Coakley’s loss was a lot of things — but a repudiation of Obama’s health care reform it was not. Massachusetts is an odd state to be signing the death sentence for Obama’s health care reform because Massachusetts actually enjoys a universal health care program that’s very similar to the one in congress today. And Scott Brown’s an odd angel of death here because he actually doesn’t reject the plan. No, Scott Brown, like his state, strongly supports universal health care — but he supports it only at the state level. His campaign line was simple: Why support federal legislation when you’re already covered by the state? In other words: Massachusetts already has Obamacare. Why pay for everyone else’s?
From the Washington Post:
“We have insurance here in Massachusetts,” he said in a campaign debate. “I’m not going to be subsidizing for the next three, five years, pick a number, subsidizing what other states have failed to do.”
In a news conference Wednesday, he said, “There are some very good things in the national plan that’s being proposed, but if you look at — and really almost in a parochial manner — we need to look out for Massachusetts first. . . . The thing I’m hearing all throughout the state is, ‘What about us?’ “
There’s an interesting, wonky point here, which is that any federal entitlement program will always benefit some states more than others. Massachusetts is on the giving end of this entitlements wealth transfer, and some voters clearly didn’t like that.* But the irony is bitter. The first state to pass Obamacare ends up dooming it at the federal level precisely because it works so well at the state level. Ted Kennedy, I know it’s hard, but try to rest in peace.
How much any of this played a part in the Massachusetts special election we’ll never know of course. (Some evidence says: not much.) But clearly this election wasn’t a “mandate” against health care. To the extent that it had anything to do with health care at all, the election was more about who already has health care reform and is content with it, than anything else. Massachusetts has theirs. But that alone shouldn’t be enough to stop the rest of us from getting ours. We’ll see.
*As a side note, can anyone tell me why, on the flipside of Massachusetts, the states with high levels of uninsured citizens don’t support the benefits of comprehensive health care reform? Conservative states have the most to gain from health care reform, yet they’re the least likely to endorse it. Why is this? Why are so many people so uninterested in fixing an obviously broken health care system…to their own advantage? That’s a question that needs a serious answer. Have we lost the ability to govern ourselves?