Josh Marshall is Right, and Was Right in 2004

In the aftermath of the Massachusetts debacle, a lot of people are wondering what the hell happened.

The talking heads inside the Beltway are sure that it's because Obama is too Librul, of course, but I think that Josh Marshall talked about the core problem in August of 2004.

He was talking about the Bush-Kerry campaign, and he characterized it as follows:

Let's call it the Republicans' Bitch-Slap theory of electoral politics. It goes something like this.


Consider for a moment what the big game is here. This is a battle between two candidates to demonstrate toughness on national security. Toughness is a unitary quality, really -- a personal, characterological quality rather than one rooted in policy or divisible in any real way. So both sides are trying to prove to undecided voters either that they're tougher than the other guy or at least tough enough for the job.


One way -- perhaps the best way -- to demonstrate someone's lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves -- thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can't or won't defend themselves certainly isn't someone you can depend upon to defend you.


Hitting someone and not having them hit back hurts the morale of that person's supporters, buoys the confidence of your own backers (particularly if many tend toward an authoritarian mindset) and tends to make the person who's receiving the hits into an object of contempt (even if also possibly also one of sympathy) in the eyes of the uncommitted.


Only now, it isn't the Republicans bitch slapping anyone. It's the Democrats who bitch slap themselves.

Or as Zaid Jilani's southern ConservaDem friend says:

And can I say this? F*ck the Democrats. They couldn’t get shit done with 60 seats, why the hell would I care if they have 59? F%$# them seriously we deserve to lose Congress this year. And don’t bitch and whine about it either how much has changed since we took over in 2006? Ain’t s%$# as far as I can tell. We capitulated to Bush, then capitulated to Republicans and now are just capitulating to ourselves.

F%$# it dude, I mean Republicans get whatever the fuck they want with 50 seats and we can’t do fuck all we deserve to lose

("%$#" mine, "*" original)

Fundamentally, when we look at what is going on in DC, it looks like no one in the Senate or the White House is even trying to make substantive change. (Pelosi, at least, creates the appearance that she is trying to do something)

What's more, among the DC Dems, there has been near constant bitch slapping of the Party Base, whether it's the capitulation on the public option, the labor union insurance surtax, or the constant drum beat of how "the left" hates the Democratic Party because they want to primary DINOs (Democrat In Name Only) who have safe seats. The central campaign platform of the Republican Party is that government can't do anything.

The Democratic Party seems to try very hard to prove them right.

Cross posted from 40 Years in the Desert.

Weekly Pulse: What Does Coakley’s Defeat Mean for Health Care Reform?

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Last night, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to fill Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts. Coakley’s loss puts health care reform in jeopardy.

With Coakley’s defeat, the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. However, as Paul Waldman explains in The American Prospect, Coakley’s loss is not the end for health care reform.

Remember, the Senate already passed its health care reform bill in December. Now, the House has to pass its version of the bill. The original plan was for House and Senate leaders to blend the two bills together in conference to create a final piece of legislation (AKA a conference report) that both houses would vote on. Once the Democrats are down to 59 votes, the Republicans can filibuster the conference report and kill health care reform.

But if the House passes the same bill the Senate just passed, there’s no need to reconcile the two bills. This so-called “ping pong” approach may be the best way to salvage health care reform. Some of the flaws in the Senate bill could still be fixed later through budget reconciliation. It would be an uphill battle, but nothing compared to starting health care reform from scratch.

The second option would be to get the bill done before Scott Brown is sworn in. According to Waldman, there could be a vote within 10 days. The House and Senate have already drafted some compromise legislation, which Waldman thinks is superior to the straight Senate bill. If that language were sent to the Congressional Budget Office immediately, the Senate could vote before Brown is sworn in.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a statement last night that Brown won’t be sworn in until the election results are certified, a process that could take two weeks. Historically, the winners of special Senate elections have taken over from their interim predecessors within a couple of days. If the Republicans were in this position, they’d use every procedural means at their disposal to drag out the process. The question is whether the Democrats have the fortitude to make the system work for them.

Remember how the Republicans did everything in their power to hold up the Senate health care vote, including forcing the clerk to read the 767-page bill aloud? They were trying to delay the vote until after the Massachusetts special election. If it’s okay for the GOP to stall, the Democrats should be allowed to drag their feet on swearing in Brown.

Also, remember how the Republicans fought to keep Al Franken from being seated after he defeated Norm Coleman?  For his part, Franken says he’s determined to pass health care reform one way or another, according to Rachel Slajda of Talking Points Memo.

Incongruously, some Democrats are arguing that rushing to a vote would be a violation of some vague democratic principle. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) wasted no time in proclaiming that there should be no vote before Brown was sworn in. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), of all people, averred last night that the Democrats should respect the democratic process and start acting like they have 59 votes while they still have 60.

All this talk of  “respecting the process” is hand waving disguised as civics. According to the process, Scott Brown isn’t the senator from Massachusetts yet. According to the process, you have the votes until you don’t.

Talk about moving the goalposts. It’s bad enough that we need 60 votes to pass a bill on any given day. Now, they’d have us believe that we also need 60 votes next week. Webb and Frank are arguing that Brown’s victory obliges Democrats to behave as if Brown were already the Senator from Massachusetts. Of course, if Webb won’t play ball, it’s a moot point. The whole fast-track strategy is predicated on 60 votes. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly thinks that Webb effectively took the fast-track option off the table with his strongly worded statement.

Katrina vanden Huevel of The Nation argues that this historic upset should be a wake up call to President Barack Obama to embrace populism with renewed fervor. I would add that Obama was elected on a platform of hope and change. There is no better way to fulfill a promise of change than to reshape the nation’s health care system and provide insurance for millions of Americans.

Ping pong, anyone?

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

GOTV for Coakley RIGHT NOW

If you at all can, you need to help Martha Coakley win today in Massachusetts.  First of all, if you are a voter in MA and need a ride to the polls, please call (800) 485-0444.  If you cannot reach that line, try the following also: 617-681-0543 or 617-681-0526.  If you are not sure where to vote, you can find your polling place here.

Now, for GOTV.  We cannot lose the seat represented by the Late Great Ted Kennedy to a teabagger!  You still got exactly 2 hours to help.  DO IT!

There's more...

MLK Day open thread

The trend is not Martha's friend. I don't believe that it'll be a 10% blowout like Pollster shows, but at this point, the upset would be for Martha Coakley to win. Republicans would flip their wig.

Basically though, Mass voters have a history of liking the forced bipartisanship. Four of their last five governors have been Republicans. It's only Deval Patrick, which was Axlerod's first go at the hope-and-change narrative, subsequently used by Obama, which changed that equation.

Coakley is said to be releasing an ad that nationalizes the contest. I'll update with the ad, but this sounds like a good move; something that should have been done a week ago, rather than the poor and desperate negative assults over abortion and rape that didn't dent Brown, but did lower Coakley's approval ratings.

Also, I had mentioned this previously, and now see there's a poll to confirm my suspicions. Barbara Boxer is probably going to have a very competitive election in 2010 in CA. A ticket of Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer at the top of the slate for Democrats there will be vulnerable. Rasmussen is showing Boxer up over Carly Fiorina by 46-43, a mere 3 percent. By far, Fiorina is the strongest of the three potential GOP candidates.



Brown is wiping Coakley out on the SocNets:

As of Monday morning, Republican Scott Brown has 76,538 fans on his Facebook page. With polls opening in less than 24 hours, Democrat Martha Coakley has 14,441 fans.

On Twitter, Brown has 10,187 followers compared to Coakley's 3,514 followers. The total uploaded views for Brown's YouTube videos are 578,271 versus 51,173 for Coakley.

[UPDATE] Two more polls out. IA showing a 9% Brown lead, and R2K moving from a 8% Coakley  lead last week to a tie yesterday. My own calculations now predict Brown-Coakley-Kennedy at 53-46-1. I think we can expect a Ras. poll out tomorrow, and that's about it.

Brown favored to win

ARG now confirms the trend, showing Brown ahead of Coakley by a 48-45 margin. Yesterday, I had a virtual tie, at 49-49, but today it moves to Brown by a 49.5 - 48.5 - 2 margin over Coakley and Kennedy.

I see that Chris Bowers is holding out as this contest still being Coakley's favored, and not a toss-up. His numbers are correct, but an allocation of the undecideds, which is what I compute, leaves me to believe that Brown is now very slightly favored to win.

I just haven't seen any reason to believe that Coakley is stemming Brown's momentum. Certainly her seeming so out of touch to remark that Curt Shilling is a Yankee doesn't qualify (ugh). The internals blogged about by Jim Geraghty seem in line with the trend. Republicans are good at taking advantage of these sort of slips, seemingly on a daily basis by Martha Coakley.

Here's another prediction, based on ARG's and other poll findings:

Brown leads Coakley 94% to 1% among registered Republicans and he leads 58% to 37% among unenrolled voters. Coakley leads Brown 71% to 20% among registered Democrats. A total of 8% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans remain undecided.

Brown leads 54% to 39% among men while Coakley leads 50% to 44% among women. Brown leads 52% to 42% among likely voters aged 18 to 49 and Coakley leads 47% to 46% among voters 50 and older.

Contrary to the CW, I think a higher turnout is going to benefit Brown. That's Brown's strong lead among Independents and younger voters. Given this is a three-day MLK weekend, its unlikely to change. This latest mailer by the Coakley campaign smells of a desperation moment reached by senior campaign consultants of Coakley in the past week.

I also notice that Sean Paul Kelly is ready to walk away from the Democrats if they pass this horrendus HCR bill. You can't really blame him or the multitudes of like mind, given how disastourous the past year has been. Whether or not HCR is doomed to failure, if Brown wins, that may not be the worst outcome for Democrats up for re-election in 2010.

I remember the day when, not very many years ago, Democrats lost special election after special election, each time the netroots getting stronger through the defeat. The momentum built enough to help create a wave election in 2006. With a win now, and gridlock (bipartisanship) later, a Brown win could turn out to save a lot of incumbent Democrats (a bird now saves two in the bush).

If Coakley does win, then Obama is going to deserve the credit. The President has timed his visit well; and if she loses, well, Coakley was already behind.


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