THINKING FOR OURSELVES
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Jan 31, 2010
One year into the Obama presidency, the Democrats managed to lose the most Democratic Senate seat in the country. Until the last weeks of the campaign, they didn’t even see it coming. They had viewed the election as simply a formality to fill the vacancy caused by Senator Kennedy’s death.
Too late, the Democrats realized they were in trouble. In spite of the last minute efforts of Bill Clinton and President Obama, the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley went down to a resounding defeat by a little-known Republican insurgent, Scott Brown.
The most immediate effect will be to deprive the Democrats of their filibuster proof majority, an advantage they have done little with, and will most likely stop the health care bill.
The response from the Republicans has been joyous, although they, too, were taken by surprise at Brown’s victory and the support he was able to garner from the tea-bagger movement.
In essence, both parties are severely out of touch with what is going on in America.
Independent voters, owing allegiance to neither party, are fed up.
Independent voters were crucial to the 2008 Obama victory. But over the past year they have been moving away from the Democrats. This fall in the Virginia governor’s race, they gave the Republicans a victory, dropping away from Democrats by 16 points. In New Jersey it was by 21 points. In these two races independents went 2 to 1 for Republicans. In Massachusetts they went 3 to 1 for the Republican, Scott Brown, in one of the highest voter turnouts for an off term election in 20 years.
This is a resounding rejection of the direction of the country. Much is being made of this. About the only thing anyone agrees with is that voters are angry.
But there are some exit polls we should look at carefully. First the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health noted that in November 2008 Obama carried white voters without college degrees by 57% versus 42% for his opponent. Brown carried 65% of the same group with only 37% going for Coakley.
This group of white, working class voters is clearly skeptical about much of the Obama administration’s direction. 50% of all voters, down from 63% in November 2008, said that government should do more to solve problems for the white working class.
Moreover, the Brown campaign made an explicit pledge to stop the Obama health care plan. Exit polls showed 52% of those who voted opposed the bill, and 42% cast their ballots with the specific intention of killing the Obama plan.
Massachusetts, of course, has one of the best health care environments in the nation, providing near universal care. Its model has been used to help shape the current bill. So it would be foolish to think votes rejected the idea that we need health care reform or that we have an obligation to support the most vulnerable among us. Rather, people are fed up with what has been a leaderless effort characterized by back room deals, concessions to every small-minded politician and special interest group from Big Pharma and the insurance companies to labor unions. After nearly a year the House and Senate have produced a bill that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer can only call “better than nothing.”
For independent voters big government means supporting big business from Wall Street bankers to out-of-touch auto execs.
The Massachusetts election is more than a wake-up call to the political establishment. It is a call to the rest of us that we cannot expect national politicians to take care of our neighbors or our families. For this we have to organize ourselves to create healthy communities.