Jan 20th 2010

Saving Health Care After Coakley

by Dylan Loewe

Dylan is a regular op-ed contributor for The Guardian

Over the next 24 hours, there will be plenty written about the ineptitude required to lose a Senate race in Massachusetts as a Democrat. There are simply an endless number of reasons to criticize Martha Coakley today.

That her campaign chose to go dark after the primary rather than running ads; that Coakley herself did only 20 events during the general election, compared to nearly 70 for her opponent; that when they did finally run ads, the Coakley campaign spelled Massachusetts wrong.

There were the shocking quotes from Coakley, one decrying shaking hands with voters at Fenway, the other calling Curt Schilling a Yankee fan. And of course, there was the Election Day memo from Coakley's advisers, who blamed the loss (in advance of the polls
closing) on the White House and the failure of national Democrats to pay the race due attention.

As a candidate, saying Curt Schilling is a Yankee fan doesn't just make you seem like you're out of touch; it means you're out of touch. As a political strategist, believing you can save your reputation by attacking the White House before polls have closed is proof in itself that you aren't very good at messaging, and should consider another career.

There is no sympathy to be had for Coakley. The laziness of her campaign, the lack of due care paid to the legacy of the senator that preceded her, the recklessness with which she put the entire Democratic agenda at risk -- none of it can be understated, dismissed or defended. There is no spin. Not any at all. Martha Coakley should be deeply, deeply ashamed. That isn't to say that she isn't smart and capable. But on the campaign trail, she was neither. And now health care reform, after nearly a year of fights and debates and compromises and struggles, is once again in serious jeopardy.

With Brown's win comes a set of very tough choices for Democrats. Within the next ten days, Brown is likely to be seated, stripping the Democrats in the Senate of that critical 60th vote. That leaves Democrats with few options. They could quickly pass health care reform before Brown gets to Washington. But that would have required that they already reached a compromise. They haven't. At this point, even if a compromise is reached tomorrow morning, there isn't enough time to get it to the CBO for scoring, get it back, and overcome the procedural hurdles to get the bill through the Senate once more.

The next option is reconciliation, but a reconciliation bill, as has been the problem since the idea was first floated, cannot include in it the critical insurance regulations that make up the bulk of the bill's value. And reconciliation, if used, will surely drag out the health care debate for a number of additional months, leaving Democrats even more vulnerable in November.

There is however, a third option, one that if used, may actually, shockingly, incredulously result in a health care bill that is better than it would have been had Coakley not lost Ted Kennedy's seat for the Democrats.

It's not the Senate bill. It's not reconciliation. It's both. The House could agree to pass the Senate bill, but with the caveat that the substance of their negotiations be dealt with later this year, during the reconciliation process. This does a couple of things: it allows liberals in the House to vote for the Senate bill they don't like, assured that in the very near future, they will be able to improve it. It allows Democrats to take a curtain call on health care, perhaps even in time for the president's State of the Union on January 27th. And most importantly, it presents the potential for creating a health care bill that is substantially stronger than it otherwise would have been.

As of yesterday, negotiations at the White House between the House and Senate were buffered in large part by the reality that any compromise would need 60 votes in the Senate. Given the difficulty of garnering 60 votes the first time around, the possibility of reaching substantive agreement on major changes was remote at best.

But in the new context, these compromise negotiations would require only 51 votes in the Senate, allowing House progressives to get a bill much closer to the one they had originally crafted and hoped for. And while the political capital might not be there for the effort, in this context, it might even be possible to revive the public option yet again.

This is not to suggest that things are better than they seem, or that the brighter side here is particularly bright. The Coakley loss is a severe one, and the consequences of that loss will reverberate through the rest of the year, perhaps beyond. The health care bill, while still passable, has come up against its most substantial hurdle yet.

What happens from here will be a long, hard slog. But still, in the end, we may get what Ted Kennedy fought for all along. Let us hope that Democrats in Washington move forward today in his name, on his behalf, and ours.


Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Feb 18th 2020
Extract: "In late 2019, Zogby Research Services (ZRS) once again had the opportunity to poll public opinion across the Middle East and North Africa about many of these issues that are of such critical concern to the region and its peoples..............One of the more intriguing results in our 2019 survey were the changes in Arab views toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Arabs still blame the US and Israel for the absence of peace and have little confidence that the conflict can be resolved in the near future. Maybe as a result of this despair, this issue now ranks low as an Arab priority. Also noteworthy is the fact that majorities in most Arab countries now say that normalization with Israel, which they acknowledge is already happening, may be a good thing. This development shouldn’t be overstated, however, since there is still no love for Israel. It appears, from our survey, to be born of frustration, weariness with Palestinians being victims of war, and the possibility that normalization might bring some economic benefits and could give Arabs leverage to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians."
Feb 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Global dissatisfaction with democracy has increased over the past 25 years, according to our recent report. Drawing upon the HUMAN Surveys project, the report covered 154 countries, with 77 countries covered continuously for the period from 1995 to 2020. These samples were possible thanks to the combination of data from over 25 sources, 3,500 national surveys, and 4 million respondents. Not surprisingly, the gloomy headline finding – rising democratic dissatisfaction – attracted the most attention. Less widely discussed, however, is the “good news” – that a small sample of countries has bucked the trend, and have record high levels of satisfaction with their democracies."
Feb 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "This is how dictatorships begin. As the US prepares for its next presidential election in November, it is every citizen’s responsibility rationally to examine Trump’s dictatorial impulses, which reelection would only reinforce. It is not safe to assume that he won’t go too far, or that he is too much of a “mediocrity” – as Leon Trotsky called Stalin (an assessment with which many Bolsheviks agreed) – to transform his country......Vladimir Lenin, himself a ruthless Bolshevik, wrote in 1922 that, “Stalin concentrated in his hands enormous power, which he won’t be able to use responsibly,” owing to traits like rudeness, intolerance, and capriciousness. Trump has all of them in spades. The more power he concentrates in his own hands, the dimmer the long-term outlook for American democracy becomes. His reelection could mean lights out."
Feb 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "Does this mean that the dream of European unity is over? Does the exodus of a member state obliterate the vision of Victor Hugo and Václav Havel? Does Europe now fit the description of what the great American president Abraham Lincoln called a house divided against itself? Not necessarily. History is more imaginative than we are. The EU still has the option of keeping Britain close in heart and mind. We can still benefit from our absent partner, by resurrecting the partnership through our actions."
Feb 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "There, no formal change from a republican system to an autocratic system ever occurred. Rather, there was an erosion of the republican institutions, a steady creep over decades of authoritarian decision-making, and the consolidation of power within one individual – all with the name “Republic” preserved.........Will the GOP-led Senate’s endorsement of this defense clear a path for more of the manifestations – and consequences – of authoritarianism? The case of the Roman Republic’s rapid slippage into an autocratic regime masquerading as a republic shows how easily that transformation can occur."
Feb 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "So all that is why Cramer is talking about the death knell of petroleum stocks. We probably agree on almost nothing else, but when people are right, you have to give them credit. He is right."
Feb 3rd 2020
EXTRACT: "........as the citizens of the remaining 27 states have observed the destabilising impact that the referendum decision has had on British politics, they have been inoculated against the desire to secede from the EU. Outside the UK, national-populist parties have moderated their anti-EU rhetoric and nowadays profess to want to change the EU from within instead of destroying it."
Feb 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Senators will soon decide whether to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump without hearing any witnesses. In making this decision, I believe they should consider words spoken at the Constitutional Convention, when the Founders decided that an impeachment process was needed to provide a “regular examination,” to quote Benjamin Franklin. A critical debate took place on July 20, 1787, which resulted in adding the impeachment clause to the U.S. Constitution. Franklin, the oldest and probably wisest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, said that when the president falls under suspicion, a “regular and peaceable inquiry” is needed."
Feb 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Britain will be celebrating its glorious independence from the complications of international cooperation at a time when the intellectual, political, and economic hostility between China’s communist leadership and liberal democracies is becoming ever clearer. If liberal democracy is to survive, it must stand up for itself. And we should be under no illusion: open societies under the rule of law, from the Americas to Europe, Africa, and Asia, are in China’s hostile sights. The West should not aim to encircle or pen in China. But liberal democracies cannot allow it to distort international norms in its own favor."
Jan 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Switzerland and Denmark have gone furthest into negative territory, both offering unprecedentedly low rates of -0.75%. The Swiss National Bank, which has kept its rate at this level since 2015, signalled recently that it intends to stick with this experiment and is not ruling out going even more negative. It has said that negative rates were boosting the economy and that the country’s fundamentals were not being significantly affected."
Jan 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "Electricity will dominate the future global energy system. Currently, it accounts for only 20% of final energy demand,......Without assuming any fundamental technological breakthroughs, we could certainly build by 2050 a global economy in which electricity met 65-70% of final energy demand,....."
Jan 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "With the world economy operating dangerously close to stall speed, the confluence of ever-present shocks and a sharply diminished trade cushion raises serious questions about financial markets’ increasingly optimistic view of global economic prospects."
Jan 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "Gibson’s diagnosis is supported by international attitude surveys. One found that most Americans rarely think about the future and only a few think about the distant future. When they are forced to think about it, they don’t like what they see. Another poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 44% of Americans were pessimistic about what lies ahead. But pessimism about the future isn’t just limited to the US. One international poll of over 400,000 people from 26 countries found that people in developed countries tended to think that the lives of today’s children will be worse than their own. And a 2015 international survey by YouGov found that people in developed countries were particularly pessimistic. For instance, only 4% of people in Britain thought things were improving. This contrasted with 41% of Chinese people who thought things were getting better."
Jan 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "........while over 80% of the ECB scheme buys government and other public sector bonds, a huge chunk still goes into corporate bonds and other assets. At the time of writing, the ECB holds €263 billion worth of corporate bonds – a very significant amount in relation to individual firms and the sectors in question. According to the ECB, 29% of these bonds were issued by French firms, 25% by German firms and 11% each by Spanish and Italian firms. As at September 2017, the sectors they came from included utilities (16%), infrastructure (12%), automotive (10%) and energy (7%)."
Jan 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, cars are increasingly like “smartphones on wheels”, so manufacturers need to have access to the latest patented 4G and 5G technologies essential to navigation and communications. But often the companies that hold the patents are reluctant to license them because manufacturers will not accept the high fees involved, which leads to patent disputes and licensing rows."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Recent polling from Pew Research demonstrates how the public’s attitudes toward the US and President Trump have witnessed sharp declines in many nations across the world. In Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East favorable attitudes toward the US went from lows during the years of George W. Bush’s presidency to highs in the early Obama years to lows, once again, in the Trump era. And in our Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling we found, with a few exceptions, much the same trajectory across the Middle East."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "In the absence of a declaration of war against Iran, the killing of a foreign official – by a drone strike on Iraqi territory – was possibly illegal. But such niceties do not perturb Trump. The evidence is that Trump’s decision was taken without consideration of the possible consequences. The national security system established under Dwight D. Eisenhower, designed to prevent such reckless measures, is broken to non-existent, with ever-greater power placed in the hands of the president. If that president is unstable, the entire world has a very serious problem."
Jan 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "It is possible that Trump’s reverential base won’t be sufficient to keep him in the White House past 2020. But such ardent faith is hard to oppose with rational plans to fix this or that problem. That is why it is so unsettling to hear people at the top of the US government speak about politics in terms that rightly belong in church. They are challenging the founding principles of the American Republic, and they might actually win as a result."
Jan 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "If anything has become clear in our recent Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling in Iraq, is that most Iraqis are tired of their country being used as a playground for regional conflict, especially the conflict between the US and Iran. In fact, our polling has shown Iraqis increasingly upset with the role played by both the US and Iran in their country. Majorities see both of these countries as having been the major beneficiaries of the wars that have ravaged their nation since the US invaded in 2003. "