There was a remarkable political lesson last year that wasn't really learned because of subsequent events. However someone should point this lesson out to Harry Reid as we head into a cloture vote tonight just to start debate on health care reform, and then head into a final cloture vote later.
Last year with the financial markets on the edge of collapse the House held a vote for TARP. At the time the people of this country were made aware of how dire of a circumstance we were in and how easily we could have slipped into a depression. A couple of big name financial firms had already essential been vaporized and more were right over the horizon.
In the midst of this some of the Republicans in the House decided to vote against TARP. At the time I don't know if their leadership had miscounted or were stabbed in the back by some of their caucus but the result was the bill came up short of the votes needed to pass and chaos on the floor of the House ensued. What happened next was utterly predictable.
The markets fell sharply and GOP members of the House were raked over the coals for being insufficiently serious about the problem our nation was facing. In the end this episode probably as much as anything else helped to sweep Democrats into both halls of Congress in major majorities last year. When push came to shove it appeared to most anyone that these Republicans were more interested in playing politics than fixing a problem, and they paid for it.
Now the problem of course is that TARP has been such a PR disaster on a lot of fronts and Democrats have been so fucking inept at defending it even at all that nobody really wants to look back at the days that led up to its actual passage. If they did then they would remember that Republicans were so surprised but the country's reaction to their fuckery on the first vote that they panicked. All of a sudden McCain was suspending his campaign and on the second vote some off those Republicans who just couldn't find their way to voting for it the first time got on board to take the heat off. What that means is that when there is a crisis in this country and people play games like not voting to at least attempt to fix the problem, the American people are not going to be happy. The important thing is that in the end the fix actualy works and can be sold on an ongoing basis.
Which brings us to health care reform and a few corporatist Democratic Senators who are holding out for sweeteners.
Here is what Harry Reid should say to each and every one of them: "Fuck you, pay me!"
What I mean is he should literally tell them to step the fuck off and bring the bill up for a cloture vote tonight and dare them to vote against cloture. Dare them to put their careers in the Senate on the line by refusing to even allow the Senate to debate health care reform, a reform that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree we need even if they don't agree what it should entail. Dare the sorry muthafuckas to totally abandon the base of their party and join with the Republicans.
Matter of fact, double dare them.
See the thing of it is, this can be what they like to call these days a "teachable moment". There is no rule that says Harry Reid can't bring the bill back again in the next few days and put it up for debate again. Basically the bill has to truly be defeated for that to happen and he still has to the power to keep bringing it back. But what some of these assholes need to see is what will happen to their poll numbers if they should happen to vote against cloture.
I am thinking specifically of Blanche Lincoln who is fighting to get reelected next year, but her poll numbers would also be an example to her corporatist bretheren like Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson. Its about time we stopped caving these assholes and instead putting their ass on the spot and making THEM cave. Fuck it, if they have the balls to say no when the bill is up for cloture then so be it, let them live with the consequences for a few days.
But my money is on them folding like a bad hand and from that point on they will be dealing fom a point of weakness.
If Harry Reid never stands up to them you can expect that every single item on the Democratic agenda will go through the same bunch of bullshit. And we already have seen what the result is when that happens, just take a look at the stimulus bill. Had we punched their asses in the throat earlier this year and rammed through a better bill then its highly likely that all the economic numbers, including unemployment, would look substantially better. Instead we gave them practically everything they wanted, fucked up the bill, and now the Democratic brand is damaged because of it.
So Harry Reid just go back and google the headlines after that House vote last year. The get on the floor tonight with confidence and put the bright lights on the ConservaDems and make them follow through on their hollow threats while the world is watching.
Trust me on this, they wont be able to take the heat.