Monday, January 18, 2010

If Martha Coakley Loses the Massachusetts US Senate Race, Here’s Why

With the special election in Massachusetts to fill Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat only days away, President Obama flew into Boston in a last-minute endeavor to ‘fire-up the base’ and prevent an electoral debacle that would jeopardize all the work that’s been done on the so-called “health-care reform” bill. Normally one would expect an incumbent president to put in at least one appearance for the candidate of his party during a special senatorial election, but part of the problem is this recurring disease of arrogance that seems to have afflicted this White House – which originally hadn’t felt the need to go to Massachusetts at all, thinking that Ted Kennedy’s seat was certain to go to his Democratic replacement. Suddenly, within the last week, in that bluest of blue states, one of the most reliable of Democratic strongholds, the Republican is now pulling ahead in most state-wide polls. Unbelievable, right?

Not exactly. I’m not surprised in the least, and despite what the pundits are saying on cable news to try to explain it, they’re dancing around what some must privately acknowledge is the problem: the constant, almost gleeful insulting of the ‘base’ that this White House has engaged in almost from the day they walked in a year ago. While there is still hope that this president will remember that constant injunction of humility he would often remind us of during the 2008 campaign, he seemed to have mysteriously lost it sometime after the August 2009 recess when the words “public option” stopped crossing his lips and Rahm Emmanuel was discovered to have been strong-arming Senate Majority Leader Reid to cave in to Lieberman’s demands, rather than the other way around. Maybe he lost it even earlier, when he was awaiting his keys to the Oval Office and voted against allowing lawsuits to take place against the telecoms that had aided and abetted the illegal wiretapping and surveillance of ordinary American citizens (such as this writer). That should have been the first sign, since he had come out strongly in favor of civil liberties and the rights of citizens over corporate interests. In fact, that is the essence of the problem that now plagues Martha Coakley, one which she isn’t really responsible for but one for which she will suffer: President Obama, since taking office, has seemingly tended to side with the corporate interests over the rights and well-being of the average citizen. Whereas he once was adamantly against mandates, even excoriating his opponents for embracing them, here he’s gone and done just that, without a word. No words explaining why he feels he has to accept them, nothing. Nada. Same with the so-called “public option”, which is the keystone of the current Democratic discontent though pundits are loathe to mention it. For a constitutional scholar such as this president is, it should be ingrained emotively in the psyche of the citizenry that you can NOT mandate that the entire population be forced to purchase a product or service from a protected class of private citizens, especially one that not only has a protected monopoly but one that trades in something everyone has a right to: their HEALTH. This isn’t auto insurance, where many people don’t ever drive a car and it’s still considered a luxury (though not in some parts of the country, mainly out West where the population density is so low). This is LIFE OR DEATH.

The public showed in poll after poll that they were for a “public option” in the effort to overhaul and reform health-care. Even a slight majority of Republicans (53% of them, if memory serves me correctly) felt that a “public option” was important. Certainly a huge majority of Democrats (nearly 90% in some polls) and between 56% and 79% of independents (we’ll call them ‘non-aligned’ for purposes of this discussion). It was more than clear – in fact, painfully clear – that the public WANTED the public option, especially if they were going to be forced to purchase health-insurance. At least they would be able to get it NOT from the parasitic number-crunchers, who were worse about interfering with a doctor’s prognosis than any “government bureaucrat” ever could be, but within a public program that was based on the central idea of providing HEALTH, not maximizing profits, which the private health-insurance industry is geared towards, like any non-public field of endeavor is. For them the bottom-line is the bottom line: i.e. the profit they make when playing their number games of actuaries and statistics.

To put it in constitutional terms: one of the central tenets of the US constitution is in the preamble, where it clearly states that the purpose of the document is to “promote the general welfare”, not “promote the welfare of those corporate interests upon which the health and welfare of the People must rely”. Now we heard time and again our president railing against the “special interests”, but what we have seen belies that claim. While the president portrayed himself as being against those special interests, he was simultaneously stocking his administration with figures who could only be called operatives of “special interests”. During his campaign he had proclaimed he was not only against mandates, he was against raising taxes on the middle class, yet we know that he has put pressure on congressmen and the labor bosses to accept a huge excise tax on so-called “Cadillac health-care plans”, which are often those plans held by union workers – plans they gained by collective bargaining, often in lieu of pay raises. This is in contrast to the House plan, which calls for taxing the earnings of the uppermost percentile of the wealthy, whose tax cuts under Bush rescinded the Clinton-era taxes that helped to balance the budget and eradicate the deficit. Taxing the wealthiest to help pay for the health-care subsidies that offset the more onerous effects of the mandate could be balanced later by continuing the Bush tax cuts, so as to avoid additional taxation for that most privileged class, but that logic seems to have escaped the Senate finance committee which showed itself to be obeisant to the corporate interests first and foremost.

And our president has had nothing to say publicly about any of this. Which brings us to yet another broken promise that has rubbed salt in the wound of those in his base that are normally relied upon to “get out the vote”: transparency. Despite Speaker Pelosi’s words to the contrary, things said “in the heat of the campaign” DO mean something: they are what sells a voter on his or her vote. That flippant remark, about how “many things are said on the campaign trail”, seems to frame this season of Democratic discontent. What, are we as stupid and ignorant as our Republican brethren (no offense to my friends who have more of a brain than many of their party), who seemed to have forgotten they were once the party of fiscal discipline and responsibility? Sure, the reality of the political landscape can change a candidate’s approach to problem-solving, but we certainly didn’t expect this new president to have sided with the likes of Joe Lieberman and strong-armed the 52+ senators who were solidly behind a public option; we seriously believed it would be the other way around, that if he wanted to keep his seat as chair of the Homeland Security committee, he would support the bill the majority wanted. Instead, we were treated to the spectacle of having Traitor Joe dictate the terms by which the entire health-care bill would be enacted, in effect gutting it and making any future attempt to free the People from the parasitic grip of the insurance industry a permanent unlikelihood. Future Republican administrations will undoubtedly do away with any subsidies that this Democratic congress would put in the bill as a salve for the naïve sheeple who actually believed the campaign rhetoric, and then we will be left with the naked entrée of this entire effort, which is a mandate by which the health-care mess will be cleaned up on the backs of the People who already suffer under the heavy hand of bankrupting premiums that cost more than their average mortgage or monthly rent. The Senate bill that has emerged, with the president’s blessing, is a fecal mess, through and through, and will permanently enslave the People to a parasitic class of special interests that had enough foresight to buy the votes of the most key senators (and we now know are major supporters of Martha Coakley, let’s not forget the subject of this screed) years ago. They have the best win-win situation they could hope for. If the Republicans, who are their natural champions, couldn’t stop the effort to reform the health-care nightmare, the corporate toadies within the ranks of Democratic (and allied) senators could be counted on in the final analysis to deliver the entire remaining population of the US into their hands. Sure, they smarted from the Feingold-Franken amendment that limits their profits to 20% of their total intake, but we all know how that works. The cost of maintaining that army of bean-counters that second-guess every doctor’s decision isn’t considered “profit”, but “overhead”. This is one major issue that a public option would deal with, but sadly we won’t ever know what having a “public health-care option” in America would be like, since even the Democratic champions of the common man have proven themselves capable of being led pied-piper-like by the likes of Traitor Joe Lieberman and……President Barack Obama. Shrugging their shoulders all the way. “What could I do? I’m not Joe Lieberman, and I’m expected to toe the line, even if it’s not the party line now.” That’s right; Joe Lieberman, once rejected by the primary voters of his party, ran hard as an independent on his dedication to true universal health care, and despite having sold himself that way, has decided since then to sell his vote to his home-state corporate constituents, which are (surprise, surprise!) INSURANCE COMPANIES. Some of the same ones that have funded Ms. Coakley.

And you wonder why Ms. Coakley might lose?!? It really should come as no surprise by now. Yes, there are explanations for all those huge campaign donations by the likes of Big Pharma and the health-insurance industry; here’s an excerpt from a column by Timothy P. Carney in the Jan. 9th edition of the Washington Examiner:

With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama's health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night. The invitation is here.

Of the 22 names on the host committee--meaning they raised $10,000 or more for Coakley--17 are federally registered lobbyists, 15 of whom have health-care clients. Of the other five hosts, one is married to a lobbyist, one was a lobbyist in Pennsylvania, another is a lawyer at a lobbying firm, and another is a corporate CEO. Oh, and of course, there's also the political action commitee for Boston Scientific Corporation.

All the leading drug companies have lobbyists on Coakley's host committee: Pfizer, Merck, Amgen, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Astra-Zeneca, and more. On the insurance side of things, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, HealthSouth, and United Health all are represented on the host committee.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

[A copy of the invitation is posted right there, naming names and dollar amounts, for anyone who doubts the fact.]

In the face of all this, is it any wonder any more why the Democratic base is dispirited? Yes, there is transparency in that the above invitation – and the implications it makes – has come to light, but what of the actual negotiations taking place behind closed doors in the Capital building and the White House? Have we switched one industry writing the law (the oil companies writing the energy bill under the watchful eye and encouraging hand of former Veep ‘Big Dick’ Cheney) for another? From what little we hear coming out of the mouths of the participants, that’s what it sounds like. More shoulder-shrugging and finger-pointing, but no ‘straight talk’ from the president on how he is going to square what’s going on with his campaign pledges. And if I hear another instance of that stale euphemism “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy…..blah-blah” I’ll simply break down and hurl. It’s a euphemism for a cop-out. While it once had some cachet, it’s been employed in defending the indefensible. We not only won’t get a full loaf, we won’t get a half-loaf either; in fact, we won’t even get a slice, more like a handful of crumbs. Yet we’re being asked to like it and embrace it as if it’s the full loaf we’ve been waiting for ever since we got that, er, super-majority in the Senate to go with that brand-spankin’ new president, whose tag line was that he was going to bring “Change you can believe in” to the White House.

To those of us out here in the ‘base’, the ones that got out the vote in ’08, that manned the phones, that drove the votes with our fervor, it’s becoming more of a hollow claim. We met the new boss, thought highly of him, gave him a chance, and are willing to give him even more of a chance, but we’ve become disillusioned. Pole shift or not, we expect politicians to be straight-forward with us, and so far, we have good reason to be disillusioned. Our intelligence continues to be insulted, and we didn’t hear anything in the Sunday speech in Boston to change our minds.

Which is why many ‘progressive’ Democrats in the great Bay State will be sitting on their hands come Tuesday. Maybe the White House will draw an invaluable lesson from this, though I don’t hold out much hope. It will, however, be a teachable moment. When you make a promise, keep it. And if you can’t absolutely can’t, at least give it the good old college try and be upfront with us as to why you can’t.

Last but not least, remember who brought you to this dance and why.

© 2010 by Don Deppeller. Reprint freely with attribution.

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