THE TREATMENT JANUARY 19, 2010
Trenchant political analysis, from Senator Evan Bayh:
If you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up. ... It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message. They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems. That’s something that has to be corrected. ... The only we are able to govern successfully in this country is by liberals and progressives making common cause with independents and moderates. Whenever you have just the furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country -- that’s not going to work too well.
I'm sure we'll hear versions of this argument many more times in the coming hours and days. But is it right?
Last time I checked, the "furthest left elements of the Democratic Party" wanted a much bigger stimulus, more aggressive treatment of the financial industry, and a draw-down of troops abroad. Instead, they got a stripped-down stimulus, soft treatment of the banks, and more troops in Afghanistan.
Yes, there's health care. But if the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party are imposing their will, why are Jane Hamsher, Howard Dean, and so many other liberals ambivalent--if not downright apoplectic? They didn't get their public insurance option. They didn't even get full universal coverage. They got a plan that leaves the existing employer system in place, envisions most working-age Americans getting coverage through private insurance, and focuses heavily on controlling costs--which, by the way, is what many a conservative has proposed over the years.
Insofar as Bayh means that Obama hasn't delivered results on the economy, which is what voters care about most, that seems fair enough. But the failure there isn't being insufficiently moderate. If anything, it's being insufficiently liberal on issues like the stimulus--which, if larger, actually would have improved the jobs situation a great deal more.
We've seen this play before. Bill Clinton spent his first year focusing on deficit reduction and enacting the North American Free Trade Agreement. And he was constantly attacked as...governing from the far left. It makes you wonder what would happen if a president actually tried to do that.
Update: Steve Benen, as usual, has more smart things to say.