Ted Kennedy must be turning over in his grave. For forty-seven years he selflessly served the people of Massachusetts. And now this. How soon they forget. But the betrayal of his memory by an ungrateful electorate must not dishearten the Democratic Party for which he toiled so mightily. The legacy of the Lion of the Senate will live on as long as true believers keep the faith.
Listening to the pundits, you might think last night’s special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat brought an end to a Democratic “super-majority” in the U.S. Senate. The implication is that losing the Massachusetts election means death to “the Obama agenda.”
True, a Senate super-majority is vital to implementing President Obama’s agenda because the Republican Party has adopted a policy of filibustering everything he favors. The strategy is designed to make the President so ineffective that the Republicans will regain power in 2012 – if not earlier.
To overcome a filibuster, the Democrats need 60 Senate votes.
But the Democrats did not have 60 representatives in the Senate before Martha Coakley lost Kennedy’s seat. On paper, they had 58 seats. Two Independents – Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman – caucused with the Democrats. Sanders is a Democrat at heart, but if Lieberman is a Democrat I am a Lithuanian trapeze artist.
Furthermore, among the so-called Democrats, there are moles like Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, and others who cannot be counted on to support the President’s agenda. To get their vote, any attempt at socially progressive legislation has to be perverted beyond recognition.
The 2,400-page health care “reform” bill is a case in point. That piece of legislation was so manhandled by insurance industry pawns that no self-respecting Democrat should accept ownership of it. Granted, somewhere in its gobbledygook jungle, it extends coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, but so much of it is tainted that the extended coverage comes at a very high price.
Sadly, the loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat will probably mean the end of immediate relief for the more than 40,000 men, women and children who will die this year because they lack health insurance. Medicaid will remain unexpanded. And any chance of curbing the health insurance industry’s flagrant abuses will be put on hold.
But as far as the rest of the Obama agenda is concerned, it will be business as usual.
What puzzles me is the American electorate’s lack of perception. You have to be really, really unaware to be deceived by the Republican strategy. Surely, anyone can see what they are up to. Inspired by Russ Limbaugh’s appeal to make the President fail, they are sacrificing the interests of the American people to achieve their political goals.
Yet the very people being sacrificed – the unemployed, the uninsured, the unschooled – are clamoring for more of the same. It is the white blue-collar voter that is leading the revolt against Obama.
I have to assume that – consciously or subconsciously – this is in reality a race-driven rebellion. Because so many of the poor and needy are non-white, programs like health care reform would inevitably benefit them the most. And throughout history, such programs tend to come from the federal government, not the states. (Hence the protests against “big government.”)
The civil rights movement was federally driven. Left to the states, there might still be lynchings on that mulberry tree a few miles from my Florida home. Civil rights reform was also driven by the Democratic Party. Over the years (certainly since Lyndon Johnson), the Democratic Party has stood for civil rights, voters’ rights, individual rights, human rights of all kinds. The Republicans have been the defenders of the white oligarchy, protecting the privileged and promoting the welfare of the wealthy.
The trouble is that the poor and oppressed tend to be non-white, while the ruling class is overwhelmingly white. And white voters make up about 75 percent of the American electorate. While, as evidenced by the last election, millions of white Americans are enlightened enough to vote for a non-white president, millions are not.
That might be – at least in part – what happened in Massachusetts last night. Yes, even in Massachusetts, the bluest of true-blue states. True, Massachusetts has a history of racial tolerance. Indeed, the last Republican senator from Massachusetts was black. But the winner of last night’s election, Scott Brown (photo at right), is a white, male, homophobic bigot who could just as easily be from South Carolina, Alabama or Mississippi.
I am convinced that what we are seeing across the United States today is an energized, organized white revolt that is driving back an apathetic, disillusioned non-white minority and the liberal white voters who seek a just society for all races.
The apathy must end. The left must become energized. Or the Obama agenda will, indeed be doomed. To give up the fight, to stay home on election day, as so many did in Massachusetts last night, is to dishonor the memory of the Lion of the Senate.
Martha Coakley’s defeat should not be disheartening for Democrats. It should be a call to arms. President Obama has not failed us; the Senate has failed him. An election is coming in a few months, and those of us who believe in racial justice and economic opportunity will have an opportunity to get out and fight for a real super majority in the U.S. Senate.