What Are Democrats Saying?
I'm not talking about your Bayhs and Liebermen; I mean actual Democrats. Before the voting ended, perhaps anticipating the inevitable, Alan Grayson (D-FL) hit the nail right on the head without gratuitously mentioning any names. In a follow-up to his HuffPo OpEd of a few days ago, he said we need a "different kind of Congress."
What we HAVE now is government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists.
What we WANT now is government of the people, by the people, and for the people... We want our elected officials to spend their time seeking solutions for ordinary people-- jobs, health care, education, energy, and so on. Instead, so many of them spend all their time groveling for $5000 PAC checks from their true masters, the lobbyists. But you've spelled out the alternative.
And that alternative has a name: People Power. The power to fuel a political campaign with small contributions, phone calls, knocks on the door, and even bumper stickers. Lobbyists can't match that.
Together, we are creating and demonstrating a whole new paradigm of government. A government in which our elected officials know that their best shot at reelection is not catering to lobbyists and selling favors, but rather helping people, inspiring people, and leading people toward a better life for all.
Joe Sestak reacted more directly to Coakley's defeat, by takes the same, more or less, populist tone as Grayson:
One year after President Obama's historic election, we have lost the seat of Senator Ted Kennedy and have seriously jeopardized his life's work of seeing that all Americans have access to health care. Back-room political dealing in the Senate delayed this bill, weakened this bill, and tarnished it in the eyes of the American people. The message to Democrats is clear. People have had enough of establishment politics on both sides... The people are looking for a new generation of accountable leadership. We must do what we were elected to do: get rid of the old politics of Washington and the Senate and get to work for America's working families.
The female Rahm Emanuel (D-FL), just the kind of Machiavellian backroom slime everyone is complaining about, couldn't wait to run in front of some microphones to blame Coakley for her own loss:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said late Tuesday that much of the Democrats' loss in Massachusetts should be chalked up to their candidate, Martha Coakley.
Wasserman Schultz, in some of the most direct on-the-record comments blaming Coakley, noted Democrats have a good special election history and laid the blame at the feet of Coakley.
"Quite a bit of this loss can be attributed to the campaign," Wasserman Schultz said on MSNBC. "The buck stops with the candidate, at the end of the day."
A somewhat more trustworthy and authentic voice, Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was one of the only elected Democrats to point a finger at Obama and his Administration:
"We started out from the place that the White House said, ‘We’ll accept anything. If you get 60 votes, we’ll take anything,’" Weiner told reporters. "There was a basic decision made to let the Senate write this bill in any way they thought they could to get 60 votes without any true, muscular leadership on the part of the White House," Weiner told reporters.
"Their argument has been, 'This is only way we get 60, okay?' Well, now we have 59. So, thank you," Weiner said.
Weiner, a liberal who has been critical of the healthcare legislation's steady move toward the political center in recent months, lashed out Obama for not fighting for a proposal to create a government-run public option insurance program and suggested the president is out of touch.
"There was a moment in late August, early September where public option was going up and the president’s numbers were going down because the American people learned for themselves what they wanted and were disappointed that they didn’t have a president leading," Weiner said.
Congress should walk away from the entire healthcare reform campaign, Weiner contended. "It’s not the end of the world. Look, we can come back to healthcare," he said. "It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to step back and say, look, we’re going to pivot to do a jobs thing. We’re going to try to include some healthcare pieces in it."
Coakley's pollster-- also the pollster we use at Blue America-- hit it out of the park when she explained the populist outrage in Massachusetts turning against Democrats: "Scott Brown... became the change-oriented candidate. Voters are still voting for the change they voted for in 2008, but they want to see it." People aren't stupid. They see that Obama's administration, like Bush's, is "delivering more for banks than Main Street."
But the best critiques of what happened yesterday are-- as usual-- coming from the grassroots, not from Inside-the-Bubble. Marcy Winograd, the progressive Democrat running against Blue Dog Jane Harman, could well be swept into office on the same kind of tide-- although of a more enlightened variety-- that helped Scott Brown. On the surface she blames overnight bank bailouts and mandated health insurance for what happened last night. Her perspective:
Unfortunately, the Republicans were able to craft Brown's campaign as an insurgent struggle for the working people against ever-intrusive big government. All they had to do was point their finger at overnight bank bail-outs & mandated private health insurance, then scream about corporate welfare and attacks on individual freedoms. Too many Democrats stayed home, no longer energized by the possibility of change, only deflated by the politics of appeasement. We need the Democratic leadership to keep the keys to our treasury, rather than allow the banking, health insurance, and big pharmaceutical interests to raid it under the banner of the Democratic Party. If we stand for the people, the people will stand with us. Campaigns for progressive congressional challengers offer the greatest promise for re-energizing the base and mobilizing Democrats to vote in mid-term elections.
Washington faces the danger of drawing the wrong conclusions, of believing that the current Democratic Party leadership must abandon a progressive agenda for labor rights and immigration reform and, instead, bow to the most reactionary forces in American politics. Quite the contrary. The Party must redefine itself as the voice of working people, of immigrants, of women, of the populist.
On a practical level, the Democrats need Plan B for providing quality and affordable health care. Where is the other bill? I keep waiting for it-- for the alternative that isn't 2,000 or 3,000 pages, but just a simple paragraph or sentence: Expand Medicare to begin at age 55... and require health insurance companies to drop pre-conditions.
On the economic front, now is not the time for retreat but for a strong offensive against unemployment. We need a Green New Deal, something along the lines of the WPA during the Great Depression; a new incarnation to fix our infrastructure, develop renewables, and construct mass transit. For the Democrats to bounce back, they need to put America back to work.
Across the country in a rural, exurban Florida district Doug Tudor was making a similar point:
Last night, we Democrats lost the U.S. Senate seat that had been held for nearly five decades by America's Senator, Ted Kennedy, and his brother, John F. Kennedy, before him. Shame on us.
Shame on us for not more actively highlighting the many areas where we Democrats help America's working families. We are the party that wants to reform healthcare. We are the party that wants to provide quality education to all children. We are the party that respects the rights of all Americans-- women, GLTB, and minorities. We are the party that demands the rule of law, even in the face of horrendous enemies.
We are the majority party, no matter what any single election might show. We need to exercise our majority power so that the Americans who benefit by our policies will fully understand which party is consistently waging the fight on their behalf. We need to ensure all Americans understand there is only one party, the Democrats, who are on their side.
The election of Scott Brown as the junior senator from Massachusetts will result in many Democratic philosophical quandaries. We should never, though, come to the conclusion that Progressive politics suffered a defeat. As our friend, Alan Grayson, has declared "If the only choice the people have, is between a Republican and a make-believe Republican, the voters will always pick the real deal." We have to continue to press our Progressive agenda, as it is the only way America will move forward to truly fulfill America's mandate as the "glimmering city on the hill."
There's a way to harness the demand for Change that is sweeping the country, a way that insures it isn't only a teabagger phenomena. It's why Blue America started Send The Democrats a Message-- and it's why Marcy Winograd and Doug Tudor are on that list. Please take a look.