves that the public will not stand for passage of a health care bill. My guess is that both have been wrong in different ways, but the GOP is probably misreading the situation even worse than the Democrats. Republicans are betting heavily that a bill that is passed this year but which will not take effect for several more years is going to precipitate a massive public backlash in their favor. Democrats are assuming that the voters who handed them 14 Senate and 50+ House seats over the last two elections are not going to throw them out of power for doing more or less what they said they would do. Whose bet seems smarter? [Note: This was written before the election results were known]

It appears Larison may turn out wrong at the end there, because—smart bet or not—the Democrats are about to take their straight flush and fold because the GOP is bluffing with a pair of fives. But his logic is impeccable. I should also point out that 'graph is like the toy surprise inside a post that's otherwise a vivisection of David Brooks. Good times.

That's all for now. If you're like me, that is a refreshing and bracing read. I would feel completely rejuvenated if I could have hope Larison's predictions would come true—I think he's right from top to bottom. If more Democrats and voters could think like this we'd be home free. Unfortunately, we legislate with the worthless Democrats we have, not the Democrats we WISH we had.


Bob said...

Great post! Good quotes, nice conclusion. You're a decent read Mr. Furious.

steves said...

Thanks for the heads up. I need to add him to my list.

Mr Furious said...

When he's writing about a topic that interests me, I think he's one of the best reads on the internet—even if he's coming at it from the other side.

He is truly reality-based. I don't always agree with his view/opinion, but I can rarely dispute his observations.

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