Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

November 6, 2010

WAS IT WORTH IT?.... Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday was rather painful to read. It featured a combination of arrogance, condescension, and cheap partisan shots, but putting all of that aside, it also started with a familiar question:

'The people have spoken, the bastards." That would be how Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill are feeling. The last two years of their leadership have been rebuffed. The question for the Democratic Party: Was it worth it?

If it seems like you've been seeing those same four words -- was it worth it? -- all week, it's not your imagination. The ubiquitous question is based on the assumption that Democratic losses were the result, not of awful economic conditions, but of the party's agenda. The president and his party completed some remarkable policy achievements, but, the argument goes, those breakthroughs only pay electoral dividends if the public likes the policies. Instead, voters disapproved, strengthening the GOP "wave."

The evidence to bolster this case, rather than blaming the economy, remains thin. But for the sake of conversation, let's go with it. Let's say Democrats effectively made a giant trade -- they forfeited their House majority, and in exchange, Dems had one of the most successful congresses of the century, passing landmark legislation generations in the making.

Of course it was worth it. This is what big majorities are for.

There have been plenty of pieces making the case, and I'd recommend items from Cohn, Chait, and Sargent, among others. But I was especially struck by William Saletan's Slate piece yesterday, not only because I disagree with him from time to time, but because I was nodding in agreement when he explained, "[I]f health care did cost the party its majority, so what? The bill was more important than the election."

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren't going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.

And that's not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he'll be lucky to match her achievements. [...]

It's funny, in a twisted way, to read all the post-election complaints that Democrats lost because they thought only of themselves. Even the chief operating officer of the party's leading think tank, the Center for American Progress, says Obama failed to convince Americans "that he knows their jobs are as important as his." That's too bad, because Obama, Pelosi, and their congressional allies proved just the opposite. They risked their jobs -- and in many cases lost them -- to pass the health care bill. The elections were a painful defeat, and you can argue that the bill was misguided. But Democrats didn't lose the most important battle of 2010. They won it.

Call me old fashioned, but I thought the point of getting elected is to try to make a difference. Acquiring power just for the sake of having it is hollow exercise in vanity. Once in a great while, officials have an opportunity to use their power to improve the lives of their fellow citizens and make the country considerably better off.

I get the sense this week that some would have counseled Democrats to let the opportunity pass for the sake of their careers. "We didn't do much," Dems could say this week, "but at least we're still in charge."

What nonsense.

Democrats started 2009 with an abundance of political capital, which they proceeded to invest. The efforts didn't pay off on Tuesday, but the dividends for the country will be felt for years.

Steve Benen 12:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (76)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

As the spouse of a young adult who has cancer, heck yeah I think the last two years were worth it. We no longer have to worry about pre-existing condition exclusions. That alone makes that last two years worth it.

Of course, this is also the wrong framing. The election results were almost entirely the fault of Blue Dogs and centrist thinking that kept the Democrats from being bold enough on the economy, just as in the past it kept us from being bold enough on issues like the Iraq War and deregulation where the progressive position has been proven correct again and again. Let's make sure we stop making the mistake of following the Blue Dogs moving forward.

http://www.winningprogressive.org

Posted by: Winning Progressive on November 6, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

[I]f health care did cost the party its majority, so what?

I recall your fine post of yesterday reminding one of the often odious John Wayne and his remarkably sensible reflection on the election of JFK . The quote pithily summing up about the "when" of the Republican parties departure into , among other cesspools , the embrace of corporate fascism .
For all the allure of a monstrous rejection of any conception of the meaning of words for the expediency of playing at charity while collecting paychecks to wage war on the American civilian political structure and culture , where will these agonizers spend their time aside from the rubble of civility .

That he and any other ordinarily foul mouthed and violently disposed lout would even consider considering an opponent as a human seems to me to beyond groveling back into the grace of the noise machines present disposition .

Posted by: FRP on November 6, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Trying to apply logic or reason to anything written by Peggy Noonan is the biggest stretch one can make. It's difficult to even begin to run down the utter trash spewed out by this total hack. The fact that you "Steve" even give her any play at all is a poor reflection on your judgement.

Posted by: Gandalf` on November 6, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Actually the people came out for change and got the same old GOP they wanted change from due to co-opting of the teaparty by the same old co-opters as before.

Boehner already took the earmark ban off the table and the GOP is set to return back to the very same policies that resulted in 81% of the people saying America was on the wrong track.

Had the democrats gotten us out of Iraq and Afghanistan they would probably have been re-elected. That they had control of congress and the oval office and didnt tells me they arent interested in getting the US out of those countries. They decided that providing lip service in this case was the way to go.

Its why I wont support the dems [or the repubs] ever again. We need term limits on these two like factions operating under and representing the FIRE sector and not the actual living breathing constituents they were elected to represent.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 6, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

What WP says is true, but by the same token, the presence of the Blue Dogs made the majority possible that in turn made the legislation possible.

When we look back to the great accomplishments of the LBJ-era democrats, it was likewise made possible by an extremely illogical and very frustrating alliance with a large number of extremely unattractive southern conservative democrats. The R's did somehow manage to make themselves narrower and even more extreme right and still pulled off the election, but generally a party tosses allies out of its version of the big tent to its detriment. On the one hand I'm glad democrats are rid of the "southern democrats", but on the other hand the disappearance of the southern conservatives from the D side of the aisle to the R side has handed us many years of Republican majorities pursuing republican agendas and is the foundation for the intense ideological polarization in modern politics.

Posted by: N.Wells on November 6, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

It wasnt health insurance reform, I think,that cost the party its control over the house, but the lack of single payer which the insurance lobby wanted to be rid of and the dems capitulated to.

Now the GOP is set to further capitulate to the insurance lobbies demands. Anyone that read their insurance reform text should know they wont repeal private health insurance reform as they love to leg hump big business a la K street style.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 6, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Noonan is a nostalgia addict hopelessly stuck in the past. This isn't 1980, or worse, 1880. While tea bagging morons and traditional conservatives whine about religion and creeping socialism, authoritarian nations like China, Russia and India are eating our lunch with their new brand of state capitalism. Why do you think Obama is in India today. The appropriate role of governments in the world economy is the only real debate now. I wouldn't use the Wall Street Journal to line a bird cage. Perhaps someone should wake Noonan up and ask her if it was worth it when Reagan/Bush I quadrupled the national debt and Bush II's "buggy whip" approach to macroeconomics doubled the debt and then drove our economy into a ditch.

Posted by: max on November 6, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded.

"Universal health care?"

Really?

Look, I'm glad they passed certain elements of the health care bill but let's not pretend here, okay?

Posted by: August J. Pollak on November 6, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Gandalf,
You have to look at Nooners in a different light.
She's like the stupid, consevative, drunken old Aunt that you have, who spews enough nonsense when she's sober. But when she's coming off a 3 day triple-martini jag, as Nooners is, she can be quite entertaining because she's really feeling her oats, even if she can't put together a coherent sentence, .
Na, you're right. I can't stand the sodden old hag. But, she's one of the last links to Saint Ronnie, and no matter what she pukes up on a page, or what thought turds she drops, the conservative press will print it proudly, and accolytes will quote her, as if she was John, or Paul, or Luke, and not some drunken bar-room Queen in DC.
I'm sure she'll be on ABC this Sunday in all of her sodden, slurring glory, opining on the win for rightiousness and truth, before she passes out, and is carried off by the Young Rebublicans on the staff or in the audience, who'll cop a feel off her whithered boobs, and brag to their friends about it. And she'll dream that it's Saint Ronnie making sweet, sweet love to her, instead of Nancy, and all will be right in her world.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on November 6, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Of course it was worth it! How revealing it is that the only thing the people saying this (Noonan, of all people!) are thinking that the only point of politics is to get POWER, not to do anything worthwhile with it.

For pete's sake, get over this. The right spent billions for what is not exactly a massive result. Yes, they won the House, but Blue Dog losses gave them their big boost.

Don't lose the forest for the trees in all this: GOVERNING versus just having POWER is the real issue. And the Republicans make it crystal clear that ALL they want is POWER, they neither want to nor know how to GOVERN.

Posted by: jjm on November 6, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I wasn't aware that there was an election for US House seats. I thought it was a purchase - made with foreign funds, to install a greasy, Nazi sympathizer as it's Speaker.

Posted by: JoeW on November 6, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I understand that losing is painful, and Noonan is a partisan with a clear bias for her own side... but let's not dress this up to much. A lot of what happened on Tuesday was painful and unnecessary, and this developing meme that "of course we ran our majority into the ground to get results" idea is really trying to put a positive - but twisted - spin on the results.

Just to come back to personal experience, there's no reason my District in New York (John Hall) should have been lost. The brave, blanket dismissals of "Bye blue dogs and good riddance" misses the point that good people, decent Democrats, were lost in a big, deep wave of voter discontent. And "we didn't sell it" or "we got the messaging wrong" or "the big picture was bad" are excuses that obviate any responsibility on the part of party leaders... a pass I for one am not willing to give. I think it's unfortunate that rather than take this election as an opportunity to refresh the ranks within the Democrats, people are falling into old patterns and sticking with what we know, even if, under her watch, Nancy Pelosi has just presided over one of the most substantive defeats that party has ever faced.

"We should do the big things" is a fine slogan, but nearly every example - never mind, say, Cap and Trade, which never passed the Senate - of the "big bills" which are supposed to be the signature achievements were muddled affairs whicvh many, including many on the left, do not see as graet successes. Health care? Are we just planning to pretend the debates over single payer and universal coverage and Medicare for all never happened? How about the Financial Regulation bill which the right sees as onerous, and many liberals - correctly, I'd posit - see as giving banks and other institutions way to much room to mess up again?

Liberals and progressives need to face the cold, hard realities of this week: we lost. It was big, huge in fact. Putting all our hopes on Republican failure in the next two years - and, in a sense, wishing for bad times in this country on a large scale - is not a great strategy for future success. The developing ambivalence around Barack Obama's presidency within the left is worrying, and may make 2012 much more painful than we realize yet. And no one, really, should underestimate the preferences of many voters to just go with incumbents. Republicans, after all, thought they could make gains in 2008, too. At least for a minute.

I'm sorry we lost. I don't think it was all our fault. But I don't think we can get another majority until we figure that something, something, went wrong. Something didn't work. And something needs to be done differently to win again. Without that, we'll probably have a minority for longer than anyone now thinks. And I've lived that way - in the leftside minority - too much of my lifetime.

Posted by: weboy on November 6, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

All the right-wing columnists are busy pushing the meme that the election was a "referendum on big government." (Funny, it's almost as if they all got together in a room or something…just sayin'.) Apparently the electorate was deeply concerned that we were becoming effeminate Europeans and might start eating stinky cheese or something.

This claim would be slightly credible if the Republicans were swept into office by a tide of young voters concerned about the debt. But a large fraction of republican voters were senior citizens who I suspect are quite happy with their Social Security and Medicare. So I would say that a more accurate interpretation of the "message" of the voters is "I want my big government, but don't you dare go sharing it with anyone else." (That, and "get us some jobs, stupid!")

In 20 years, Republicans will be telling us that we'd damn well better keep our big government hands off of their ACA.

Posted by: rae on November 6, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Aside from economics, Republicans are just way better at exploiting cultural resentments than democrats. Until the democrats find an equivalent counterweight, that's where we are

Posted by: DelCapslock on November 6, 2010 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

If it's not repealed in 2013 by Palin.

Posted by: LosGatosCA on November 6, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

"This is what big majorities are for."

Enshrining the structural problems of the economy, passing the Republican alternative health care plan from the nineties, perpetuating Gitmo, preserving the Cheney-acquired unconstitutional dictatorial powers of the executive -- I'd have thought all that was what a big REPUBLICAN majority was for, but, yeah, I guess a "Democratic" one did just as well.

Posted by: Forrest on November 6, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Of course it was worth it. Health care was a clear mandate in the 2008 election, and the Obama WH delivered. But I think the process was terrible--the long, dragged-out, blue-dog-weakened process--and this gave Republicans--who flatly refused to accept what a majority of Americans wanted--plenty of opportunity to grandstand as the lying dickheads they are. The fact that a soulless cadaver like Peggy Noonan crows "was it worth it?" is just proof of how important it has been to Republicans to block the will of the people.

The Republicans have spent two years and billions of dollars to mislead and frighten the American people about health care reform ("Death panels", anyone?), so it isn't surprising that a lot of ill-informed, terrified people say they don't like it. What was the classic line, "Keep your government hands off my medicare?" Chalk up another victory for the forces of darkness, propaganda and wealth.

And, frankly, the Democrats shot themselves in the foot by being tepid, by not insisting that the benefits of the bill start immediately, that controlling costs be a primary objective and by not insisting on a public option. Instead those damned blue-dogs sucked up to the powerful insurance lobbies and made Obama look like just another corporate tool.

We can afford it, it is long overdue, and it is the best thing to happen to America in 30 years. If it cost us the House, it was still the right decision.

Posted by: PTate in MN on November 6, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think you folks have the right idea. As Obamacare gets dismantled, you just keeping raising hell and demanding more left wing policies. I have a morsel of news for you. The country is turning libertarian because they see the cliff ahead. But don't pay any attention. As long as one party pays attention, it is enough.

Posted by: Mike K on November 6, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

The next Democratic Agenda?

JUST SAY YES to tax increases for the wealthy

It is a secular sin to own a Armani suit worth a thousand meals when almost 1/3 of Arizona kids live in poverty. Tax the excess wealth of the über rich now.

Republicans destroyed the economy by lax financial regulation coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy which forced great deficits upon the country.  Now they want to give that 5% of the populations which owns 85% of the country's wealth even more money.

The rich have had a free ride since Reagan when the highest tax rates were cut from 70% to 35%.  Now the country and the economy are in trouble. It is time to tax excessive wealth.  It is time the rich pay their fair share. 

There is no reason to give people like Paris Hilton more $10,000 Hermes handbags, music industry execs another $200,000 Ferrari or Real Estate Barons like Donald Trump more $30,000 Rolex watches when people are unemployed, losing their houses, and cannot afford college or health insurance.

Please, tell your elected officials you not only oppose the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, but would like to see the top rate restored to the pre-Reagan level.

Tax the excess wealth of the über rich now.  

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on November 6, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatives want the narrative to say that were too progressive for voters. But polls say that Americans like the new Health Care Bill, and most of the other legislation the Dems got through Congress. What's most interesting to me is that nearly all Progressives in the House got re-elected, while large numbers of Conservatives and Moderates got the axe from voters. That tells me that leaning to the left is what American voters really want from their Senators and Representatives, and what they really support.

Posted by: Robert Moskowitz on November 6, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Peggy Noonan's....

Can we just have her name legally changed to "Peggy Nooner"---and then simply describe the journalistic validities of her quickie screeds as "cheap mid-day sex that really isn't the least bit satisfying?"

Posted by: S. Waybright on November 6, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Well, yes, Congress passed the sort of legislation that the Republicans might have, a decade or more ago, if they'd been more interested in doing it.

Unfortunately, the health care legislation looks as though it'll be de-funded or stripped of its universal coverage provisions, which will wreck the whole scheme.

The politics of poorer parts of the country, the ones that most need universal health care, is such that state governments will never support it, so the only option is for the federal government to run the health insurance system without state input. Think Texas, Mississippi, Florida.

Posted by: Dave Martin on November 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Can we just have her name legally changed to "Peggy Nooner"---and then simply describe the journalistic validities of her quickie screeds as "cheap mid-day sex that really isn't the least bit satisfying?"

Posted by: sohbet on November 6, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Moskowitz: "leaning to the left is what American voters really want from their Senators and Representatives, and what they really support."

Interesting analysis. I agree 100% if by "leaning to left" you mean that Americans want to end the corruption of democratic institutions by Corporations and the Uber-Rich. That's something that conservatives are incapable of doing.

Posted by: PTate in MN on November 6, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Was it "worth it"? Hell no!

Democrats gave us a "stimulus" package that will keep us in recession for the rest of the decade.

They gave us "Wall Street Reform" that permits business as usual and guarantees another Bubble and Crash a few years down the road. They gave us fuzzy regulations that the next set of Republican-appointed Sgt. Shultzes (I see nuh_THINK!) can ignore. And they gave us a shiny new consumer protection agency that will be packed with Wall Street insiders.

They gave us "Health Care Reform" that's a gift to the insurance corporations. They gave us rules with loopholes that will be exploited as soon as the next Republican president appoints industry insiders to oversee the rules -- industry insiders who will see ANY misspelling as a justification for recinding insurance as soon as it's needed.

Democrats got vilified and demonized for passing these half-measures. Wouldn't it have been more worth it if they had at least TRIED to solve the real problems before backing off and passing these bandaides?

Posted by: SteveT on November 6, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

The tea partiers of Walmart

/joking [funny pics of Walmart patrons]

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 6, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

In a few short weeks the barbarians will descend on Rome, and begin to dismantle, brick by brick, what little progress we made in a couple of years.

Cue images of "the populace" trashing the White House shortly after Andrew Jackson was inaugurated. . .

Posted by: DAY on November 6, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

The country is turning libertarian because they see the cliff ahead

Utter horseshit. Voters don't act out of abstract concerns like "where the country is headed", "the deficit" etc. This isn't rocket science and it's not philosophy, it's politics. You want to know why a given policy is or is not supported? Ask the question "who benefits?" In the case of HCR, the wrong people benefit, i.e., people with very little political influence.

Posted by: DelCapslock on November 6, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP seems to think they have a mandate to return to the bad habits they engaged in. Thats not what the people want and the dems capitulate to that. We need term limits on political parties.
~~~~~

Democrats gave us a "stimulus" package that will keep us in recession for the rest of the decade. -Steve T

Sure they did. So did the congress and admin before that. But technically, according to goobermint data the great recession ended in june of 2009. And Bernanke [Bush pick] doesnt seem to care that all his QE stimulus will create inflation and prices will go up and people will stop spending again. His main concern is the assets market, IMO.
~~~~
Term Limits For Political Parties Because Power Corrupts

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 6, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK
The country is turning libertarian because they see the cliff ahead

I dont see that. The libertarians are being co-opted just like every other group. Free market ideology is a boon to the greed that is DC. Anyone really think the MIC, big OIL and the FIRE sector wants to dismantle the goobermint tax payer trough they slop from? Ayn Rands greed is good meme, I say, leads directly to a pseudo aristocracy which our country fought to free itself from.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 6, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Pundits use language so insidiously. Noonan framed the debate as "was it worth it" and everyone falls into place on the two well defined opposite sides. I expected more from this blog.

The issue isnt "was it worth" but rather the lefts dirt-poor message machine. If lies and innuendo were not the rights modus ooperandi and if the left could speak to the american populous at large in a language they could understand, the last two years would be called tempered but reasonable achievements in the midst of crisis.

The real question is not was not "was it worth it" but rather "how could the left be a political institution that is so pathetic at selling policy. The answer, I suspect is that they have one foot in the progressive left and the other in the increasingly fascist, business co-oped right.

If the long term left did not have long term demographics in their favor, the 21st century US would look like the 21st century USSR.

Posted by: no leaf clover on November 6, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

N. Wells, I agree that the Blue Dog Democrats' seats were necessary for the majority that passed health care reform, etc. My problem, however, is that the Blue Dog approach assumes that those purple district are static and that, therefore, any Democrat who gets elected in them must run to the center and criticize the progressives in the party. The result of those assumptions is that we would never get the sustainable progressive majority that we want and need.

Instead, we need to assume that such districts are not static and, instead, can be moved to the left by increasing Democratic turnout and/or convincing moderates in the districts that the progressive position is correct. We've had a number of opportunities to do that, most notably with the economic crisis that the Democrats inherited two years ago. Bold action that truly fixed the economy would have both increased Democratic turnout and moved some of the moderates our direction. Unfortunately, the Blue Dogs prevented us from taking such bold action and we saw the results of their strategy last Tuesday.

That is the lesson that I think we need to heed as we move forward.

http://www.winningprogressive.org

Posted by: Winning Progressive on November 6, 2010 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats are not the enemy. Not Blue Dogs, nor a "timid" President, nor any other Democrat, centrist or progressive or whatever. I don't know what logic there is in supporting Halter against Blanche Lincoln and then continuing to condemn her when she wins. The enemy is the Republicans and we should be focusing like a laser on them and what they're up to.

Posted by: Robert Abbott on November 6, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Only time will tell, but the odds are that health care reform will rank with the Social Security and Civil Rights as a landmark piece of legislation that will become sacrosanct as the general population begin to enjoy its benefits.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 pretty much killed off what had been, for over a generation, a Democratic lock on Congress. A lock on power with the solid south as the key. Over the course of the next decade it paved the way for turning Dixie from bright Blue to even brighter Red. Would any Democrat today give away that breakthrough to have Haley Barbour, or Saxby Chambliss, or Trent Lott in a position of power in an ascendant Democratic party? Doubt it.

Posted by: majun on November 6, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Who can divorce the economic woes from reckless war spending, the likes of which the world has not seen?

I mean besides the Peggy?

Posted by: Dredd on November 6, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Not to be indelicate... but "FUCK YOU PEGGY NOONAN YOU OLD HARPIE AND HAS BEEN."

ahem. Of COURSE it's been worth it. A close friend's mother died of breast cancer 20 years ago. Before she died her insurance company started denying her treatment (because of a life time cap) and then after her death her father was hounded nearly into ruin because of the ruinous bills.

Thanks to the new health care bill, that will never happen to anyone ever again. So fuck all the republicans.

Also, I want to point out that Harry Reid, knowing that he was facing almost certain defeat, never flinched during HCR. I disagree with him frequently, but we owe him a debt of gratitude for that courage. I'll support him for as long as he's in public office.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on November 6, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Im to the point of screw the elected dems and pubs.

They have turned the government into the new dutch east india company that uses our troops to open new markets with the inane logic of exceptionalism.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 6, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

This an essay I submitted to KCStar for publication.

AS I SEE IT

Thank you President Obama and Democrats in the 111th Congress. You put policy ahead of re-election. In less than 2 years you have passed a huge amount of historic legislation. To start you passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which makes it easier to sue for pay discrimination which had been held back for years. Following that came credit card reform to help protect consumers from sudden interest rate hikes. Next came a bill that allows the FDA to regulate tobacco and reduce nicotine. On the heels of that bill was the Hate Crime Act which makes it a federal crime to commit an assault based on sexual orientation.
Then came the CHIP Act which provided for extending health coverage for 4 million uninsured children. Next up was a $40 billion boost in Pell Grants, a streamlined loan process, saving taxpayers billions, caps on what students will have to pay after graduation, loan forgiveness for veterans after 10 years — this breakthrough legislation will make a dramatic impact in the lives of millions.
Following was the Serve America Act which supports more than 57,000 new AmeriCorps members who will serve with a wide range of national and local nonprofit organizations, community and faith-based groups, educational institutions, and Indian Tribes. The grants make a focused investment in the five national priorities of strengthening education, expanding health services, assisting veterans and military families, building a green future, and fostering economic opportunity.
Then came the infamous “Cash for Clunkers” program which was highly successful followed by the auto industry bailout which while controversial saved a million jobs and most of the car companies are now showing a profit. Following was the Recovery Act or stimulus which provided for the largest tax cut in history, and the largest investment in clean energy and education in history.
Next up was Health Care Reform-not a single payer system, not a European style system, but one in which 95% of Americans will have access to health insurance which will help control raging health care costs which increase the federal deficit.
Then 4 months later, the Financial Reform bill which helps regulate Wall Street from its excesses and provides some protections to those of us on Main Street so we, the people will never have to bailout Wall Street again.
And then for us from military families comes 3 bills to aid veterans and their caregivers and female veterans. They expanded the most funding for veterans ever and expanded the access to the VA for more veterans.
Plus a consumer protection agency has been established, a nuclear arms deal with Russia that would reduce both countries` arsenals by a third, and a new global nonproliferation initiative to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. A weapons program that was bloated, unnecessary and totally irrelevant to either of our current wars, the F-22, was cancelled saving taxpayers over $1Billion for a plane that has never been used.
And on top of all of that and many more bills that were passed, the federal deficit was reduced. You could have taken the easy and re-election based way and just let things slide but instead you tackled big problems for the citizens of the United States of America. Yes, I have complaints about what you didn’t get accomplished as we are an impatient electorate but thank you for all you did accomplish and I am sorry you did it at such great personal expense. You should feel proud.

Posted by: kraftysue on November 6, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is "Yes Peggy, it was worth it."

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 6, 2010 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

"But polls say that Americans like the new Health Care Bill, and most of the other legislation the Dems got through Congress. "

WTF ????

"Progressives" got re-elected because they have gerrymandered safe seats, like San Francisco. That would be OK if the country agreed with progressives. They don't. That's what the tea parties are about.

The blue dogs were sacrificed by lefties who don't listen to the voters. They were being told this was a bad idea in the town halls in the summer of 2009. This was no bolt from the blue, like 1994. Now, Obamacare will be dismantled just as suggested in this NEJM article.

Posted by: Mike K on November 6, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have spent two years and billions of dollars to mislead and frighten the American people

That's it, in a nutshell. Fooling enough of the people all of the time.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on November 6, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Let's remember that the public supported health insurance reform by a wide margin as the battle for reform began, and the public still supports key components of the bill, particularly ending the pre-existing condition exclusion, by a wide margin. The Democrats got hammered because they allowed the GOP to drive the narrative and convince the American people that the health reform bill contained things that it didn't. Had the Democrats counterattacked quickly and repeatedly, and drove home the message that they would no longer allow insurance companies to dump the sick, they would have (1) won in the court of public opinion, and (2) provided the blue dogs with a narrative they could sell to their largely conservative constituency back home. The Democrats are loathe to engage in politics -- they just want to be rewarded for doing the right thing. Unfortunately, that's a losing strategy.

Posted by: ameshall on November 6, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

The key take away from this election is the blue dogs who tried to follow the Republican lead lost. Why re-elect a blue dog if a real republican is available.

If the Democrats are interested in rebounding in 2012 they will fight tooth and nail for the people. Those who don't will be slaudered next election.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 6, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K:
What is it about a government providing for the healthcare of it's citizens that you object to? I mean, what more basic and decent thing could a government do for it's people? Really, I'm just not getting the argument on principle.

And please, no bs about "the deficit" or how "it's unconstitutional".

Posted by: DelCapslock on November 6, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans don't understand it because they don't believe in actually governing when they are in power; they merely want to hold on to power. Staying in office is the be-all and end-all for the GOP.

Posted by: Speed on November 6, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

This essay was a shining example of a trope that is mostly only indulged by lazy, reflexively right-wing pundits, namely stating as fact what they imagine to be the inner thoughts of their political opposition. God, that's annoying.

Posted by: dob on November 6, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Back 'atcha Peggy. WAS IT WORTH IT??? Was it worth to show the country (maybe not yet but they'll get it in the next few years) what lying bastards you are? WAS IT WORTH IT??? To show that you can't win unless you lie to the populace? WAS IT WORTH IT that it was the last dying gasp of the 'angry white men' who are dying off??? WAS IT WORTH IT that you violated every single principle you ever pretended to have?

Posted by: SYSPROG on November 6, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Turn this around and see how it fits: GOPers spent their first majority in decades bringing the global economy to the brink of ruin, making it more likely that AGW will be more devastating (and certainly making it harder to counteract), and they did this for some golfing junkets and padding their already outrageous Congressional pentions... was it worth it?

Posted by: jhm on November 6, 2010 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Noonan's question "Was it worth it?" falsely assumes that the mid-term results accurately reflected and measured the voters' informed opinions of the Democrat's achievements. That is the biggest fallacy of the mid-terms! People had NO CLUE what actually was done and what was accomplished! They were lied to about the content of legislation, lied to about the real impact the stimulus has had, and lied to about who did what and when! Those are just the highlights of the lies and deception, as the fabrications go on and on. It's sickening.

Posted by: Varecia on November 6, 2010 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

"The country is turning libertarian because they see the cliff ahead."

As DelCapslock said, utter horseshit. Let the republicans start dismantling, say, medicare, and they will find out exactly how 'libertarian' the country has become.

Posted by: rae on November 6, 2010 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

The phrase, "The people have spoken, the bastards" was coined by Mo Udall, Az congressman for many decades. It was less of an invective than a joke coming from a veteran of many campaigns... Win some lose some.

Some how when Noonan uses it, it lacks the gentle humor of one of the great legislators of the 20th century.

By the way....

JUST SAY YES to tax increases for the wealthy

It is a secular sin to own a Armani suit worth a thousand meals when almost 1/3 of Arizona kids live in poverty. Tax the excess wealth of the über rich now.

Republicans destroyed the economy by lax financial regulation coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy which forced great deficits upon the country.  Now they want to give that 5% of the populations which owns 85% of the country's wealth even more money.

The rich have had a free ride since Reagan when the highest tax rates were cut from 70% to 35%.  Now the country and the economy are in trouble. It is time to tax excessive wealth.  It is time the rich pay their fair share. 

There is no reason to give people like Paris Hilton more $10,000 Hermes handbags, music industry execs another $200,000 Ferrari or Real Estate Barons like Donald Trump more $30,000 Rolex watches when people are unemployed, losing their houses, and cannot afford college or health insurance.

Please, tell your elected officials you not only oppose the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, but would like to see the top rate restored to the pre-Reagan level.

Tax the excess wealth of the über rich now.  

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on November 6, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

KurtRex1453: "Tax the excess wealth of the über rich now."

Yeah! Definitely! There is nothing wrong with America today that a proper progressive tax would not fix!

Posted by: PTate in MN on November 6, 2010 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK
That's what the tea parties are about.

Oh, garbage. The tea parties are about fear and ignorance. You're proof of that.

As for agreeing, the polls that *educate* the public about the matters under discussion show that the people do, in fact, agree with progressives.

Posted by: PaulB on November 6, 2010 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Poor. Dumb. Bastards.

Noonan:

"The people have spoken, the bastards." That would be how Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill are feeling.

No. It is more like:

"The people have spoken, the dumb ungrateful bastards." That would be commenters on certain Democratic blogs.

Let's get real here. This was the most crazy-dumb election in the history of my life span.
The two overarching issues in the country are:

1) The rich getting richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class disappearing.
2) Global warming.

And so what does the electorate do?

• Sweeps into office the very party whose policies are most responsible for the rich getting richer.

• Punishes the party that passed a health bill transfering multi-billions down the food chain to the most needy. Thus staunching some middle class bleeding...

• Gives the keys of leadership to a party that denies the science on global warming and promises to investigate it as a hoax...

Someone needs to be point blank blunt here.
Might as well be me:

Poor. Dumb. Bastards.

Posted by: koreyel on November 6, 2010 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

An excellent response to Noonan by Mr. Benen as well as the perfect summation of ANY Democratic legislation: "...the dividends for the country will be felt for years."
The next two years will undoubtedly be frustrating; trying to prevent Republican/Teabagger legislation from destroying any gains made won't always be successful in Congress. The Presidential veto will, most likely, get a good work-out.
The major problem faced by progressive/liberal/Democratic supporters (one CAN be all three) is ensuring that Democratic proposals and legislative initiatives, and what they mean to voters, get out to the public, regardless of the MSM's focus on "Dems say/Repubs say" reporting.
The DNC and ALL the Democratic election committees need to understand that their sole means of retaining or regaining seats depends on how well they accomplish that.
Otherwise we'll be here, two years from now, bitching about the same ol', same ol' and NOTHING will have changed...

Posted by: Doug on November 6, 2010 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Tuesday's election is just one more illustration of the success of the politics of fear, lies and innuendo.

When 57% (or whatever it was) go into the polling booth believing their taxes have been raised when in fact they were lowered, the votes cast will not accurately reflect the will of the voters. I wish the pollsters had asked those 23% of voters over 65 if they believed in death panels.

Deliberate misinformation skewed the results of the election.

Ms Noonan question is rather bizarrely pointless. The Republicans would have run against whatever the Democrats did. (D'uh.)

Posted by: Seould on November 6, 2010 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

From Mike K at 3:17pm:

"Progressives" got re-elected because they have gerrymandered safe seats, like San Francisco. That would be OK if the country agreed with progressives. They don't. That's what the tea parties are about.

"The country" doesn't 'agree' on much of anything, lad. The tea parties don't even agree on what they're screeching about 90% of the time, so how that translates into any kind of coherent mandate for these elections is beyond me. Frankly all I'm hearing from you is sour grapes that Blue Dogs (rightly, imo) lost their seats here, whereas others did not.

The blue dogs were sacrificed by lefties who don't listen to the voters. They were being told this was a bad idea in the town halls in the summer of 2009. This was no bolt from the blue, like 1994. Now, Obamacare will be dismantled just as suggested in this NEJM article.

First, the Blue Dogs weren't 'sacrificed'. Name me one who the DCA and other party organs deliberately tossed to the wolves. Just one.

Second, the 'town halls' of last year were little more than staged theatre for the open lies of Beck and company, and so shouldn't and couldn't be taken seriously as any indication of actual voter preference. Even if they were, should misinformation be allowed to dictate public policy?

Finally, its the "Affordable Care Act", not "Obamacare". And if you'd bothered to read the NEJM article carefully, you'd note the author concludes that repeal is too unlikely to be seriously entertained, and that 'defunding' is a hollow threat. The latter might be employed to 'cripple' implementation, but the core of the legislation and its provisions aren't likely to be lost.

In any case, with idiots like McConnell and Boener in charge (provided they can remain in their current positions) its an open question as to whether or not they can carry through with either option. Maybe if they'd won the Senate, they might manage. With just the House, I'm not laying odds on their succeeding at anything.

Posted by: Josef K. on November 6, 2010 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Wonderful post. I agree.

Posted by: Lynn Dee on November 6, 2010 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's true, what good is a majority if you're not willing to lose it for important things? And I conceed that this Congress has been the most productive in 30 years. But that's a really sad comparison, considering how poorly this country has been governed in that time.

Ultimately, each Congress is judged by how well it meets the challenges of its own time. On that count, history will likely remember this Congress — particularly the Senate — for shirking its responsibilities to the people, and providing only the barest minimum of what was required in the way of crisis response.

That's why Democrats lost on Tuesday. We have some fine elected officials in the party. But collectively, in tackling the urgent problems which still remain to be done, Congress never even came close to "leaving it all on the road".

Posted by: Big River Bandido on November 6, 2010 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Look, lets just say it once and for all. WE VOTED FOR CHANGE, WE GOT MORE OF THE SAME. That's why Tuesday happened. Iraq has 50K soldiers, the war in Afg is ramped up, DADT wasn't laid to rest, Gitmo wasn't closed, we got NO Public option, we got NO PLACE at the table for single payer, we got no prosecution of Bush/Cheney/Dumbsfeld for war crimes (but wait till the hearings start on you Obama. They CAN'T wait!!). We got Republican light, watered-down policies and programs. NOT THE CHANGE progressives voted for. So, many (not I, but many) people, esp the young progs said, "F*** YOU. We are no patsies, and you BS'ed us." Move forward w/ real progressive, people powered, middle class oriented policies and proposals, get your message out (eg, How many know that the mid class got the biggest tax-cut in HX?), and be bold! You stand up for us, we will stand up for you. Get it? I hope for our county's sake you do!

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on November 6, 2010 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Doug: "The major problem faced by progressive/liberal/Democratic supporters (one CAN be all three) is ensuring that Democratic proposals and legislative initiatives, and what they mean to voters, get out to the public, regardless of the MSM's focus on "Dems say/Repubs say" reporting."

An excellent point. And, one must add, in addition to the MSM failures, the Democratic message has to deal with the 24/7 Republican propaganda machine that Fox channel represents. As Chris Wallace has been saying, Fox is sponsoring up the 2012 Republican Alternate Reality show.

Posted by: PTate in MN on November 6, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, he did it knowing that he was signing over the South to the GOP for a generation or more. Was it worth it? I'd say so. There is a high price attached to doing what's right sometimes. Obama may not be the super-hero president we had hoped for. GITMO is still running, the Patriot Act and its abuses are still in place, but still, he did the right thing so many times, and the Democrats who backed him up may wear their bruises proudly.

Posted by: Daniel Kim on November 6, 2010 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

There was no way that the Democrats could have held onto the House given the lousy economy. Maybe we could have lost fewer than we did had the messaging been better or whatever. But maybe not.

When times are bad, voters punish the in party. Midterm elections almost always favor the out party. The last two elections, swinging our way, put Democratic Congressmen in conservative districts, and they were vulnerable.

Posted by: rachelrachel on November 6, 2010 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

It's a fundamental difference between today's major parties. One tries to pass legislation and promote actions that will rebuild the country, even though there will be a price to pay. The other one seems to be fixated on some kind of 'thousand year reich'.

Posted by: Daniel Kim on November 6, 2010 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Jobs stimulated by democratic policies will result from investments in 21st century technology. Republican-stimulated jobs result from policies like de-regulation, which leads to more jobs, for example, in the oil cleanup sector or in the emergency room sector. Emergency rooms are where people will go who don't have health insurance to be treated for salmonella poisoning from the de-regulated egg industry.

So was it worth it to keep the financial system running, stimulate the new economy, provide health care, rein in Wall Street excesses? You bet.

I for one welcome the coming debates over deficits -- people will be reminded how tax cuts and de-regulation in the face of two simultaneous wars and a housing bubble got us into the mess we're in now. And Boehner will be playing defense trying to prove how essentially the same Bush policies will have a different outcome second time around.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on November 6, 2010 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Peggy Noonan is SLOW..

Posted by: Trollop on November 7, 2010 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

I think Nancy Pelosi did a fantastic job leading the House. Obama did a very poor job of controlling the Democratic message on progress made. Harry Reid was the weak link in the SENATE. HCR will not be repealed or defunded in any significant manner. The dems lost with the help of the FOX media hype 24/7 which demonized good policies for the country while praising policies that reward wealth over work. I know one BLUE DOG lost because he failed to support the democrats, and when it came time for reelection, the volunteer dems who made his first term a reality, stayed home instead of standing on street corners on week ends promoting his name and candidacy. He voted his perceived conservative constituency, but lost sight of the ones who talked to their neighbors and GOTV. My fear is that Obama will continue his low key capitulation to the repugs on tax cuts. If the dems believe a policy is not good for the country, then they have no business giving in without a MAJOR battle especially over tax cuts for the wealthy and shipping jobs overseas to please the US Chamber of Commerce which committed treason, if it laundered foreign money and fed it into this federal election as reported . IRS needs to audit NOW!!

Posted by: CarmanK on November 7, 2010 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

This is a strawman argument.

Democrats didn't lose because they were too bold. They lost because they were too timid. Despite the media narrative, the problem wasn't a tide of angry GOP voters. It was the disaffected Democrats who stayed home.

As an intellectual exercise, yes, passing great legislation is worth the risk of losing power. But we didn't pass great legislation. If anything, this year's election was proof that Democrats do not believe tha ACA, FinReg, and stimulus were great.

The irony is that this is the argument that liberals made for the past two years. It is insane to sell out your principles just to try to protect the most vulnerable Democrats in red districts.

We need to be asking Third-Way Democrats "Was it worth it? You told us that we needed to water down our bills to keep Blue Dogs safe. We watered down the bills but they lost anyway. Was it worth it?"

Posted by: square1 on November 7, 2010 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

I think if we backed an even greater stimulus, chose the single payer alternative with HCR, imposed tighter Wall Street oversight, pushed ahead with Global Warming, backed the court about DADT etc. we would have lost Washington State, West Virginia, Nevada as well as the other close races.

The vast majority of people who criticize Obama for timidity have never held elected office. The political climate in Washington is incredibly polarized. If Obama plays to the left and the Republicans nominate one of their right-wing mouthpieces this opens the middle up wide for Michael Bloomberg.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on November 7, 2010 at 6:12 AM | PERMALINK

From pj at 6:12 AM:

I think if we backed an even greater stimulus, chose the single payer alternative with HCR, imposed tighter Wall Street oversight, pushed ahead with Global Warming, backed the court about DADT etc. we would have lost Washington State, West Virginia, Nevada as well as the other close races.

Perhaps 'we' would have. I'll even grant you the likelihood of that hits over 90%, but so what? Had such policies been purused, at least then the country would have had a much clearer view of the stakes and differences between the two parties (insofar as there are any).

I'll also grant that most of those policies aren't likely to have passed Congress, short of massive pushes by both the public and the White House. Even if they hadn't, I feel the losses you list would have still been worth it as we'd still have the current list of accomplishments from this Congress.

The vast majority of people who criticize Obama for timidity have never held elected office. The political climate in Washington is incredibly polarized. If Obama plays to the left and the Republicans nominate one of their right-wing mouthpieces this opens the middle up wide for Michael Bloomberg.

Perhaps this is how the 2012 campaign will indeed play out, but again so what? The job of our elected officials is not, as Steve points out, to simply keep their offices but to actually use them to serve the country and get legislation passed. If, god forbid, President Obama looses in two years time, he'll have at least passed some decent legislation and maybe improved the country's prospects a little.

That's his damned job.

Posted by: Josef K on November 7, 2010 at 6:29 AM | PERMALINK

"They were being told this was a bad idea in the town halls in the summer of 2009."

There is some irony in that the (pseudo)controversial bill was killed so quietly most people don't even know it happened.

Posted by: Forrest on November 7, 2010 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

If the Republicans think replacing a few dozen semi-useless Blue Dogs in the House is a national mandate to return to 1964 they're even crazier than Noonan.

Posted by: max on November 7, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

But those kind of pundits and the Republicans didn't think it mattered that "the people spoke" in 2008! The Republicans decided instead *not* to listen to that message, and were rewarded by their own partisans and a bitter, confused, and misdirected public mostly bothered by unemployment and because there was better turnout among the right.

Posted by: neil b. on November 7, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I guess pragmatism is just for moderates.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on November 7, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

I need to change my name...I'm discouraged folks. The media is owned by mega corporations who "educate" the country into doing exactly what it wants. The states have gone to a majority of red governors who will jerrymander Republican majorities for another decade. And "we" elected more Republicans to do more of what they did before because we were told that "we" were speaking in those astro-turf organizations.

Yes, the old people will be furious when they find out there will be social security and medicare cuts, but the deficit commission's recommendations will come out on Obama's watch and he will do what he thinks the country wants. He will take the blame for tampering with their Social Security and Medicare.

Nothing will change until we wake up and realize that we have been the subjects of propaganda. Then it will require a revolution, for real.

Nothing will change until the young in this country stop feeling apathetic and hopeless about voting. I tell my son all the time that he is seceding his future to the old f%^ks.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on November 7, 2010 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I forgot...as for HCR, it will die a death of a thousand cuts just like a woman's right to choose.

My brother, his wife, his son, his sister-in-law all work for a major insurance company. He was mortified over HCR. His only hope was that the govt would take all the risk that the high risk consumers would generate, thereby ensuring the insurance company record profits. That's what will happen in the short term.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on November 7, 2010 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly