It's true that the Massachussets senate election was about more than healthcare even though Coakley tried to frame it that way. Voters showed Obama's influence in Massachusetts,, as in the rest of the country has waned (which shouldnt be surprising -- Obama was crushed by a landslide in Massashusetts by Clinton in the Democratic primary despite endoresements from both Kennedy and Kerry).
But many Republicans and conservatives have engaged in wishful thinking if they believe that the result indicates a move to the right. Coakley was a terrible candidate, and unemployment and the economy are big issues. But on healthcare reform,the real message from Massachusetts voters was not a rejection of healthcare reform as Joe Lieberman and some others tried to suggest. It was that the health care bill that came out of the senate was not liberal enough.
The senate bill was a vastly watered down version of what Massachusetts voters already have. And many voters interviewed before and after the election said as much and expressed a fear that the national bill that came out of the senate, if it was adopted, would give them less than they had now. And they didnt want to lose what they had. Which gave Scott Brown an ironic coalition of liberal voters as well as independents who didnt like the senate bill and were happy for him to pledge to shoot it down.
To underscore the point, Scott Brown, as a member of the state senate voted for the Massachusetts healthcare plan, the most liberal healthcare system in the country, a system than covers all but 3% of Massachusetts residents. So much for the Massachussets result being a referendum on liberalism versus conservatism. Or a rejection of healthcare reform.
The Democratic healthcare bill gave Brown a good case to make to the voters of Massachusetts that he would be the 41st vote against the senate bill, not as a vote against healthcare reform, but a vote to preserve the liberal coverage they already had in Massachussets.
And it wasnt just Massachusetts voters who didnt like the senate bill.Most liberal Democrats in the House never liked the senate version and even its supporters in the senate said "it was better than nothing". But to not for the people of Massachusetts.
And most of the country feels the same way. When polling is done on the current senate version of the healthcare bill, only 35% support it. But when the public option is included,support skyrockets to well over 50%. The most recent polls show 57-58% support a public option. The fact that Obama had buckled on the public option and dropped it is just one reason his approval ratings plummeted. And one big reason Coakley lost.
Opponents of health care reform like Lieberman choose to interpret polls showing a majority of people disapproving of Obama's handling of health care as a rejection of reform itself. It wasn't it. It was a rejection of Obama's knee buckling on the policies they wanted, the most important of which is the public option.
The question now is will Democrats get the real message on health care -- that dropping the public option is not an option and that what the country wants is a healthcare reform bill far more liberal than the senate version, something equal to if not better than the Massashussets system.
The Democrats still have options. Either kill the bill as Howard Dean suggested awhile ago and expand Medicare to cover all, or come back with another bill that has the public option and ram it through with reconciliation.
Its going to be up to congress to deliver on healthcare not Obama since he has already shown he can't handle it. Sharrod Brown, Senator from Ohio was on MSNBC saying that the healthcare bill floundered in congress for only one reason -- lack of leadership. He said it over and over, how the lack of leadership on healthcare was the problem. And he wasnt talking about Harry Reid. He meant Obama.
The real message from the Massachusetts election is that dropping the public option was not an option. Polls since the election showed that most people who voted for Brown supported the public option.
So now it's up to the Democrats in congress, especially the liberals, to take control, and understand what the bluest of blue states was saying and do something before its too late.
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