Per Joe Sudbay, Paul Krugman’s column hitting conservative Democrats for failing to advance a massively popular policy initiative that the public voted for this past election, it’s deeply troubling that a handful of Democratic senators are the ones standing in the way of needed reform. Sudbay writes, “The American people actually expect elected officials to deliver on campaign promises.” But I think it’s something beyond this.
Promises were made and voters decided accordingly, but this is less about the specific voters in states like Nebraska, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Montana (to name a few) whose conservative Democratic senators are causing problems with the positive agenda in the Senate, but more about the agenda promised from the White House downward. Implicit in the agenda Obama put forward during the election was that Democrats would support his policy plan. Voters were told that if they supported Obama, change would come. Obama has made some clear statements about what he wants to see in healthcare reform, namely, a public health insurance option. It was part of his policy plan on the campaign and received major attention from voters during both the primary and the general election. He still supports it. So where are the Democrats? Where do the Landrieus, Liebermans, Baucuses, and Hagans of the world get the license to steal the change the people voted for in Barack Obama from them?
What seems fundamental is that the conservative Democrats of the Senate do not feel accountable to either the public or the President. How they got to that point can be debated. But I find it hard to imagine a scenario where these politicians escape the ire of the electorate for standing in the way of the change they were promised on the national campaign trail. Because I highly doubt that the voting public will hold President Obama at fault for the actions of Hagan, Baucus, Landrieu, and Lieberman. Senators assuming otherwise are making a dangerous gamble and one that will actually hurt working families, and not just curren office holders.