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The 41st Republican

Well, hopefully Nancy and Harry are waking up to smell the coffee this morning, although actually it smells more like napalm.

In Massachusetts, of all places, where Republicans account for a mere 12% of the electorate, the Dems have lost “Teddy Kennedy’s seat” to a virtual unknown Republican challenger who took 52% of the vote. The message could hardly be more clear; independent voters are deeply unhappy with the way this country’s being run, unhappy enough to trudge out to the polls in snow and rain to make their displeasure known.

As recently as two days ago, the Speaker of the House still didn’t get it, promising that Health Care legislation would be rammed through “one way or another,” even if it meant resorting to arcane procedural maneuvers like “reconciliation.” But other members of the House and Senate are at last taking notice, and now at last we know what it takes to get their attention. All those angry voters at town hall meetings? Obviously just GOP plants. The Tea Party crowd? Just the lunatic fringe, right? But now that most coveted of demographics — the independent voter — has delivered a sledgehammer blow to the solar plexus that even the slowest Senator or Congressman can fathom; keep going like you are, and it’ll mean your job.

Happily, one guy who does get it is our own Senator Jim Webb (D) of Virginia, who said yesterday, “In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process,” and called on Congress to suspend further action on health care legislation until Senator Brown can be seated.

Kudos for Webb for seeing the real message here, which is not about left vs. right or party vs. party. It’s about back room negotiations, vote-buying, sweetheart deals for Nebraska and Big Labor, a precedent-setting tax on life itself and a patently unconstitutional attempt to compel American citizens to buy something whether they want it or not. Which is not to say this sort of nastiness isn’t a tradition as old as Congress itself, but in this time of national crisis people are actually paying attention to what their elected officials are doing, and even a two-year-old knows it’s better to wait til Mommy leaves the room before you go raiding the cookie jar.

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