This blog post has two purposes, neither of them very elevated. The first is to pass the time until the Massachusetts by-election tomorrow. The second is to prepare myself for a defeat there, and to reassure myself that the sky is not falling. I have sent emails to everyone in the UMass Afro-Am Department urging them to get out the vote, and I have donated a hundred dollars to a campaign that is awash in money. But in truth, there is nothing I can do about my former friends and neighbors, except wait and hope.
So, here is what I am thinking. Two years ago and more, Howard Dean articulated a fifty state strategy for the Democratic Party that ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of the old timers. The Party went out and searched for conservative Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats, who could make a run for House and Senate seats that would ordinarily be conceded to the Republicans. The Party was particularly successful in locating military personnel with unimpeachable war records who were willing to stand for public office. The strategy was a brilliant success and produced not only a healthy House majority but also, barely, by the skin of our teeth, a sixty vote Senate majority, including the egregious Lieberman, the admirable Sanders, and, after the longest count in U. S. history, the newly serious Franken.
Anyone looking carefully at the line-up of Democratic senators could see that when it came time to legislate, getting all of them to agree on anything was going to require heroic efforts and major compromises. What is more, despite some statistical advantages in 2010 [having to do with which senators are up for re-election], it was obvious that this sixty vote edge was unlikely to survive another election cycle.
Obama, after all, received only 53% of the popular vote, in an election that followed eight years of the worst president in American history and featured a chaotic Republican campaign with a polarizing and alienating Vice-Presidential candidate. Optimists [like me] who saw Obama's victory as the start of a new progressive era should really have recognized how deeply and evenly split the country is.
So, if Martha Coakley manages to lose a safe seat to a nonentity, it will be a disaster, but not quite a calamity. I still believe that health care reform will pass, even without that magical sixtieth vote, but further major reforms were always going to be dicey. As I have often observed here, blaming Snow or Nelson or Landrieu or Lieberman for the impossibility of radical progressive reform misses the point. They are the product and reflection of the resistance to reform in this country, not the cause.
Just today, Paul Krugman once again criticized the Obama administration for not having made the stimulus bill much bigger. I remember, and surely he must also, how near a thing was the passage of the inadequate bill we got. What on earth makes him think a much larger bill was ever a possibility? He has it in for Summers and crew, and he is, I think, totally correct to view them as incompetent clowns. But if Krugman had been sitting where Summers does, and had argued for a one and a half trillion dollar stimulus bill, he would have been totally unsuccessful in getting the Congress even to consider it, let alone pass it.
The sad fact is that we progressives are trapped in a fundamentally non-progressive era, when we must make do with what we have, and try to accomplish as much as the Congress will allow. So, if tomorrow turns out badly, we will simply have to suck it up and soldier on. The one bright spot in all of this is the self-destructive behavior of the Republicans, who are clearly quite unwilling to put forward candidates at the national level who can win. I prayed that I would live long enough to see a progressive president elected. It happened. Now, I pray that I will live long enough to see Sarah Palin nominated by the Republicans. You take your pleasures where you find them when you reach my age.