The consequences of a Brown victory

Over the last few days, I have seen several columns explaining the various devious and unprincipled means by which the Democrats could pass the health care bill even in the event that Scott Brown wins the special Senate election in Massachusetts. I didn’t post any of them here—who wants to hear that stuff? Now, however, I see a very interesting column, at Huffington Post of all places, in which Sam Stein explains in fascinating detail how if Brown wins (or rather if Brown wins by more than .5 percent, precluding a recount), there is no practicable way for the Democrats to pass the bill prior to his being sworn in as the 41st, unbreakable filibuster-supplying, Republican senator. The main thing is, his election would have to be certified within ten days of the election, that is, by January 29, and any paths by which the Democrats could pass the bill before January 29 seem closed off.

So a Brown victory would indeed be as dramatic and historic as could possibly be. (Which is why, by the way, I personally am trying not to invest any hopes in Brown’s winning; as a loss would then be too much of a let-down.) Think of it: Edward Kennedy’s successor, elected in the most liberal state in the country, killing the bill that was Kennedy’s life-long dream. You just can’t get greater poetic justice than that, or a greater harbinger of looming Democratic calamity in the 2010 congressional elections.

And another thing. The special Massachusetts election will be over on the night of January 19. Meaning that, if Brown wins, the signature measure of Obama’s stunningly radical presidency will have been effectively killed exactly one year after Obama’s inauguration. But, nope, I’m not investing any hopes in the prospect of Brown’s winning. No sirree Bob.

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Update: A story in today’s New York Times echoes Sam Stein’s point that a Brown victory means the defeat of the legislation, and it underscores that Democrats are in a panic over the prospect. Here are highlights from the piece:

  • With their party’s candidate struggling in Massachusetts in a race for what should be the safest of Senate seats, Congressional Democrats are growing increasingly unnerved about the political consequences of the health care overhaul even as their leadership closes in on a final agreement.

  • Now the prospect of Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts losing on Tuesday in the special election to fill the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy—the longtime champion of a health care overhaul—is intensifying anxiety among Democrats who were already worried about the 2010 midterm election environment.

  • Democrats warn of panic in the ranks should the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, prevail.

  • A victory by Mr. Brown could cause the fragile Democratic coalition behind the health legislation to unravel and put approval of the measure itself in jeopardy.

  • But top Democratic officials said it was unlikely they would try to jam the measure through if the Massachusetts election went against them.

  • Democratic strategists also warned that a Republican victory in Massachusetts could fundamentally alter the outlook for the 2010 Congressional election season by sparking retirements among vulnerable Democrats.

  • For the first time, Democratic operatives said privately that control of the House could be at stake if enough Democrats saw the Massachusetts race as evidence they were headed toward defeat in November and decided to forgo a race.

  • Senior Democrats in Congress and the White House said they continued to believe Ms. Coakley would win in Massachusetts, but they acknowledged that her loss could have severe political consequences for them.

  • Other Democrats said they remained uncertain of whether they could turn the health care measure into a political benefit ahead of the November elections, but they were sure that allowing it to collapse would be a serious misstep.

  • “We know that it is bad news if we don’t get it done,” said Representative James P. McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts. “If we do get it done, it might be bad news or it might not be. So we need to get this done and start talking about something else.”

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Robert Weissberg writes:

There is a technical detail here worth noting. The U.S. Senate, not the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the final judge of whether Brown will be seated (Article I, Sec 5 of the Constitution). Recall that this happened twice recently—in Minnesota and Illinois—though for very different reasons. Perhaps angry Dems in Mass will file a lawsuit and Senate Dems will hold things up until it is settled. This would be a political PR disaster but it would be legal.

LA replies:
Yes, it’s technically possible. But my sense from today’s New York Times article that I’ve quoted in this entry is that when it comes to health care reform, the Dems are approaching their Gorbachev moment: they could bring in the heavy guns to maintain their rule, but they won’t. They sense that their moment is ebbing.

David Levin writes:

Of course, if they did ram the bill through prior to the 29th, there would be even MORE hell to pay in November. Some conservatives are of the mindset, “Let ‘em pass it! They’ll pay an even higher price!” I don’t subscribe to that mindset, however.

One thing you didn’t mention was “the Domino Effect”. If the Dems fail to pass Obamacare, the effect of losing such a bruising and contentious battle going on for nearly a year now would demoralize them and their supporters and would make their Amnesty Bill HR 4321 appear even less likely to pass. If I had choice of forced health care (which is unconstitutional and would never hold up to scrutiny by SCOTUS, in my humble opinion, and at least 13 states’ AGs seem to agree with me) or Amnesty for 20 to 30 million illegal aliens (which would be one step closer to making the Democratic Party the controlling party for the next 40 years and turn the U.S. into a third world nation), then I’d accept Obamacare. Destroying Obamacare would undoubtedly be a sweet victory … but shutting down the horrific Amnesty Bill would be even sweeter AND country-saving.

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Ken Hechtman writes:

I can confirm your “panic-mode” story of a few days ago.

It’s not like I’m giving away any secrets because the left press is running the same story. They call it “all hands on deck,” rather than “panic,” but it amounts to the same thing. Last week I had to call the DSCC to ask about another matter unrelated to Massachusetts. The organizer I reached was very friendly and polite but she explained that until the end of next week there ARE no other matters, not for anybody working there.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 16, 2010 06:53 AM | Send

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