Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The man who would kill healthcare

It's incredible, but Massachusetts seems to have just delivered the first really crippling blow to the President's agenda. Scott Brown (above), the lightweight state rep who openly tells people he's opposed to universal healthcare and more government stimulus for the economy, has been elected to the Senate, delivering to the Republicans the vote they need to prevent any progress on the nation's problems.

It used to be that people wondered "What's the matter with Kansas?"

Now I suppose we have to amend that to "What's the matter with Massachusetts?"

There are, of course, the usual excuses to be trotted out for the electorate - with the cold calculation of Martha Coakley, who makes John Kerry look like a party animal, no doubt serving as the favored scapegoat of many.

But I really don't think that goes far enough in explaining why so many people in my home state seem to have decided to vote against their own best interests. How could they imagine that another Republican voice in the Senate would improve their lives, particularly when he openly tells them he is completely opposed to doing so? It's at moments like this, I think, that we have to begin to consider whether America is really governable anymore - whether our version of democracy can even work. I confess I'm not sure that it is, or that it can. Whenever I spoke to Scott Brown's supporters, I heard the same refrain: "I just don't like her," (meaning Coakley), as if this were a high school prom contest, as if their own rights and wages and freedoms were not at stake.

Of course the underside of that statement is that they did like what Brown represents - certainly not intelligence, and certainly not experience, but instead a blank, happy assertion of white, male privilege. That privilege, of course, used to let its perks trickle down to the white working class, too. But not anymore. That disconnect - with the awareness that the wealthy (and Wall Street) now look to global, not American, opportunities - has yet to sink into Main Street, which can only see that the Democrats are led by blacks and women, and project an aura of identity politics rather than identification with the working man. By the time they realize their mistake, it may be too late. Indeed, it may already be too late; certainly Scott Brown's election means the next year will be a little harder economically, and that the aftermath of the recession will last a little longer. But will the new senator's victims realize who they have to thank for their predicament? I'm not optimistic.

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