My favorite so-called conservative has been writing quite a few harsh words about Martha Coakley in the past few days, and not all of them completely fair, in my view. (Though with some of his points I agree in kind if not degree. For example, even as a fan of Coakley’s, I’m uncomfortable with the potentially alienating ads about all rape victims being turned away from hospitals; Sullivan calls them “truly vile”.
Still, Sullivan has a strong message for Massachusetts voters who profess to care about health care, the environment, sane foreign policy, and human rights — and yet would consider voting against Coakley:
First off, there’s no compromise with the current GOP. They make Gingrich look like Pope John XXIII. If they got back majorities in the Congress, there will be no debt reduction; there will simply be nihilism until they can try to beat Obama in 2012.
Secondly, there’s a lie masquerading as analysis going around. And that is that the health insurance bill is some sort of radical idea, fomented by “radical leftists”, etc etc. This is propaganda. In fact, the final bill is exactly where a sane compromise is to be found: near-universal coverage; no single payer; no public option; reforms for pre-existing conditions and other injustices; cost control mechanisms; Medicare cuts; deficit reduction. 16 years after the Clintons tried, it’s a more moderate bill. It was widely debated in the campaign. It isn’t perfect. It needs work. But it’s a start.
The blame for the delay lies fundamentally with a GOP that is still intent on putting power before country, and decided the day Obama took office that he was such a threat to their beleaguered brand that they would oppose everything he proposed, demonize him as much as possible, forgo any cooperation, and then try to blame him for the recession, the wars, the unemployment, and the debt he inherited … while never actually proposing any serious alternative on any of them.
It is a nihilist, populist, primal scream. And if the Massachusetts result is interpreted as a vindication of that strategy, we will have thrown away a very rare constructive moment for targeted government action to tackle the deep problems – healthcare access and cost, too much reliance on carbon energy, an empire bogged down in two quagmires, a debt that will soon threaten this country’s currency – in favor of news cycle, tactical Rovian bullshit.
The Dems have been incompetent and petty; the Republicans have been nihilist. The dawdling of the last few weeks is unforgivable. But Obama’s attempt to produce reform through the center is the best chance we’ve now got. The last time I urged a vote for someone I found as dreadful as a candidate as Coakley was John Kerry. Because the alternative was so much worse.
So think of this as 2004. Are you really, really going to give Bush a second term because Kerry is so easily portrayed as an elitist hack? C’mon, Massachusetts Independents. Give the president the chance he needs. I know it sucks. But vote Coakley.
(I tried to figure out what to excerpt, but then ended up pasting all of Sullivan’s paragraphs. His words were in response to a reader’s comments with are worth a look as well.)