There is very little upside to the election of a Republican far right senator to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) for Democrats, progressives and reformers. My list is very short: (1) everyone should now understand that we never had a real workable Senate Super Majority to begin with despite all the media hype, (2) watering down progressive legislation has now been shown to produce electoral defeat for Democrats and (3) Democratic candidates at all levels can now clearly see that they will suffer if Democratic House and Senate members do not start acting more aggressively in opposition to Republican actions and spin.
The Senate Democrats should never let Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) caucus with them. Lieberman was rejected by Connecticut Democrats at the polls. He was not elected as a Democrat. He often opposes the Democratic legislative agenda in the Senate. Lieberman supports and campaigns for Republicans. Letting Lieberman join the Democratic caucus raised unrealistic expectations without adding his vote behind the legislation Democrats were trying to pass! For Democrats, the fictional 60th Senate Democratic member illusion was a “lose, lose” proposition.
Of course, some elected Democratic senators remain unreliable votes. Neither Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) nor Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) are guaranteed yes votes on most progressive legislative issues. It is obvious that relying on a 60-member Super Majority to pass legislation is and always will be a mistake. A simple majority vote of Senate members can reduce the number of senators it takes to end a filibuster. I suggest moving to 55 instead of the current 60, as a reasonable compromise, unless Senate Republicans stop threatening to filibuster everything Democrats want to do in terms of passing laws and budgets. Ending filibusters entirely would be a better approach.
Watering down health care reform left the Democratic base discouraged for basically nothing in return. Republicans remain devoted to defeating all real health care reforms. Corporate Democrats filled the Senate version full of compromises that left independents unhappy with the results. If we had no filibuster threat, the Senate could have given us a much better product to sell to the voting public.
Republicans can be counted on to do everything possible to disrupt debate and progress on legislation in the Senate. It pays for them. It helped defeat great Democratic candidates in state and local elections in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia in 2009. With the election of Scott Brown to the Senate in January 2010, the Republicans smell blood. Their shark instincts are in full attack mode.
Republican tactics and spin make bipartisan compromise basically impossible! It is time to tell the public to forget it and why!
Democrats should never have let the idea that “Obama and the Democrats own the economy” to gain traction. Anyone with even a little bit of honest understanding of how an economy operates should have been responding to every statement along this line. Our message should have been that the Republican economic train-wreck started about 30 years ago and would take at least two full presidential terms to fix. This answer is good politics and actually true. Obama should have been publicly attacking Republican efforts to undermine his agenda as attacks on the American middle class designed to benefit greedy corporations. It would have been good politics and is true! There is still time to correct our messaging.
Every local Democratic officeholder and/or candidate in America needs to put pressure on Senate Democrats to move aggressively to pass legislation with a real economic populist approach. Local Democrats should demand an end to the filibuster blackmail. It is time to move to regulate and tax imported manufactured goods. Bring our factory jobs back home. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act without watering it down. Raise taxes on the wealthy. Pass a second stimulus bill. Regulate abuses on Wall Street, including executive pay at publicly traded corporations.
Make economic populism the core principle behind our Democratic Party. Show we are not the “Republican-lite” alternative. Be aggressive, forceful and brave. Be winners! Be real Democrats!