Of all the losers in yesterday’s special Senate election in the Bay State, few have seen their governing strategies so thoroughly repudiated as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “You never want,” he said shortly after Obama’s election in November 2008, “a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
But Obama and his team overinterpreted their victory. A desire for change didn’t translate into support for a sweeping statist agenda. Starting with his February 24 speech to Congress, Obama began to overreach.
His administration sought to use the financial crisis to implement an agenda that wouldn’t have been plausible in calmer times.
It was that overreach which fueled the popular discontent which led, in large part, to Scott Brown’s upset victory yesterday in Massachusetts. Contending, “It’s the substance, stupid!“, former Clinton aide Lanny Davis agrees: “Somehow, in the last 12 months, we allowed the party of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to morph into the party of George McGovern (or more accurately, his most ardent supporters) and Howard Dean”.
The Democrats would not have lost the Massachusetts Senate race had they not overreached as they had since Obama’s inauguration. They might be better situation politically had they passed a less expensive “stimulus,” proposed more modest health care reform, developed a less aggressive legislative strategy and adopted a more transparent process.
A Coakley campaign memo reported that the candidate’s “lead dropped significantly after the Senate passed health care reform shortly before Christmas and after the Christmas Eve ‘bombing’ incident. Polling showed significant concerns with the actions of Senator Nelson to hold out for a better deal.” That is, voter anger over the “Cornhusker Kickback” and related payoffs helped position Scott Brown to win the election.
It was the Chicago-style politics, stupid.
You know, the way Rahm Emanuel has learned to manage a crisis. Perhaps, had he not believed the Democrats could use this crisis to push items long on their wish list, they could have held the Massachusetts Senate seat and be better positioned to hold a lot more seats this fall.
Hill Democrats are demanding that Obama’s brain trust — especially senior adviser David Axelrod and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel — shelve their grand legislative ambitions to focus on the economic issues that will determine the fates of shaky Democratic majorities in both houses.