In what is the greatest political irony that I have ever seen, Ted Kennedy’s successor in the Senate may now become the single vote responsible for killing a health care proposal (Kennedy’s signature issue) that until now was almost a foregone conclusion.
There are a number of things that one could say about this massively significant event. But I will only say one thing here, and that is this: President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Reid now have the opportunity to throw out this health care proposal and do the following three things:
(1) Focus on the issue that matters most to Americans right now: jobs. Congress can stimulate economic growth, not by increasing government control over the economy (which is what 2009 was all about) but by allowing the market to do what it does unhindered by excessive taxation and regulation: grow and produce jobs. If the Democrats decide to table health care for a while and give attention to real economic growth, then the perception that they are using an economic crisis merely for the purpose of furthering a leftist agenda will largely evaporate.
(2) When the time comes, go back to square one on health care and build a real bipartisan consensus with reforms that actually will lower costs. The only way to do this is to empower individuals in their personal health care decisions and thereby force health care providers to compete for business. Big government solutions are not going to work, and it is clear that Americans do not want more government control over their personal health care decisions.
(3) Moderate the leftist agenda of 2009 and begin to govern from the center. Obama sold himself in 2008 as this kind of leader, but he has been anything but to this point.
From where I sit, this would be a wise course of action for Democrats that may help them rebuild the public’s confidence in them prior to the 2010 elections. However, having lived with Obama, Pelosi, and Reid for a year, I know full well what they are going to do. They are going to ignore Massachusetts and go full-steam ahead with their left-wing agenda. They are enslaved to ideology to the point that they have no political sense. Reid has almost certainly dug his own grave, which will become apparent in November, and Pelosi just might lose her position as Speaker of the House and be replaced by a Republican to be named later. And even though he won’t be up for reelection this year, Obama will likely find his power greatly weakened by shifts in Congress in November (even if Republicans do not gain majorities). In spite of all of this, however, I can almost guarantee that we will see no change whatsoever from this trio in Washington.
The real question is, will the rank-and-file Democrats in Congress continue to follow their leaders over the cliff? That is where the real significance of Massachusetts will be seen.