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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

 
The fallout from Grand Bargaining

by digby

While the entire Democratic establishment is wringing its hands and blaming Obamacare for Alex Sink's loss in Florida last week, this article points to a different issue:
With everyone trying to draw some national lesson from last week's special election in Florida ahead of the November midterms, add this to the mix: Liberals think Democrats shot themselves in the foot on Social Security, an issue that played a central role in the district.

Democrats used a familiar playbook, accusing Republican David Jolly of wanting to privatize the program. House Majority PAC, an outside group that supports Democratic candidates, dropped almost $750,000 on an ad warning that Jolly "lobbied for a special interest that wanted to privatize Social Security," and that he "still says privatization should be on the table."

Democrat Alex Sink herself called Social Security "an American promise" and said that unlike her opponent, she would "fight to protect the integrity" of the program. It's a message the party hoped would resonate in a district that has one of the nation's highest concentrations of voters over the age 65.

But Jolly had an easy comeback: He denied wanting to privatize Social Security, and fired back by noting that Sink voiced some support for the Simpson-Bowles debt-reduction plan, which included cuts to Social Security.

The National Republican Congressional Committee hit Sink from the left on this, saying she "supports a plan that raises the retirement age for Social Security recipients, raises Social Security taxes, and cuts Medicare." Katie Prill, a spokesperson for the Republican group, added: "Sending Alex Sink to Washington guarantees that seniors right here in Pinellas County are in jeopardy of losing the Social Security and Medicare benefits that they have earned and deserve."

Liberal writers cried hypocrisy, but it didn't matter: Sink lost.

For the Left, it's evidence that Democrats need to take a firm line on the entitlement program -- or even support expanding it -- at a time when some in the party, and especially the White House, have offered concessions.
It couldn't hurt to try. Obviously, Democrats get no political benefit from trying to cut these programs, (unless you count Villagers extolling them for being "grown-ups" which should get them at least a hundred votes in Virginia.) Why they persist in thinking this was good politics is beyond me.

Senator Jeff Merkley came out for Social Security expansion this week and Senator Mark Begich had signed on earlier so we should have a decent experiment in a blue state and a red state on this issue. I have no idea if it will be decisive, but in an off-year election that traditionally tilts heavily to older voters I think it's fair to say that denying the Republicans the ability to slap you in the face with a stated desire to cut Social Security (and a plan to actually improve it!) is a smart idea.


Politico has a different take on the election results in Florida. Surprise: she lost because Democrats are too mean to the wealthy:

"Fresh off a bruising loss in Florida, the Democratic playbook for the midterms appears in need of a major rewrite - and the pro-business wing of the party is ready to draw up new plans. President Barack Obama in his budget once again floated a plan to raise taxes on Wall Street, but no one took it seriously. ... In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans - who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago - also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues."

I'll bet they do.

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