Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Senator-to-Be Scott Brown and Health Care Reform

By Brad DeLong

One of the stranger things about the Washington DC reaction to Scott Brown's victory is that very few people seem to have noticed that Scott Brown approves of the health care reform bill--he thinks that it is good policy, that it would be a good set of reforms to the country's health care system.

Why is he pledged to vote against it, then? Two reasons: (a) Party loyalty. (b) The current bill doesn't do more for Massachusetts--Massachusetts, you see, already has the benefits of the bill (they were enacted by the Mass. legislature and Mitt Romney when he was governor), so from the narrow perspective of Massachusetts's interests, the bill has no benefits but has some costs.

So Brown's victory is--whatever it may mean--certainly not a sign that the voters of Massachusetts think the health care reform bill is bad policy for the nation.

The more general lesson? I think it is simple: political parties should not let lousy campaigners run for senate seats.

Obama is, IIRC, a little more popular than presidents typically are at this point in the election cycle--and he is much more popular in Massachusetts than presidents typically are in typical states at this point in the election cycle. So there doesn't seem to be a message for Obama here in terms of his popularity.

As far as legislative tactics are concerned, this returns us to 59 Democrats and 41 Republicans--exactly where we were before the Club for Growth drove Arlen Specter out of the Republican Party. It makes Reconciliation the only functioning legislative process in Washington DC, and that has powerful implications for what actually passes over the next year.