And the lights all went out in Massachusetts…

Almost unbelievably – or actually all too believably – the Democrats have managed to lose Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, and with it their fillibuster-proof majority in Congress, severely denting the chances of meaningful healthcare reform, and putting a significant obstacle in the way of President Obama’s legislative programme.

The result suggests that the Republicans are beginning to realise that moving further to the right is not a viable strategy. Scott Brown, their successful candidate, may be a fiscal conservative, but he’s more liberal on social issues (though he may want to rethink his pro-choice position if he harbours any ambitions to be on the GOP ticket in 2012).

While Republicans mistakenly interpreted their defeat in 2008 as a sign that they needed to be more radically right-wing, it looks like Obama may draw the opposite, but equally wrong-headed, conclusion from the disaster in Massachusetts; that he is unpopular with the voters because he has been too left-wing.

In reality, Obama’s quest for bipartisan solutions has been his biggest problem. He has bailed out Wall Street, watered down his health bill and sent more troops to fight in foreign wars, all as a sop to the right, but has seen his ratings slide as he disappoints and alienates his core support. To regain his momentum he needs to start getting more radical not less, but I don’t hold out much hope that he’ll go down that road; it’s more likely that he’ll throw more bones to the conservative dogs as the mid-term elections approach.

It’s all a bit of a disaster for working-class Americans, and shows that trusting a party of the ruling class, even a “progressive” one like the Democrats, is bound to end in tears. It highlights the need for an independent proletarian party in the US; I’m sure that our American comrades are working on that right now.

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