More Than Health Care: How Will Massachusetts Affect the Larger Democratic Agenda?

As Michael Isikoff reported on Declassified, Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown does not support President Obama's counterterrorism policies, while Democrat Martha Coakley does. Thus, Isikoff writes, "

But something Isikoff mentions in passing is especially important: Democrats, particularly moderate and red-state Democrats are moving toward Republican positions on sensitive issues, presumably to protect their re-election prospects. Consider, for instance, Sen. Lindsay Graham's (R-S.C.) amendment to prevent the Justice Department from trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York. Isikoff reports, "Graham—who lost a similar amendment by a 55 to 45 vote last November—insists he's got new support from Democrats who only two months ago backed the administration."

Now consider how reluctant Democrats might be of standing with the administration on national security, financial reform, or climate change, after the Democrats' shocking inability to easily dispatch a nude-posing, hokey truck-driving candidate in the most liberal state in the country. There's been a lot of talk about how Massachusetts will impact health-care reform. But I would bet, as Howard Fineman does, that the Democrats, having come this far on health care, will squeeze it through. The real question is what will happen to the rest of their agenda if they allow Republicans to block virtually anything with a mere 41 votes, and they cannot keep their most vulnerable members on board with the party platform.

For what it's worth, I think that is probably a mistake on their part. As Andrew Romano explains, Martha Coakley was a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign. Since the majority of Massachusetts voters approve of President Obama's job performance, and health-care reform, this should not be interpreted as a referendum on him or his policies.

Even if it were, the thing that voters want first and foremost from the party in power is a sense that they are governing capably and confidently. That's why President Bush won reelection despite widespread public disapproval of his economic, and to some extent, foreign policies. And that's why the failed Social Security privatization effort and the slow, careless response to Hurricane Katrina were such devastating turning points for President Bush and congressional Republicans politically. Democrats are likely to lose seats in the fall regardless of what they do, because that is simply the cyclical nature of politics, especially during a recession. Their best bet would be to look authoritative at governing, and entrench some policies they believe in, rather than to create an election-year narrative of disarray and confusion.

You think Ben Nelson will see it that way? Neither do I.

More Than Health Care: How Will Massachusetts Affect the Larger Democratic Agenda? | News