Mr. ‘Cosmo’ Brown Goes to Washington

The confetti and balloons have dropped and the Republicans have drained the last of their celebratory champagne. From Tuesday’s Massachusetts election results it would seem that the meteoric rise of Senator-elect Scott Brown has stopped President Obama’s entire agenda dead in its tracks, especially on the issue of health care reform. Pundits from every corner of American politics are calling this election a crushing defeat for health care reform and other big-ticket Obama agenda items (such as climate change legislation and immigration reform). Even big name Democrats like Senator Evan Bayh and Congressman Barney Frank are buying into such “conventional wisdom.”

If you dig past the punditry and rhetoric, though, you’ll find that health care reform isn’t dead and that progressives have more to cheer about than cry over.

First of all, there is still the option to pass the Senate version in the House unchanged. While liberals would no doubt be disappointed to pass such a diluted bill, it is this very fact that may help Speaker Nancy Pelosi obtain the votes she needs to pass it and send it to Obama’s desk. This option allows health care reform to skip reconsideration in the Senate, and thus the dreaded threat of a filibuster could be avoided. Progressives could also breathe a sigh of relief, as the despised Stupak Amendment would not become law.

On the other hand, the election results can give time for the administration, Congress, and Democrats to retool their message and agenda on health care reform. The fact is that poll numbers for health care reform have soured over the past few months. Much of that is due to the failure of the administration and congressional leaders to hammer out a good health care reform package with a good message. As a result, Republicans have increased their already large disapproval of the plan, the process has disillusioned independents, and progressives have grown frustrated as the health care reform bill continues to slide to the right.

Conservatives have highlighted the number of Massachusetts residents that oppose the current health care reform bill. However, much of that opposition comes from liberals and left-leaning independents that wish to see a stronger bill, much like the current health care plan they have in Massachusetts. If Democratic leadership can see that, they will be in a much better position to retool their message and pass health care reform with broad support.

Last, but not least of all, Brown ran on a message of change – a message of fighting for the people and against the stuffy, out-of-touch entitlement of the establishment. Sound familiar? It’s time for Democratic leaders to ignore the “conventional wisdom” of the establishment that has put them in this position in the first place. There are still different ways to pass health care reform, even with only fifty-nine seats in the Senate now. Let’s hope Democratic leaders wake up and realize that change actually means change, before it’s too late and health care reform dies for another generation.

Jon Wong is a recent UCI graduate. He graduated from UCI in June 2009. He can be reached at jonwong87@gmail.com.