JANUARY 22, 2010 6:12PM

Massachusetts Fastball, USSC Meatball - Can Obama Hit?

Rate: 13 Flag


Scott Brown’s 105 mph fastball left Obama with bat on his shoulder and a called third strike on his healthcare plan. While some Democrats are angry at Coakley, independents and Massachusetts in general, they should be thanking Brown for sparing them a much worse fate this fall.

The healthcare plan has become a turkey. The good people of Massachusetts didn’t make it that way; they simply decided to give the bird an identity. The fact is you can’t use Massachusetts to gauge the potential national reaction to the healthcare bill, either now or if it were passed. They have their own near universal plan, and so their rejection of Obamacare has a few variables that don’t apply elsewhere.

However, you can take this turkey’s pulse by two other methods. One is by looking at the national polls, where the approval of Obama’s leadership on this issue has been in steady decline for some time. The other way is to observe how Obama and the Democrats have used this loss as an excuse to turkey trot away from pushing to get it passed.

The Right Wing is claiming victory, but jingling the car keys gets them excited, and it’s not their influence that made the voters react. The polls still reflect a support for Public Option health insurance, and Republicans in general are still less popular than Democrats on that issue and the economy. The worst thing to happen to the GOP was getting total control and proving their governing incompetence, and even a glorious Obama flop won’t automatically resurrect the dead elephant.

The problem with Obamacare is that it was a victim of New Democrat (motto: We’re Sane Republicans!) politics. Healthcare died by the Curse of the Threes – Triangulation and Third Way politics.

While Triangulating the Republican agenda – meaning adopting some of their ideas to buy cooperation, then giving them a slight leftward spin - made Newt Gingrich Bill Clinton’s Mini-Me, that was a different time and situation. Today’s Republicans aren’t in the majority, and are too locked in an ideological graveyard spiral to be worked with. Obama quickly learned that he’s a President, not a cultist deprogrammer.

So Obama ended up Triangulating with the Blue Dog Democrats (motto: We’re Republicans!).You can’t do the Triangulation Cha-Cha with your own party; you end up stepping on each other’s feet and looking clumsy.

Third Way is an economic version of Triangulation. It involves rejecting the worst aspects of the Welfare State left, as well as the laissez faire, free market Libertarian right. Clinton’s Welfare to Workfare reform is a good example of the concept. The critical difference between Clinton’s Workfare and Obama’s healthcare reform is the former was passed during good economic times.

The Obama crew must have imagined they could Triangulate the GOP with Third Way politics. After seeing the Republicans deliver a wet kiss to Big Pharma with Medicare part D, that assumption wasn’t entirely out of the bounds of reality. The Republicans had combined the desire of seniors to get a pill subsidy and Big Pharm’s desire to overcharge with an ability – before the economic explosion – to shove the cost into debt.

Obama had already cut deals with Big Pharm and Insurance before the healthcare debate began in Congress. While the Triangulation move met an early demise, he figured he could use Third Way to create a mutual accommodation of public and industry interests. However, that is like finding mutual accommodation between a pot roast and a pit bull. Rather than detail the entire human blue plate special, it can be summed up by the Great Obama Televised Healthcare Address to Congress, and what followed.

In the GOT-HAC, Obama first offered the public a stick – we will make you buy insurance – with a carrot – we will give you a non-profit Public Option.

Within a few days, the insurance lobbyists are feasting on carrots, and Obama is stuck with a stick. The people, realizing there would be no carrot, started heading for the exits.

That, dear discouraged Democrats and ranting Republicans, is what delivered the Triangulation, Third Way third strike to Obamacare. Despite the spin and spew, the message to the public became this—

 “We have bailed out the banks. We have ignored rising unemployment. We're spending a lot of your money, but not on you. We know you’re deeply concerned with your economic prospects, so we will force you to buy insurance from the corporations you well know are the biggest part of the healthcare problem.”

Brown’s victory killed the Triangulation, Third Way Obamacare plan. We should hope to see this tombstone epitaph – Here Lies The New Democrat Strategy. Born 1996 in Washington, DC. Died 2010 in Massachusetts.

We should also hope to read this announcement in our local papers – Democratic Economic Populism was reborn to parents Thomas Jefferson and Lady Liberty, Tuesday, January 19, in Massachutsetts.

President Obama didn’t realize what change the people wanted. They would like to see an end to partisan squabbling, but the change they want most is to end the insider trading between politicians and big business.

Obama and the Democrats now realize they need to throw out the New Democrat model in favor of what once was the Party’s traditional economic populism. Obama’s let’s get those bankers! speech made in a last gasp attempt to salvage Coakley’s campaign acknowledges they know they had better find their Populist Ass, and fast, if they hope to stay in power.

But Obama has already beat the bankers are bad drum until it broke, so, as a populist vehicle it has limits. He needs something more...something new...an unexpected miracle to offset the Massachusetts mauling. He needs slow pitch over the plate so he can finally hit a home run dinger.

Fortunately, the Republicans, equally as able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, have changed pitchers. The Federalist Five of the US Supreme Court (stock ticker symbol U$$C) have lobbed a populist meatball for Obama to swat out of the park. In an era of national disgust with corporate power over politics and economy, the one-branch government Just-Us pawns of right wing corporate funding have delivered a decision the public can easily learn to hate, and the Republicans can’t resist loving.

His statement made following the terrible decision shows he knows he has an issue to work with, and is a good start. Perhaps it's time to mandate corporations involved in interstate commerce be required to obtain a Federal charter that would strip them of the personhood our Founders would have never granted.

With their judicial activism, the Contrive Five have offered to save Obama’s baking bacon.

IF, mind you, Obama can hit.

Batter up!


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"Obama first offered the public a stick – we will make you buy insurance – with a carrot – we will give you a non-profit Public Option.

Within a few days, the insurance lobbyists are feasting on carrots, and Obama is stuck with a stick. The people, realizing there would be no carrot, started heading for the exits.

That, dear discouraged Democrats and ranting Republicans, is what delivered the Triangulation, Third Way third strike to Obamacare."

Exactly so. Six months ago, if you'd told me I'd be on the side of the wingnuts in wanting to kill the bill, I'd have laughed at you. Now I laugh at the notion that anyone who calls themselves a progressive even backed that turkey. Obama did have success at encouraging bipartisanship in that regard; he got the left and the right and people in the middle (the one's who know how to think anyway) all lined up against a bill that was good for no one but corporations.

"Perhaps it's time to mandate corporations involved in interstate commerce be required to obtain a Federal charter that would strip them of the personhood our Founders would have never granted them.

With their judicial activism, the Contrive Five have offered to save Obama’s baking bacon.

IF, mind you, Obama can hit.

Batter up!"

We'll see. I'm still hoping this administration starts to get things right, but I'm not holding my breath in the meantime.
Great post!

This healthcare plan reminds me what happens when you get two sides together - in this case big biz and the dems. I can best identify the outcome with one of my favorite Flinstone episodes. Fred and Barney buy a boat and want to give it a name. Fred wants "Nautical" but Barney wishes the boat to be named "Sea Worthy". In the end the decide to come to a compromise and name the boat NAU SEA!

Dr. Evan S. Levine
You put the big boys at the NYTimes to shame. You beat them at their game and political analysis, hands down, fair and square. "Experts" should be reading this piece right now and going, "fuuuuck."

On a side note, for the common citizen, and from this post, it seems that regardless of what happens or who is doing what, the big money will always win and the people are always fucked. Real change is simply an illusion.

Great piece, great work. I enjoyed it tremendously.
paul-i-tics is my favorite class.
That was a good piece there. I am not sure I buy all of it in terms of what is next, but a very, very interesting analysis for sure.
We will see, but populism, oh yes, but that can have a bad edge too, that worries me, fascism. Hope not.
Been busy.

Good observation. It is strange that the polar opposites arrive at the same conclusion for far different reasons. I also have doubts about Obama's political ability. His "So, you think you can dance?" act might show that his FDR steps are as bad as his Triangulation Cha-Cha.

Cha-Cha-Change we can believe in?

Dr. Evan,
Thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite 'toons. Add Nau Sea am a good idea for what to call Obamacare. Staying in theme, another appropriate name would be : Titanic.

The two best Republican Presidents we've had in the last 30 years are Clinton and Obama. The Republicans scrapped and crapped the entire time. It's. What. They. Do.

Probably true. It's a bit late in the democracy demise game to hope it can be turned around. But economic disasters can bring about enough popular outrage that the Ruling Class bends a bit...or clamps down hard and in messy and destructive ways.
Hope for a Believe We Can Change In!

1 irritated mom,
Thanks for the compliment, but you may be buttering me up for a passing grade. Regardless, I enjoyed it, and grant you a 4.0 in paul-i-tics.

Even I don't buy it all as to what comes next...Obama is becoming extremely talented at being mediocre. I see a possible trend developing.
I'm less inclined to think in terms of fascism and more leaning towards seeing our situation as National Socialism, but will always bow to your knowledge. Something has to give re: healthcare. We can't afford the current social and economic waste it generates. I say Medicare for all, let the private sector fill the gaps. The fungible incomes will find a way to be used in a more productive manner. The economy will adjust around the new reality, and the sun won't explode.

Thanks to all.
For some reason, I continue to "hope," even with all the disasters.
Well-thought and well-wrought. Here's another thought -- what if Battlin' Barack Obama suddenly develops a spine and says in his State of the Union:

"Everyone says the election in Massachusettsrevealed people's concern about deficits and adding to already under-funded entitlement programs with healthcare reform.

Fine, I'm going to give Americans a choice: Adopt single-payer healthcare reform thru expansion of Medicare to all citizens -- or drop Medicare altogether. Since Medicare is an existing program, expansion can be handled through the reconciliation process.

So, it's up to you America, you be the Deciders, and once you decide what kind of America you want -- one that cares about all it's citizens or one that says it's every man, woman and child for themselves. Once you decide, call your Congressman or Senator and insist he or she heed the voice of the people or be run out of office."

Let's see how many citizens of Massachusetts or anywhere else or how many members of either party want to vote for the elimination of Medicare.
I think this is a good summary of what happened and I'm still hopeful that the president can hit big league pitching. I'd like to see him get his hands dirty too. When people like Boehner say ridiculous things they need to be called out. Also, like you pointed out, the Brown victory came soon enough for the Dems to right the ship. Rated.
I have some hope also, but pretty much realize the motivation for change will have to begin outside of the party structure.

That is what Obama should have set as the HC agenda from day one.
I did a post a few months ago about why Obama failed on HC, one point being the GOP lies were K.I.S.S....and the Obama HC hash was the world's longest run-on sentence.
Another thought is the dragging on of the issue through the Senate, especially, simply wore folks out to where they get tired of hearing about HC reform. The national "Aw, fuck it!" point was reached. Same basic reason OJ walked the first time.

Obama's biggest problem...and the Dem's also...is they don't trust the people. An honest, well explained promotion of expanding Medicare would have gotten massive support. But they fear Big Money, and so will end up losing both the public and the money.
Stuck on stupid.

The ship can sail if the change goes well beyond rhetoric. Wait to see, but the odds of that happening are less than 50%.

Thanks, folks.
Wow - this is one of the finest pieces I've read here. You sum up the issues and the possible outcomes very well. I'd pull out parts of this as examples, but there were too many.
Great writing Paul. I hope many are reading.
Very nice write-up, Paul. Succinct analysis. And damn funny at points. At this point, I've got to wonder about Obama's "long game" strategy. I don't believe the man is as miserably tactically deficient as he seems at this point. While I'm not one of his acolytes who claims President Hopey is playing 14th-dimensional chess or what have you, it's clear you don't get to that office with failed strategies and tactical idiocy. And his campaign triangulated Hillary pretty well, lured her into the dead-end canyon, turned her around and got her to shoot herself in the foot (and mouth, where her foot happened to be).

Here's a half-baked suggestion: the President's long game entails a GOP win in November, with the Republicans making significant gains, perhaps even gaining majorities. Then Obama 'brings it,' as they say, challenging the GOP to get some *real* *bipartisan* *reform* in baking, health care, etc. This automatically puts him in the driver's seat, making any gain seem like it was due to his leadership. It is the perfect rhetorical foil for such a man steeped in the tactics of rhetoric - he doesn't have to actually do anything, just "inspire" others to do something. Such a stance would put the GOP-led Congress in the position of actual compromise and cooperation, or government shut-down. It worked damn well for Clinton at times. Of course, people are a lot more volatile (i.e. batshitcrazy) these days, so who knows how the tea-bagging Palinistas would react!
if Republican refusal to approve measures that were watered down just to get their (minority) support, the election in MA and the recent supreme court decision about corporate financing tell us anything, it's that there's many Democrats who're about to be out of a job (and I mean more than the ones who are now).

my suggestion - go out swinging. Fuck 'em, you're not getting their support anyway.

I'm not going to convince certain of my relatives that Obama isn't intent on making the country socialist (and fascist, simultaneously). Stop trying. You're not getting their votes. And you're not getting the big corporate money any more, not unless you blatantly toe the corporate line, which means you're still out of a job in November.

Start screaming from the top of the Capitol Building, "I'm the candidate of the people, and I'm not going to take this any more!" No, make that actually do something that at least looks like it benefits voters.
I agree. Time to find that populist ass and work it!