The case for Obama wanting to lose the Mass. Senate seat

Politics is like an iceberg; the greater part is unseen.  Obama, Axelrod, and Emanuel are shrewd politicians.  A strong case can be made that they preferred, and even orchestrated, the Brown victory.  Here are a few reasons.

 1) Having 59 rather than 60 Senate seats is a better position from which to blame Republicans for their upcoming obstructionism, which as Lawrence O’Donnell, writing for Huffington Post, explains, does not require filibusters; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-odonnell/will-scott-brown-ruin-rep_b_426604.html

The way you "filibuster" a bill that you want to kill is offer an endless stream of reasonable sounding amendments that have to be debated and voted on. It's easy to come up with one amendment per page of legislation. That's why the Republicans offered hundreds of amendments during the Senate committees' debates on the bill. When the majority leader brings up a two thousand page bill, the minority would normally come up with at least five hundred amendments that could drag out the debate for several months. That's what the Republicans did in 1994 when they killed the Clinton health care reform bill on the Senate floor. No filibuster, no forcing the Democrats to clear 60-vote procedural hurdles, no forcing a reading to the bill, just an endless stream of reasonable sounding amendments -- so reasonable that some of them passed with votes of 100 to 0. And the Democrats, seeing this could go on forever, surrendered. Fifty-seven Democrats were defeated by forty-three determined Republicans.

2) Having 59 rather than 60 Senate seats provides a goal around which to rally the base for 2010.  The message would be that with 60 seats Obama was able to pass historic health care reform; with 59, Republicans preventing him from passing as much great legislation in 2010.

3) Having 59 Senate seats and being prevented by Republicans from passing a strong jobs bill creates a strong reason for pushing through a change in the filibuster rules, which would nullify Brown’s victory.

4) The Supreme Court is scheduled on Wednesday to hand down its ruling on Citizens United v. FEC, which, as Doug Kendall describes at Huffington Post, would allow corporations unlimited money on elections, and essentially kill our democracy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/doug-kendall/why-courts-matter-a-2010_b_418461.html.

Kendal Writes:

To see the significance of this, consider that in his historic run to the presidency, Barack Obama broke every political fundraising record, raising nearly $750 million from more than a million contributors in 2007 and 2008. This sounds impressive until you consider that during 2008 alone, ExxonMobil Corporation generated profits of $45 billion. With a diversion of even 2 percent of these profits to the political process, Exxon could have far outspent the Obama campaign and fundamentally changed the dynamic of the 2008 election, perhaps even the result.

Losing on Tuesday in Massachusetts casts the Democratic Party as the immediate underdog.  That’s a much better position from which Obama can fight back against this SCOTUS ruling by either having Congress draft legislation over-turning the decision or by the more nuclear option of creating two new Supreme Court seats.

Here’s the narrative;

Before Specter became a Democrat, and gave us that 60th filibuster-proof seat in the Senate, we were delighted with our super-majority in Congress.  The conventional wisdom was that the 2008 election, wherein Obama won by an electoral landslide of 365 to 173, and by a wider percentage (7 points) than any president since 1988, signified a strong mandate for change.  The pundits concluded that 59 Senate seats would be enough to pass sweeping changes.  They also predicted that if Republicans were to continue their obstructionist agenda, they would pay a heavy price during the 2010 elections.

Then Specter switched to our side (which might have been a Republican strategy allowing them to escape the obstructionist tag and thereafter be able to blame the Democrats for a host of ills) while filibustering everything they could.  During the 109th Congress, (2005-2006) Democratic Senators filibustered 54 times.  Then Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in 2006, and during the 110th Congress (2007-2008) the new Republican minority filibustered 112 times.  

If Coakley loses, we’re back to that very optimistic dynamic that was in play before we gained that 60th seat.  As we move from health care to jobs and other initiatives, Republicans can no longer claim that Democrats have enough Senators to pass whatever they wish.  Republicans are suddenly the obstructionist party again. 

Americans will want a very robust jobs program.  Republicans can either cooperate, and secretly hope that it doesn’t create enough jobs, or they can filibuster the jobs bills, and ensure that Obama does not create enough jobs.  Either way, Republicans will lose. 

Health care and jobs are very different issues in the eyes of voters.  They will not understand, or forgive, a Republican Party that kills jobs bills that are needed to put millions of Americans back to work. 

In 1932, when FDR came to office during a similar period of high unemployment and a very weak economy, Republicans attempted to block his legislation.  Between 1931 and 1937, Republicans lost 40 Senate seats (That’s not a typo. Not four, but forty) and 178 House seats (that’s also not a typo.  Not 17, 18 or 78, one hundred and seventy-eight) as their punishment by voters who cared more about jobs and a healthy economy than they did about Conservative Republican ideology.

As we get closer to the 2010 mid-term elections, we can expect Republicans to attempt to block Obama’s jobs, education, and other initiatives.  Because of that, by November voters will turn on them en masse.

Republicans do not learn very well from history, and because of that they are poised to re-experience their defeats of the early 1930s.  One can actually make the case that a Coakley loss makes these pending Republican defeats in 2010 much more likely than if Coakley won and Democrats were to retain the 60 Senate seat.  It seems quite possible that Obama, shrewd politician that he seems to be, had Coakley purposely take a dive.

Tags: Senate, Coakley, 2010 elections, jobs, Filibuster, amendment, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Citizens United v. FEC (all tags)

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