ABC's Stu Schutzman reports from New York:
On this morning after the stunner in the Bay State, Democrats arise justifiably devastated. “If that’s not a wakeup call,” Democrat Evan Bayh told our Jon Karl, “there’s no hope of waking up.” Will they?
Health Care reform is at ground zero. At every turn during the Democratic push for reform, there has been a constant chorus of dissent out there in the country. Music to which many Democrats turned a deaf ear, some at their own peril. The outcry came not just from the political fringes, but from the great middle including many of the independent voters who helped sweep Barack Obama into the White House. Are they listening now? If they are, they will hear the question again and again, “Why are they trying to jam reform down our throats?” The anger in the country is palpable -- I hear it all the time. “Where are their priorities?” Priorities amid a raging recession claiming too many Americans’ jobs and homes and life savings.
The White House rationale -- reforming health care was a cornerstone of the President’s campaign so strike while the iron is hot. With both Houses of Congress in tow, there may not be a better opportunity. Some close to the President tried to sell it as a cure for the sinking economy. Think again. What the American people actually witnessed was an ugly process replete with misinformation, disinformation, back room deals, and hands in the cookie jar swapping votes for political goodies. The voters of Massachusetts voiced their outrage at that last night.
So what do the Democrats do now? Some say stay the course, try to glue the remnants of this bill together and ram it through before the balance in the Senate shifts? Some in the White House believed that could be political suicide. Sacrilege says one powerful Democrat. “Our respect for democratic procedures,” says Congressman Barney Frank, “must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill if the Massachusetts election had not happened.”
Republican John McCain chimed in -- “Stop this unsavory sausage making” he said, nuke the current bill and let’s start over together. Fat chance say many pundits -- few believe Republicans and Democrats will work with together any time soon.
Democrats, shaken to the core, dug this hole by themselves and for many of them, survival means digging out quickly. In whatever direction they decide to steer their agenda, maybe Democrats ought to begin by putting their ears to the ground... there’s real angst out there and until last night, they’ve hardly heard a word of it.