This. (UPDATED)

I had some difficulty putting my thoughts on the MA-SEN race in order–that is, until I went to Sadly, No! and found this:

Look, I think the “lesson” of yesterday’s election and voter discontent is pretty clear: Democrats badly underestimated how awful this recession was going to get and when they shifted their focus to health care reform they blithely assumed that the steps they had already taken, from the stimulus to HAMP to Geithner’s brilliant-still-to-be-revealed secret plan for fixing the banks, would start bringing unemployment down and would make for a more favorable political climate this year.

[…]

It’s damn simple — the economy sucks and the measures that the administration have taken have provided very little effective, immediate relief to the average person. So when the health care debate went into a Baucus-induced wankfest over the summer, the Democrats lost a lot of time when they could have been working harder on job creation. If somebody is really suffering, the first thing they want is help. They’ll become concerned about how to pay for it only after they’ve been rescued.

Or, as a famous Louisianan once quipped, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

The Democrats thought they had done enough to fix the economy, so they switched over to health care reform–unfortunately, the economy continued to stagnate.

I know that politics doesn’t happen in a vacuum and that our problems started long before January 20, 2009–but nobody cares about that, people only care that there is no relief in sight.

And, in spending so much time–the better part of  a year now–on health care reform, Democrats are giving off the perception that they’re fiddling while Rome burns. They’re letting the economy stagnate while they focus on other things–good things, important things, but things that are not going to fix the economy.

At this point I don’t know what to do with health care reform. My advice to the Democrats would be to just pass whatever you can right now and worry about fixing it later. We’re not going to get a unicorn–or a horse, or a pony, or even an ugly mule–at this point, so we should just get the most we can (like banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and granting subsidies to the middle class) and move on. Health care reform has already eaten up far too much time and effort.

As Nobel laureate Paul Krugman wrote:

David Axelrod is right: the campaign against HCR has been based on lies, and the only way to refute those lies (and stop them from being rolled out again and again) is to pass the thing, and let people see it in action. It’s too bad startup is delayed under the Senate bill — but even so, that’s what you have to do.

The Democrats need to shift away from health care reform–their priority for the forseeable future should be the economy.  If I were them, my top three goals would be:

  1. Pass a jobs bill.
  2. Recoup the TARP money.
  3. Pass regulatory reform, reigning in Wall Street and preventing the next collapse.

It’s going to be nearly impossible to govern this country now that the Republicans can filibuster everything. Democrats are going to have a tough time this year, and they’re probably going to lose some seats in November. But they can staunch the bleeding–and maybe eventually turn things around–if they make the economy their #1 priority.

UPDATE: Also, while Scott Brown may be the GOP’s golden boy of the moment, keep in mind that he’s up for re-election come 2012. In Massachusetts.

So, unless Brown is content being a partial-term Senator, I highly doubt he’s going to remain a right-wing darling for long.

In fact, Brown could end up being the Dems go-to guy when it comes to peeling off GOP votes in order to beat a filibuster.

If I were in the Senate Democratic leadership, I would go out of my way in order to get to know the junior Senator from Massachusetts and to help him feel right at home in Washington.

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