Darn Red Sox fans.
The Massachusetts Senate election has now been won by an opponent of health reform.
But was health reform what the election was about? Yes, in part. It was also about the economy, bank bailouts, unemployment, the conviction record of that state’s attorney general, and (strangely) what team Curt Shilling roots for.
Don’t get me wrong, it was also about health reform, although it was in the state where the bill least mattered, since they had already put in place some (though not all) of the reforms, from regulating insurers so there are no denials for pre-existing conditions, to affordability subsidies so low- and moderate-income people can better afford coverage.
Let’s remember that the rest of the country voted for President Obama, who explicitly ran on health reform; the rest of the country voted for the remaining 59 health reform-supporting Senators; the rest of the country voted for the majority of the House of Representatives.
There were no exit polls today. But according to Rasmussen polling tonight (which tends rightward), 53% of MA electorate today approves of Obama, 38% disapproved. President Obama polled well ahead of the candidate in Massachusetts.
The need for health reform was real and urgent last week, and those same factors make it necessary and urgent next week. It’s momentum and urgency was not based on how popular or easy it was–although it was popular, and likely will be again. That’s the case with past programs and reforms–but only once they pass and their benefits are known.
There are options for moving forward. The House can pass the Senate version, putting in place a framework that then can be improved in the future–especially through the budget process, which takes a simply majority of 51 votes rather than 60. And it can be improved not just at the federal, but at the state level as well.
It will take those who voted for health reform to have the courage of their convictions, and to push reform forward not just because it is the right thing to do, but because those who voted for reform have a better case to make when they run on something rather than nothing. And that after listening to voters, there are improvements to make.
Now it is up to Speaker Pelosi to make that case to her members, that the Senate bill isn’t the end of the effort, but the beginning… and that there is political reward in the continuing campaign to make it better.