Here we are, just one year after Barack Obama was inaugurated, and the Democrats have made a mess of things. While there have been many accomplishments since the President took office (as I mentioned in my previous post) the Democrats in general, as a group, don't seem to know how to run things once they're in charge.
The latest example of their ineptitude is Massachusetts. They took Senator Edward Kennedy's vacant seat for granted, ran a less-than-stellar candidate who went on vacation during a large chunk of the latter part of the race, and didn't get worried about the race until it was too late.
Now, the magic 60-vote filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate is gone, and the health care bill is in peril.
TomCat over at Politics Plus has a great summary of what happened and why, and what the Democrats will need to do to pull their chestnuts from the fire.
As he points out, the problem is bigger than just Massachusetts and just the health care bill:
"When Barack Obama campaigned for President, he promised 'bipartisanship' and 'change we can believe in'. Readers of the previous incarnation of this blog will remember that I repeatedly said that the two are mutually exclusive. One cannot effect change while attempting bipartisanship with an entity that refuses to compromise on anything. Obama had a choice. He could choose bipartisanship or change, but he tried to have both. The result was “business as usual”, not “change we can believe in”. Now I’m not saying that Obama accomplished nothing. He accomplished quite a lot. But his attempts at bipartisanship foiled the major items on his agenda."
Although I'm not a fan of Peggy Noonan, she has summed up the President's problems pretty well in her recent column. Basically she says that President Obama has misread the mood of the country and is not listening to people's biggest concerns.
"There is a disconnect, a detachment, a distance between the president's preoccupations and the concerns of his people. There's a disconnect between his policy proposals and Americans' sense, as expressed in polls, of what the immediate problems are."
At a time when the economy and job losses are paramount in people's minds, the Democrats have gone full tilt toward health care reform, which is kind of esoteric to most people. They want a concrete feeling of security, that jobs are coming back, that the economy is on track and all is well so they can start buying things again without feeling nervous about it.
While President Obama has stabilized the economy, he isn't getting credit for it, since he isn't talking about it as much as he's been talking about health care. And many people are still out of work and unemployment is still high. As the sign on the wall during Bill Clinton's presidential campaign used to say, "It's the Economy, Stupid!"
The President can still help salvage the midterm elections if he is able to focus on the economy, make people feel as if he is on their side, and prove he is listening to them.
Congress, in the meantime, will need to be working to save the health care reform legislation now that they don't have 60 votes. It is crucial that they accomplish something - even if they have to scale it back. (In fact, that might be an improvement - get some reforms in without the baggage and earmarks that were added to the bill to get the 60 votes).
Because if it doesn't pass this will be a huge setback for the Democrats and a rallying point for Republicans in the fall.
Of course, if it does pass and is unpopular, the Republicans will use it as a rallying point in the fall.
Democrats, as usual, are between a rock and a hard place - and as usual will probably be allowing the Republicans to define them to the American people.
It's going to be a long year.