Massachusetts not about health care

Written By: - Date published: 1:52 pm, January 26th, 2010 - 38 comments
Categories: us politics - Tags:

I’m getting a bit sick of commentary suggesting Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was a thumbs down for Obama’s universal health care package.

It wasn’t.

Health care was not an issue in the Massachusetts senate election. Why? Because in 2006 state-wide health care and coverage was enforced by Massachusetts law. Wikipedia’s summary states:

It requires nearly every resident of Massachusetts to obtain health insurance coverage. Through the law, Massachusetts provides free health care for residents earning less than 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and partially subsidized health care for those earning up to 300% of the FPL, depending on an income-based sliding scale.

There were many speculative reasons for Brown’s win. Including the fact he was identified by voters as a liberal, and [Mr Key take note] his Democratic opponent took a holiday in the middle of the campaign.

But Obama’s health care (and other progressive) policies weren’t the factor Conservatives would like the U.S. citizenry and the world to believe.

38 comments on “Massachusetts not about health care”

  1. So a Blogger in New Zealand is telling Americans why or why not they voted for someone.

    Whats it to do with you?

    Have you ever lived there?

    • Michael Foxglove 1.1

      Did you read the evidence Brett? It’s about critical analysis – what caused something to happen.

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        Actually I have a friend from Massachusetts who doesn’t want Obama’s healthcare precisely because Massachusetts already has healthcare in place; he believes it should be up to each individual state to sort out their own solution, as Massachusetts has done. He is particularly weary because it appears that Obama’s healthcare is going to stomp over Massachusett’s existing solution without the state having any right to opt out of it.

        • Pascal's bookie


          The plans congress have come up with are not as liberal as the Mass one, so voters voting like your friend would have been happier with the opt out or opt in public option plans, which were abandoned in the congressional Dems stupid negotiations with themselves.

    • Stacktwo 1.2

      Do you mean, Brett, that the US has put itself on a pedestal, and we’re allowed to look, but not to comment?

  2. JB 2

    Perhaps it had something to do with his opponent calling a beloved sporting icon (former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling) a Yankees fan? Imagine the outcry here if an MP called Richard Hadlee an Australian?

  3. Lew 3

    The Democrats are masters at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.


    • Michael Foxglove 3.1

      Agreed Lew.

      It’s a bit sad sometimes watching them fail so miserably at their own hand.

      • Lew 3.1.1

        Honestly, the only group which gives me the shits more is NZ Labour. But at least their failings are mostly from the past half-decade or so. With the Dems it’s intergenerational.


        • mickysavage

          But Labour won three in a row and the 2005 win was against all the odds.

          They previously lost the tight ones but things like weird boundaries, the Springbok Tour and think big were responsible for these.

          • Lew

            Winning in 2005 meant selling the political equivalent of their immortal soul. Or eating their seed crop, if you prefer another metaphor.

            It doesn’t take a special kind of genius to win a narrow victory by sacrificing that sort of thing; but as they’re discovering now, it takes a very special genius to win subsequent elections.


            • mickysavage

              So how many parties that you support have won elections?

              • Lew

                Eh? Depends on your definition of ‘support’.


              • If you don’t support Labour or the Democrats then you have never supported a “Social Democrat” government (in the loose sense of the phrase) in either NZ or the USA.

                The left is very good at fighting pure if ultimately futile battles over matters of principle.

              • Lew

                Right, I see.

                I do support them, but not unconditionally. And for me, ‘supporting’ them means calling them on their bullshit, not just blindly chanting the slogans. By the same token, I’d argue that if you don’t object stridently to the FSA, or British Labour’s surveillance laws, or the US Democrats abject uselessness when they hold both houses and the presidency, you’re not supporting a ‘social democrat’ government either, because the FSA was not something such a government should or would do; nor are many of Blair’s social control policies; and nor is watering down legislation to appeal to Republicans because you can’t maintain the loyalty of your own party (let alone the electorate) because you’re unwilling to stand on your authority as a social democrat, despite the strongest mandate to do so in the past half-century.

                So I’m not talking about sacrificing pragmatism to principle and fighting pyrrhic victories for the sake of nobility: I’m talking about maintaining enough principle that the electorate still knows what you stand for. Right now all three parties are failing because people don’t know who they are.


  4. Marcus 4

    Wouldn’t the fact they have state healthcare have something to do with the fact that they didn’t want to pay more for a nationwide scheme?
    It makes sense that a lot of people wouldn’t want to pay more for something that won’t help them.

    • Scribe 4.1


      Finally, some sanity. The people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts asked “Why would we want to be taxed more to pay for something we already have?”

      Another Foxglove Fail

      • Pascal's bookie 4.1.1

        The federal accountants said the plan would actually save the government money. You do know that right? Not doing anything (the GOP plan) will cost more than any of the plans the Democrats put forward.

        So not sanity, no. Just more right wing bullshit actually.

  5. DS 5

    The election was not about health care. Or Obama for that matter either.

    It was a case of one candidate (Coakley) doing no campaigning, going on holiday, and taking the electorate for granted, at a time when the other candidate (Brown) was campaigning his arse off. The low turnout nature of special elections didn’t help.

    Basically, a political Hare vs Tortoise.

    On the other hand, the Democrats will get the seat back in 2012, when they actually run a candidate with a pulse.

  6. Marcus 6

    Even if that’s true PB, saving Govt money isn’t the same as saving Mass. voters money. Which is (I hazard a guess) probably what a lot of people voted for Brown on.

    • Lew 6.1

      You do hazard a guess. This wasn’t a straight policy race; it was a signal to the Democrats and a skirmish in a wider propaganda battle. This is why it’s being called a ‘referendum’ and a ‘vote of confidence’ and so on.


  7. Pascal's bookie 7

    Here’s some polling of Mass voters

    As Lew says. It’s complicated.

    • Scribe 7.1


      There were indeed many factors in play, and health care was definitely one of those factors.

      Thus, Foxglove’s assertion that the vote wasn’t about health care is incorrect. It wasn’t JUST about health care.

      • Lew 7.1.1

        Healthcare was one of a whole lot of minor policy distractions which are mostly examples employed in the wider “take back the country” narrative employed by the teabaggers. It’s a hook on which to hang a bunch of unrelated stuff. Any hook would have done; this is just a particularly prominent one.

        In that regard Michael is right: this election run by these candidates with on the general context would have turned out this way, healthcare aside. The way to test this is to ask: if the Democrats watered their healthcare provisions down beyond all expectations, removing what few teeth the legislation initially had, would the electoral problem go away? No, because they did, and it didn’t.


  8. My own understanding from US news sites and bloggers is that the vote should be taken as an expression of US voters disappointment in Obama – in that despite his promises he has proven too conventional. He was elected on a wave of anger at the blatant profiteering of the right but has failed to capitalise on it by allowing Wall St. to pay itself $billions in bonuses from public money while the middle and working classes face unemployment, shrunken savings funds and mortgage foreclosures.

    If he continues to fail to channel and satisfy that anger there must be a very real danger that at the next election that vote might decide it needs to support someone more extreme, which if it is coupled with the Christian Right might result in something horrendous – it was just such an anger and desperation that in Germany swept Hitler and the Nazis into power in a perfectly legitimate expression of the democratic process.

    • Lew 8.1

      Nitpick: The Nazis didn’t sweep to power through the democratic process. They swept to government. The Weimar constitution was prescribed a perfectly robust system for constraining the Chancellor and his government. Power only came after the Reichstag fire when Hindenburg’s signing over the keys of the state to a man he knew he was a ruthless authoritarian demagogue.

      But I agree; there’s genuine fire in them bellies. That has potential to be dangerous.


  9. Why does it matter to people here, what domestic policies then usa has?
    You dont pay tax, you dont live there?

    I would take the word of americans who actually live in the usa, over extreme left wing bloggers from New Zealand,when it comes to their OWN domestic policies.

  10. Andrei 10

    Have you ever lived in Massachusetts or even been there?

    I doubt it – but pontificate away

    The real point is that the Kennedys have had a mortgage on that particular Senate Seat since 1952 when JFK first won it. It should have been a gimme for the Democrats and it wasn’t.

    Perhaps the other real point is that Massachusetts is the most liberal State in the union, indeed it was the only state that did not go Nixon’s way in his 1972 landslide.

    Whatever the real reasons behind this upset are it is not looking good for the Liberals and their agendas

    • SHG 10.1

      I’ve lived in Massachusetts. Let me tell you, come election time Ted Kennedy was out there shaking hands, knocking on doors, going to the PTA meetings, and basically busting his ass like he was fighting against a long-term incumbent. Every time. Even after he’d held the seat for forty years.

      Kennedy kept getting elected because he fought for it, fought for the people in his state, and because the people voted for HIM – not for the party he represented.

    • DS 10.2

      >>>Perhaps the other real point is that Massachusetts is the most liberal State in the union, indeed it was the only state that did not go Nixon’s way in his 1972 landslide.<<<

      Trivia fact: there are four US states that voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate in both 1980 and 1988. Massachusetts is not one of them (they are Minnesota, which also went for Mondale in 1984, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and West Virginia).

  11. Bill 11

    “Research 2000 Poll Results, January 19, 2010
    A poll was conducted immediately after the election last night of 1000 registered Massachusetts voters who voted for Obama in 2008. Half of the respondents voted in the MA special election for Republican candidate Scott Brown; half of the respondents did not vote at all. The poll definitively shows that voters who stayed home and voters who switched party allegiance share very common frustration and anger at an economy that continues to work better for Wall Street than Main Street.”

    And an analysis of the above poll at concludes…

    “The bottom line: It ain’t that complicated. A progressive populist message on kitchen-table domestic issues is a winning message, even in a time when voters are wary of government and concerned about deficits”

  12. ben 12

    The Democrat health care reform is dead.

    The United States, at least, has just enough sense to avoid the complete socialisation and die-while-you-wait health care that is ubiquitously associated with zero price systems. Not that health care in the US doesn’t need fixing – but having an organisation as incompetent as the US government direct anything as complicated as health care is a recipe for disaster.

    • Pascal's bookie 12.1

      The proposed reforms were nothing like complete socialisation ben.

      Obviously in any system there will be rationing, the US system rations on price, and they have the life expectancy stats to go with that. Funny how not even the GOP will touch medicare though. The only part of the US system that could remotely be described as socialised, and even the GOP likes to style itself as it’s defender.

  13. Dave Ripley 13

    I live in Massachusetts and can tell you two things for certain:

    1) Almost every “Brown Brigade” person I talked to was extremely vocal about blocking Obamacare with their vote

    2) Almost every such person was completely ignorant of the fact that Massachusetts already has universal healthcare — and that Brown voted for it in the state senate

    Many were also shocked to find out that Scott Brown is pro-choice.

  14. uroskin 14

    So the lesson for Sarah Palin is to show off her cougar beaver in Playboy before she could ever be successful at running like Mr Brown did.

    Captcha: thinking

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