After all the policy debates, lobbying, letter writing, political infighting, town hall meetings, cable news show histrionics (let alone nonsense), fear mongering, hyperbole, overpromising, committee hearings, academic musings, back room negotiations, blogging, twittering, spam emails, rallies, and even, on occasion, thoughtful and civilized discussion, the fate of health care reform all comes down to a special Senate election in Massachusetts. No scriptwriter could get away with this plot twist. The audience wouldn’t buy it.
But tomorrow, November 19th, voters in Massachusetts determine whether health care reform will pass. Pretty much. Yes, there are ways Democrats can overcome a win by the Republican candidate, state Senator Scott Brown. They might recruit a moderate Republican in the Senate to join them in passing their legislation. But as there are really only two moderate Republicans left in the Senate (both from Maine) that’s a long shot.
They could ram through legislation before the election results are certified, but that will hand Republicans a huge stick to wield in other 2010 elections. Democrats in the House could simply approve the health care reform bill passed in the Senate, but there’s plenty in the Senate bill to give House members up for election this year heart burn.
On the other hand, even if the Democratic candidate, Attorney General Martha Coakley, manages to win tomorrow, there’s no guarantee health care reform passes. But as I’ve written recently, with 60 Democrats in the Senate passage of a comprehensive health care reform bill is not inevitable, but it’s certainly likely.
So what happens in Massachusetts tomorrow matters. A lot.
Voter turnout will be the key to determining the outcome of the special election. Which is why both parties are pulling out all the stops to get their voters to the polls. One challenge for Democrats is that, although they outnumber Republicans in the state 3-to-1, the majority of voters (51 percent) are unaffiliated with either party. And they are supporting Senator Brown.
A single state having enormous influence on American politics and policies is not unusual. Iowa and New Hampshire have a tremendous impact on who emerges as the party’s presidential nominees. And why shouldn’t Massachusetts have a big say concerning health care reform? As a reader of this blog, Jim Hicks, noted in an email, they’ve been living under their own reform plan for the past few years.
How fitting. Unbelievable, but fitting.