Even as the stories pile up full of speculation as to how the Democrats would respond to a Scott Brown win in Massachusetts today —Politico’s is here, the Wall Street Journal’s here, the Washington Post’s here— the detailed portrait of President Obama provided in Game Change should be consulted. Though authors Mark Halperin and John Heilmann are dedicated Obama fanboys, they could not tell the story of Campaign 2008 without revealing the inner Obama, and the picture they produce does not suggest a willingness on the part of the president to change course even in the face of a voter revolt that has reached as far as deep blue Massachusetts. (My review of Game Change is here.) The President Obama of Game Change is stubborn and vain, and if he reacts to today’s vote has he did throughout Campaign 2008 to bad news, he will simply double down and contemptuously dismiss his critics even as he did Hillary and Bill.
Which means that House Democrats and vulnerable senators will have a choice tomorrow (and there are suddenly many more vulnerable senators than just Indiana’s Evan Bayh and Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln –do you hear footsteps Barbara Boxer?) They can indulge the president his ideological fancies or they can keep their jobs. The American electorate has spoken loudly and repeatedly and it doesn’t want Obamacare. Every time Nancy Pelosi or some other aristocrat of the left announces that voters will learn to like the new taxes and the reduced benefits, voters hear the condescension and the contempt, and their anger with the hard left leadership of the Democrats grows. The only sensible political course is to listen to the voters and retrench: Go back to the drawing board, focus on spending reductions and some tax cuts while waiting for a genuine bipartisan agreement on insurance reforms to emerge.
That’s what to do if you want to maximize your members chances of recovering in time for November. But the president, Pelosi and Reid will almost certainly persevere in the political equivalent of bleeding the patient. Conservatives and the GOP leadership would much rather save American health care, but there is a large consolation prize in being able to remind voters for the next 40 weeks that “Democrats refused, even after the vote in Massachusetts, to listen to you!” If they have to, Republicans in ever state will campaign on a pledge to repeal the deals, and on the arrogance of Democrats in the face of a thunderous message from the Bay State.
It will also be interesting to see if any of the special interests that supported Obamacare to the great detriment of their members –like AARP and the AMA– get the message or if their Beltway staff continues to insist that they did the right thing. Already Docs4PatientCare has sprung up as an alternative to the AMA and AMAC’s TearUpYourCard.com campaign is adding thousands of members to the rolls of an alternative to the not only discredited but now reviled AARP.
Focused appeals for funds from places like the NRCC’s ReverseTheVote.org campaign will continue to sprout up, and the campaign team that put together Scott Brown’s very effective online presence and fund raising effort will find themselves in great demand across the country even as Harris Wofford’s 1991 upset in a Pennsylvania senate race catapulted James Carville to the top of the consultants’ world. The after effects of Brown’s stunning race are going to be everywhere and very easy to see.
But this president is not the sort to listen to other people, or even the people. He’s going to demand his very destructive Obamacare, and in this demand he will be supported by the equally truculent Speaker and Majority Leader.
The interesting question is whether rank and file House members are willing to lose their jobs to indulge the president’s own understanding of his unique gifts and calling.