Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Conservative Revolt - Declaration of Independents - "Can You Hear Me Now!"

Mike Barnacle, the quintessential Boston Irishman and astute TV commentator, said it best. When asked what the message of the Scott Brown victory was, he nailed it by replying. “It reminds me of the Verizon Wireless ad, ‘Can you hear me now!’”

The special election to replace liberal lion, Edward Kennedy, turned out to be “historic” for health reform, but not in the sense that President Obama had hoped. Even liberal Democrats, like Representatives Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Anthony Weiner of New York, are saying,”Health reform is dead.”

I’m not so sure of that, but I do know the night was historic in the colonial sense of the word.

To begin with, there was the Declaration of Independents. Of the voters, 52 percent declared themselves Independents, and they went for Brown by a 69-21 margin.

There were the Tea Party folks. They flooded into the Bay State from all over the country. They cried out in Tea Parties last August they represented the true middle class, the center of American public opinions. It turned out they spoke for the center in Massachusetts too. They identified with Scott Brown, who was just like many of them. He drove a truck. He spoke their language. I have little doubt that Brown got the vote of most 45,000 Massachusetts truck owners.

There was the No Taxation without Representation crowd. They harbored a grudge against the political elites, those on the left representing Big Government and those on the right parading as Big Business, and they knew full well Big Taxes and Big Debts down the road would be needed to pay for Big Health Care Reform – estimated at $1 trillion over 10 years and $2.5 trillion over 15 years.

There was the stark reality that Independents had won in Massachusetts, just as they had in Virginia and New Jersey. The three states were part of the original thirteen colonies.

There were the Massachusetts citizens who had experienced first hand three years of universal coverage in an Obama-like plan. Although it covered 97 percent of the populace, they knew Massachusetts health care had runaway costs, the fastest rising premiums in the land, and the longest waiting times to see a doctor anywhere . They were not enthusiastic about having national reform imposed on their own reform in a state with large budget deficits, high taxes, persistent unemployment. The double irony was that the birthplace of universal coverage might become its death bed and that Independents, not Republicans, who comprised only 11% of the citizenry, dealt the potential death blow.

Then, of course, there was the Modern Day Paul Revere, riding a truck rather than a horse, who sounded the alarm. In one hand, he swung a light saying “41st Senator,” meaning he would vote against health reform, and break the 60 vote filibuster proof Democratic majority. In the other hand, he swung a symbolic light signaling a political sea-change in Massachusetts and the rest of the nation. His message was, The Skittish are coming, The Skittish are coming, most by land, absentees by sea and air.

Poll averages indicate 66.3 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and 56.8 percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Congress is listening to that message. It has its ear to the ground. It can hear the re-election hoof beats and truck tire noise. Next time around, it may fix what needs to be fixed rather than trying for a complete Rube Goldberg overhaul.

Dr. Richard Reece is author of two recent books - Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform (IUniverse, 2009) and Innovation-Driven Health Care (Jones and Bartlett, 2007) Both books are available at,, and other book websites.

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