The Republican Party, not Jane Corwin, lost the 26th

The Republicans really blew it in the special election in the 26th Congressional District where Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican “sure thing” Jane Corwin. The conventional wisdom, and I certainly subscribe to it, is that Corwin blew it by signing on to the deficit reduction plan of Paul Ryan in the House of Representatives. Among so much other pain for those with the least in this country, Ryan’s plan took an axe to the incredibly popular, well run, Medicare program that seniors, including me, have come to love a lot. Ironically, there is more than a little evidence that the Democrats suffered so many political reversals in the 2010 Congressional elections because of the perception that Obama’s health care plan left out the very middle class that is so in love with Medicare.

I am a fairly cynical guy, and it is astounding to me that the Republicans can’t help themselves from messing with the third rail of American politics, the combination of Social Security and Medicare. What could they have been thinking? Didn’t they have any idea what the repercussions would be? Why would they commit political suicide leading to the loss of a perfectly safe seat? Maybe, as the comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “the devil made them do it.”

In this country, the Republicans tend to represent the “haves” who give them the money to run campaigns. They talk a good middle class game but in the end, the gold rules. Meanwhile, the Democrats, often forgetting that the middle class votes big time, always try to do stuff for those at the bottom of the social scale. The middle class doesn’t seem to like that, especially when they perceive that they are being left out. Remember that Democrats do not vote in proportion to their large numbers. In the case of the Obama health plan, too many middle class voters thought that they and their kids were being ignored. They thought that what they did get under the plan was insufficient.

The last time out, the Democrats blew it. They should have supported a Medicare-for-all plan and included the middle class. This time, the Republicans blew it by threatening one of the most popular middle class programs in the country. They wanted to go to vouchers, which undoubtedly would have ended up giving their pals in the insurance industry yet more big bucks. Some people never, ever learn. They awoke the sleeping giant and now they have to get out from under. The Republicans in next door Massachusetts know that the national party blew it. Scott Brown, the Republican United States senator who now occupies Teddy Kennedy’s seat, was so upset with what he was seeing in the NY 26 that he did an abrupt reversal on his endorsement of the Paul Ryan plan.

For the Democrats, the name of the game is not to allow the Republicans to retreat. No matter what the Republicans do or say from now on, the Democrats’ political strategy has to be to keep repeating what the Republicans tried to do to Medicare. We’ll be hearing the story of the attack on Medicare until it’s coming out of our ears. However, if the Democrats get overconfident and start to advance plans that will tax the middle class, no matter how rational their ideas might be, it will be their turn to take it on the chin.

Needing a scapegoat, the Republicans are putting the blame on Jane Corwin, who lost the election. Baloney! The big boys who tried to rape Medicare had better take a look in the mirror to see who the real culprits are.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 5/31/11

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