I had a big post breaking down the potential ramifications of the Senate race in Massachusetts for either result almost ready to go when I had to put it down for a couple hours. Now the results are in and you might think that was all wasted.
Most of my conclusions ended up in the same place whether Coakley or Brown won.
In my desperate attempt to find a silver lining in what seemed likely, I ended up comfortable with the feeling that Coakley losing might actually be a good thing. No. I'm not going all FDL and becoming a "kill the bill" fanatic—I want the bill passed, and I'm starting to think the Republican upset might help that process.
Here are the things I think were an inevitable result of this election, no matter who won:
1. Bragging Rights -- The GOP declares the election a referendum on the Democrats at large and Obama in particular. The GOP smells blood in the water and is emboldened in their obstructionism and nihilism and ratchet up the rhetoric. Brown winning also makes their framing an easier sell, but even a narrow Coakley win would have been treated the same way.
2. "This is excellent news for John McCain." -- The media follows the GOP on No. 1. Since Brown pulled it out, they have a collective weeks-long orgasm. That is the result they wanted. It sets up the narrative for the year and the midterms, and makes their lives easy. These underdog and rebellion stories write themselves. But make no mistake: even a Coakley win would've been framed as a loss and a rejection of Obama, because it wasn't a blowout.
3. Massive Diaper Change -- Blue Dog and conservative Democrats shit their pants and run for the fucking hills on EVERYTHING. Funny how that works: A Republican loses? Then they weren't conservative enough, the party hunkers down and moves to the right. A Democrat loses? They weren't conservative enough, the Democrats abandon everything and run to the right like a goddamn bear is chasing them. This effect holds simply because it was close. Doesn't matter who won.
So what does all of that tell you? If Coakley had won 51-49 none of that would have changed. The only difference now is 59 Democrats instead of 60.
And. That. Shouldn't. Fucking. Matter.
This isn't the Republican party. The "60-vote super-majority" never was a given, and never would be. You don't think Evan Bayh isn't drooling at the chance to be the new Joe Lieberman? He just passed his first audition tonight by being the first Dem in front of a camera, scolding the party for drifting too far left.
For the sake of Argument, let's pretend for a moment Coakley had won:
The first order of business is Health Care Reform. Coakley's win sends the process right back into the quagmire of gutlessness and stupidity that has taken a a year to get us to this point—which is: still without a pasable bill. So, the existing Senate and House bills would go to conference, and there's no guarantee that what emerged would be as good as either current bill or that it would pass. In general, the longer it takes, the less likely it would pass, but in this climate, do you think after watching the bloodbath in Massachusetts the fence-sitters in the party are going to man-up or dither? The intra-party finger-pointing and second-guessing would be paralyzing in a conference.
And it would only get worse from there. Enough candy-asses are going to run to the right after a race this close, that 60 might be unattainable on any given legislation.
But, since Coakley lost, the mirage of a super-majority is exposed and the pursuit of 60 more futile, it might actually change both the tactics and the strategy from the Democrats. On HCR, the only way to pass the package now is to avoid the conference committee by eliminating the need to combine two bills.
Send the Senate bill as-is to the House, promise House progressives their concerns (mostly budgetary) will be handled in 50+1 reconciliation and have Pelosi gather 218 votes. It then goes straight to Obama's pen.
Failure to pass health care reform is not acceptable and the current scenario actually makes the process of enacting the legislation easier. Yes, it's a ballsier move, but by skipping the conference, the Senate vote has already happened—it negates Brown's 41st vote, or Lieberman's eventual stab in the back, etc.
If Reid, Pelosi and Obama are unable or unwilling to go that route and prevail, then I honestly believe they would not have gotten it done with Coakley's vote either.