Commentary Magazine


Elections Matter

For all the tough political talk, there is a certain reality that sinks in after a historic loss for a political party. The spin the day before the race no longer seems sustainable, and the members can no longer repeat the same talking points. Elections matter. And the one last night really did. Politico reports:

Republican Scott Brown’s upset win in Massachusetts Tuesday threatened to derail any hopes of passing a health reform bill this year, as the White House and Democratic leaders faced growing resistance from rank-and-file members to pressing ahead with a bill following the Bay State backlash.

Sure the White House political team is keeping up pretenses, but lawmakers are a different story. They’re on the ballot this year and have no desire to be the next victim of ObamaCare. So it shouldn’t be surprising that “several House members said Tuesday night that they had no interest in pursuing the most likely scenario for moving ahead with a bill — approving the already-passed Senate version of health reform in the House — and some said President Barack Obama should step back and start over.” The leaders suddenly find fewer to lead:

In fact, early signs of split emerged as the polls closed in Massachusetts — between leaders like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who said “the Senate bill is better than nothing,” and individual members who didn’t want to swallow the Senate’s version of health reform whole.

The risk for the White House is to see itself isolated and criticized by Democrats. Rahm Emanuel matters less than Evan Bayh and Bart Stupak. The latter are essential to passage of any health-care measure. And frankly, Obama matters less today than he did yesterday. His political coattails are nonexistent, and his agenda is toxic. When he implores congressmen to follow his lead, why should they listen?

In the next week we’ll find out if Obama is as “practical” as his spinners keep saying. A practical president would assess the situation, listen to his fellow Democrats, adjust course, and try to regain his political viability. An ideologue, an inexperienced and arrogant one, would push forward. We’ll find out which Obama is.

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