A Republican in Kennedy’s Seat?

White House/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/3862356722/">Pete Souza</a> (<a href="http://www.usa.gov/copyright.shtml" target="_blank">Government Work</a>).

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


UPDATE: Martha Coakley has conceded. David Corn has more.

Most observers seem to think that Scott Brown, the Republican candidate, will be the next senator from Massachusetts and serve out the remainder of Ted Kennedy’s term. But as Josh Marshall writes, even if Martha Coakley ekes out a victory, today is a “critical gut-check moment” for President Barack Obama. Now that he’s facing political trouble—in Massachusetts of all places—how will the president react?

The reporting on Obama’s plans for the State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 27, suggest that the White House will double down on the kind of moves that have irritated liberals and demoralized his base. According to Politico, the president plans to unveil a budget that features “real fiscal austerity measures” that will “draw flak from both sides of the aisle”—code words for a contraction in government spending that left-leaning economists like Paul Krugman say will only add to the country’s economic woes. Over at the Atlantic, Marc Ambinder also warns of further disappointment for the left:

[I]f, through some combination of White House pressure and magic the House CAN pass the Senate health care bill within the next few days, the circumstances surrounding its passage will not redound to the benefit of Democrats. Liberals will be angry—and they’ll be even angrier at the White House’s austerity budget that’s due Feb. 1. And they’ll be even ANGRIER when they realize that the White House will redouble their efforts to make peace with Republicans on budgetary and spending issues.

Still, not everyone sees dark days ahead for liberals. Kevin picked out a different passage from the same Politico article:

“The response will not be to do incremental things and try to salvage a few seats in the fall,” a presidential adviser said. “The best political route also happens to be the boldest rhetorical route, which is to go out and fight and let the chips fall where they may. We can say, ‘At least we fought for these things, and the Republicans said no.'”

Kevin thinks showing “some fight” in the wake of a Massachusetts loss might turn out to be a “blessing in disguise.” And sure, such a strategy might help Obama. It may even save some Democratic seats come November. But will emboldened rhetoric help the White House actually enact any liberal policies? It’s no coincidence that the increase in “fight” is coming at the same time that it’s going to be increasingly hard for the administration to actually acheive anything of substance. Senators like Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are already suggesting that Obama should move towards “the center.” With Brown in office, Obama will have trouble doing the tough stuff. He’ll be turning to rhetoric—and turning rightwards on “budgetary and spending issues”—because he’ll have to. If this is a blessing, it’s pretty well disguised. 

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate