Sen. Brown & Health Care

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem "Concord Hymn," which is inscribed on the Minuteman statue at the North Bridge, begins with four lines that every schoolchild learned by heart: "By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world." Last night, it wasn’t April, and though they were hardly embattled, the citizens of Massachusetts fired a shot heard round Washington. The seat held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy since 1962, and before that by his brother Jack since 1952, that seat was won last night by Republican Scott Brown.

It is beyond true that Brown defeated one of the worst candidates in the history of modern politics. You don’t win elections in Massachusetts by insulting Catholics and Red Sox fans. Martha Coakley, a name that political writers everywhere know they will never have to write again, can be forgiven personally for not recognizing the name "Curt Schilling" when a radio interviewer asked her about the great Red Sox pitcher. Politically, shame, eternal shame, damnation and hell-fire on any candidate for any public office in Red Sox Nation who makes such a gaffe!

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The insult to Catholics was more telling because it tells a tale that I wonder if the White House has the ears to hear. Coakley, who won the Democratic Party primary by outrunning her opponents to the left, the far left, was asked about conscience protections for Catholic health care workers and she suggested that if they were uncomfortable performing immoral acts, they should not work in an emergency room. This from an Attorney General! No nuance. No appreciation for the fact that the issue of conscience protection is a complicated one, that patients as well as workers have rights, but that neither set of rights should be dismissed so cavalierly. I fear, however, that the President and his advisors share Coakley’s sensibility that the issue of conscience protection is "a Catholic thing," a concern of pro-lifers whom most elite Democrat advisors abhor. The issue of conscience protection is not simply a "Catholic thing." It is a liberal thing, at least if my memory of John Locke and Roger Williams is accurate. And only the most rabidly anti-religious zealot would think it is only a "Catholic thing." Democrats need to learn from Ms. Coakley’s example: If you insult Catholics and our faith, we are not going to vote for you.

What does this mean for health care? The White House may try to get the House to pass the Senate version and move on to another topic, hoping that times will be better by November and that with the return of good times, all will be forgiven. House Democrats, all of whom are standing for re-election, would be the wager in that bet and politicians tend to be risk averse. To ram through health care now would be made to look like the Democrats were thumbing their nose at the voters. GOP operatives said that they first saw the polls in Massachusetts shift when the horse-trading for votes in the Senate got out of hand. Of course, if the Dems do ram through the bill quickly, GOP fears that the sky would fall immediately would be exposed as little more than fear-mongering.

The only other option is to pull the bill and come back with a new proposal that Democrats can run on in November. My advice: Keep it simple. The law by which Canada enacted its health insurance plan was eight pages long. I will give the White House twenty, but not twenty-one. People don’t like 2,000 page bills. They recognize them as an affront to notions of self-government. Yes, yes, health care is complicated but, for example, how about this one sentence for a new public option: Every citizen of the United States may, if he chooses, purchase the same health insurance as his congressperson. This has the further advantage of avoiding any trouble over abortion coverage: The federal employee health benefit plan that members of Congress have does not include abortion coverage. And, why not this: Every citizen, upon reaching the age of 55, can buy-in to Medicaid. Another one-sentence item: No citizen shall be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. I am sure the section of the current bill on preventive care may need to be lengthier than my twenty page limit, so package it as a separate piece of legislation and pass it. Who is against preventive care? And as for financing, the more populist the solution the better on the current climate.

The Democrats needed a strategy to hold on to Independent voters in Massachusetts (and some blue collar Democrats as well, as Matt Malone points out this morning) and there was no shortage of smart campaign operatives in Boston, but no one came up with a winning strategy. The Democrats need one for November and here is one: Turn the election into a referendum on a new, shorter, less convoluted health care bill. Make the GOP come out with their own plan and let voters compare the two.

One of the problems with President Obama’s campaign last year was that it was long on content-less nouns like "change" and "hope" and many voters projected on to the candidate the particular variety of change and hope they wanted. It is time to put some content into the midterms. Like yesterday’s race in Massachusetts, no matter the individual qualities of the candidates, the results will be interpreted as having national significance. Might as well give them that significance up front. The worst that can happen for the White House is that the Dems lose control of Congress, but that might happen anyway if they keep going on their current trajectory. They lost Massachusetts yesterday and the other 49 noticed.

Michael Sean Winters

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Jim McCrea
7 years 11 months ago
Maria sez:  “Great day ! Great day, the righteous marching. It seems the will of the people still matters, after all.”
 
Ah, yes, the will of the people -
 
“No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”  H. L. Mencken.
 
“People reach conclusions when they are tired of thinking.”  Mark Twain.
 
"A progressive is someone who keeps making the same mistake, while a conservative is someone who prevents a mistake from ever being corrected."  G. K. Chesterton.
7 years 11 months ago
His name is Saul Alinsky and he died when Obama was going on 11 years old. Obama was not enrolled in Saul's 'school' because he did not have a valid birth certificate! :0)
Also Brown is not David and even most cons would say Coakley is not Goliath. So your take must be Obama not Coakley lost Mass. we'll see. O! and I think it was Cicero who said you can't make an Ad Hominum on an anonymous entity.
7 years 11 months ago
MSW says, "Of course, if the Dems do ram through the bill quickly, GOP fears that the sky would fall immediately would be exposed as little more than fear-mongering."

I think it is quite the opposite. Healthcare does not get passed and the sky does not fall as Obama has predicted.
Jeff Bagnell
7 years 11 months ago
In the words of Muhammad Ali, Scott Brown shocked the world.  The vote was a primordial American revolt against the kind of massive government Obama would like to impose on us.
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 11 months ago
Scott Brown's victory is indeed a victory for Catholics, although you wouldn't know it from reading MSW's edition of Wednesday morning quarterback about what Democrats need to do better. Sorry and good luck with that! How can Mr. Brown's victory not be a victory for Catholics when, as MSW well notes, the individual defeated (Ms. Coakley) would have Catholics stay out of the health care profession altogether if they have any moral objection to abortion and other culture of death issues. What happened religious freedom? Mr. Brown may not get a perfect score for his own views on the life issues, but he's far better than Coakley and a tremendous upgrade over the late Senator Kennedy or any other watered-down Catholic that the Democrats could have put on the ballot. Many of us saw the helping hand of the Holy Spirit at work in this special election and let us all pray for Scott Brown (who is, incidentally, a Boston College (i.e., Jesuit) product) as he begins his first term in the Senate.
Marc Monmouth
7 years 11 months ago
P. Lake, Scott Brown is the lesser of two evils. I understand that he supports abortion rights but is opposed to tax-payer funding of abortion as Obama and Coakley would have. Let us pray for him and for his conversion on this issue.
7 years 11 months ago
Let's see. the conservative spin doctors admit Brown is pro-choice but he makes for 'better' choices because he went to BC?

My take is, Mass. has almost universal health coverage, so voters say who needs to take a chance on paying for the rest of the country. Also it appears spinning really works.
Marie Rehbein
7 years 11 months ago
Since our health insurance premiums went up by more than $80 per month (a 20 percent increase) this year over last year, a sentence should be added that premium rate increases may not exceed the inflation rate as determined by the government.  I think the insurance companies are expecting this restriction, and that is why they increased the premiums.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
In 2007-2008 I was treated for breast cancer.  My husband lost his job during this time and we had to pay the full insurance premiums in order to continue the insurance.  With insurance premiums at almost $1400 a month and other out of pocket expenses, we spent more than $20,000 for medical expenses - and that was WITH insurance.
 
Sometimes I wonder what simple medical care - like an infected hangnail, or a deep cut - would cost a person without insurance in the United States.  Would they even be able to afford it?
 
How can something so simple be so complicated?
I want to move to Massachusetts! 
7 years 11 months ago
Great day ! Great day, the righteous marching. It seems the will of the people still matters, after all.

Marc Monmouth
7 years 11 months ago
My wife and I attended daily Mass this morning which we try to do when our schedules permit. It was amazing that the first reading was from the Book of Samuel and the story of David overpowering and overcoming Goliath. This is exactly what happened in Massachusetts (correct spelling). Martha Coakley was the puppet candidate of the rich and powerful. She represented the "status-quo" who had no regard for the people. She was the hand-picked candidate of a family which has become arrogant and which believes they own the Senate seat and are entitled to say who sits in that seat. Scott Brown was the underdog from humble roots (and all from humble roots are an anathema to wealthy liberals) who worked hard and was against Kennedy money and Obama influence. They even mocked the fact that he drove a truck. Yes, David slew Goliath. Hopefully, this is a warning for Democrats and Republicans alike-seats belong to the people and elected officials represent "we the people."   Congratulations to Scott Brown for a job well-done and to the people of Massachusetts who broke the chains of their enslavement.
Marc Monmouth
7 years 11 months ago
I stand corrected. His correct name is Alinsky and I was typing to fast and thinking of a restaurant. I accept the correction in the same spirit of charity in which I am sure it was offered. To say that someone was a student in a school does not imply that one was tutored by the person personally, but that the person accepted the teachings and embraced the ideology.  For example, I say Jesuits were students in the Ignatian School or that my daughter was a student in the Montessori school. We know that modern day Jesuits did not know Ignatius any more than my daughter knew Marie Montessori.  If we are quoting notables, I can do so also. but the quote that comes to mind by Augustine would probably be considered an ad-hominen and you are not anonymous.  I suggest you go to this link- ttp://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/4784 
Saul Alinsky's son felt Obama learned his (Alinsky) father's teachings well.  peace
Marie Rehbein
7 years 11 months ago
A Republican from Massachusetts is likely to be far more "liberal" than a Democrat from the Midwest or South. 
7 years 11 months ago
Welcome to Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking with my good Irish friend MSW!
( sorry for the abbreviation tr,SJ)
Where are the rants about the need to soak the rich with as many tax increases as possible to pay for so called '' health care reform''? Or how we need to hold our nose and compromise our principles so we can move forward? All we now hear is crickets.
Alas I fear that this train ran off the rails last year when the POTUS deferred to Nancy and Harry's left tack. It will be sad if the train wreak left behind causes us to again lose an opportunity for real health care access reform
 
 
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
Amen, Joe Cleary.
Why would anyone NOT want healthcare reform in the USA?  What are they cheering about?  That their "side" won, meanwhile, according to my friend who is a nurse, if you cut yourself while cooking and don't have insurance, your medical charges for treatment will run about $5000.  What kind of country is this?
 
Then again, I hear that Scott Brown may be a surprising kind of senator (to the left of Snowe??!!). 
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
What's so bad about Saul Alinsky?

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