Update: Now I feel dumb. It was such a given that the House and Senate bills would meet somewhere in the middle and we'd have to go through round two of this fight, that it never occurred to me that the House can just give up and pass the piss poor Senate bill. Which is better than a kick in the head, so I suppose that's exactly what they'll have to do.
I can't even process the Massachusetts election right now. Last night, knowing that all I would be able to do if I stuck around my computer was watch the recriminations fly on Twitter, I just went straight to the tub with a good book. Today, a little more steady, but if my thoughts are disorganized, I apologize. The explosion of different opinions about what this means are going to be overwhelming, but I'm a pessimist.
If the media is acting like this means the Republicans have won the Senate, it's because as far as the Democrats are concerned, they have. The paranoid in me tells me this is what they wanted---now that they can hide behind the filibuster, they can tell themselves there are no expectations that they'll get anything done. The result will be a bloodbath in 2010, because the public will not agree that you should let a minority party run the Senate. If the Republicans are going to own it, the logic will be, let them. Not that I think there will be a lot of switch voters. Just a lot of people who figure that voting for Democrats is pointless when Democrats let Republicans rule, even when they're in the minority. And so the base will stay home. We can scold them and tell them that voting isn't that big a deal, but unless you live in one of those rare states where early voting booths are stationed every ten feet throughout your town, it's a minor pain in the ass, like going to the post office. And that can be justified if you think it matters, but even the most partisan of us are having trouble believing it does. So why should your average voter care?
I see some optimism from wonky sorts about the fate of health care. I appreciate that it's physically and legally possible to go forward. That's why it's even sadder that the Democrats are going to pretend that they're out of options and give up. All their eggs have been put in the "avoid the filibuster" basket, so I fail to see why they're going to suddenly start seeing things differently.
No matter how watered down a bill is, the Republicans will filibuster it. And that's for two reasons: a) The Democrats will hear the word and buckle, instead of forcing Republicans to actually go through with the filibuster itself and b) Republicans have nothing to lose with the total annihilation strategy when it comes to the Democratic agenda. Nothing. They have everything to gain. For some baffling reason, Obama seems to think there's something he could offer at least a couple of peel-off Republican votes. I'm sure he's starting to realize that's not true, but he still doesn't strike me as someone who has realized why that's not true. And that's because obstructionism is a double win for Republicans. One, they don't like Democratic policies, so that's important, and two is that when Democrats are ineffectual, Republicans win. Not because of switch voters, but because the Democratic base gets demoralized.
Oh yeah, and because of swing voters. I don't really think most American voters, Republican or Democratic, are stupid. Most vote their resentments or their hopes (Rs the former and Ds the latter, mostly), or their financial interests (tax cuts or social spending). But those people are pretty consistent voters. It's the people who can swing an election that are dumb as bricks, and the Coakley campaign is a perfect example of this---it's upsetting that you're going to lose votes because of sports team affiliations, saying arrogant but kind of meaningless things, and other pointless mishaps. It's frustrating that enough people to swing an election are motivated more by dumbfuck things like that rather than passing health care reform. But you know, Republicans and the good Democratic politicians are willing to sweep those votes up, and Coakley wasn't, and the results were to be expected from that angle.
Here's my prediction of what will happen: Democrats will drop health care reform like a lead balloon, starting this week. They weren't able to move the ball down the field very quickly to begin with, and now they'll feel like it's impossible. Some of them, like the abortion boys Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson, have clearly wanted this all along, and will feel more empowered. Democrats will try to shore up their 2010 campaigns by running on obstructionism. The public will remember that Bush was able to run wild with a much smaller majority in the Senate and will decide the Democrats are liars and assholes for saying this. 2010 will be a bloodbath. Republicans will win possibly both houses of Congress, effectively bringing anything Obama might want to do to a halt, not that he was that bold to be begin with. Since the mortgage crisis is far from over, our economic turnaround will be short-lived indeed---most people will never know the news said it happened---and things will get worse. Obama won't be able to do much besides hand the people who ruined our economy more money to flush down the toilet, because Republicans will block anything that actually puts money in the pockets of people who need it the most. Jane Hamsher will be blamed, and the media will demand that Democrats move to the right.
In 2012, if we're lucky, Obama's charisma and a lack of decent Republican candidates will put Obama over the finish line. If not, then the next disaster train of a Republican administration finishes the job Bush set out to do of destroying this country starting in 2012. Or they start off that job in 2016.
Or the Democrats wake up. *pulls self off the floor after hysterical sobbing laughter* Hey, maybe they'll prove me wrong. I've seen strange shit that you couldn't predict in my time. I wouldn't rule out that Robert Downey Jr. emails me a link from the NY Times tomorrow, either.