Needed: A Compelling National Narrative

Beyond the "Why" and the "Who's to blame" for Republican Scott Brown's victory in Masachusetts, the most compelling question for Democrats in general, and progressives in particular, is "Where do we go from here?"

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne suggests, first of all, that we stop beating each other up (we're good at that) since it often leads to dithering (unfortunately -- as the Senate Finance Committee proved -- sometimes we're really good at that) and start taking responsibility.

Some blame falls on Congress and that Committee for dithering instead of passing health care legislation while the iron was hot.

Some blame also falls on the president who trusted Congress too much.

Dithering is what legislative bodies are best at, it's built into their system. Providing a compelling narrative, which is necessary for change, is not. Dionne notes:

More broadly, Obama also needed to create a national narrative that Democrats could proclaim with pride. The narrative has been missing, and conservatives have filled the vacuum.

The truth seems to be, in a nation where the majority has health insurance it likes, health care reform can be characterized effectively as either a hero or a villain, depending on who's got the compelling narrative at the moment.

In public opinion terms, think of a national health insurance plan as that really good coat you looked at in the store. If you considered it intelligently then bought it right away, you'll probably always value that coat and be happy with your purchase. Dither over it too much, come close to buying and walk away too many times, and you'll convince yourself you're better off without it.

Democrats need a compelling narrative, complete with heroes people outside the base can empathize with, and with villains they can boo.

Polls indicate Brown got mileage out of vilifying health care reform, but that he was less convincing re: getting people to empathize with big banks.

Continuing to vilify bad banks could be a start.

Every administration needs a defining journalistic voice to provide commentary, criticism and good advice.

After a good year, and especially after his thought-provoking column the day before the election, "What Obama Can Learn From Reagan," (avoid the Pavlovian response and check it out) I nominate Dionne.

Right: the key is it has to get done

Walking away is a loss, and it's a loss the Republicans will capitalize on.

We need to pass a health reform bill that does good, and that we can be proud of.

The only good thing which

The only good thing which could come out of the Coakley loss would be if it convinces the Dems to take the best HCR bill they can find, and get it through the Senate w/Budget Reconciliation. Forget watering it down even further to get Snowe's vote- pass a strong bill using reconciliation.

Re: the Coakley loss, I think two things can be said:

1) She was a *miserable* candidate. More accurately, she ran a miserable campaign. After the primary, she seemingly went into hiding, acting as if the race was hers to lose. Meanwhile, Brown went out and promoted his own name + an anti-DC message, and that resonated. In short, it was the Dem's race to lose, + she lost it.

2) The national party didn't seem to realize the danger until it was far too late. The DNCC's role should have been to enter MA + begin promoting their candidate heavily the moment the primary ended. Instead, they also sat on their duffs along w/Coakley, waiting until literally the last week to send in the President to make a campaign stop. Now, not only have they lost what should have been a safely Democratic seat, they made both the party and their President look weak. A veritable Republican trifecta.

To sum up, Will Rogers wrote in 1995 that "I am a member of no organized political party. I am a Democrat." These words ring as true today as ever.

-Z

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