Political junkies like me are breathlessly anticipating tonight's Massachusetts election returns that will determine the next person to fill Edward Kennedy's seat, and not solely for the historical significance of this race.
No, this is more broadly about efforts to wrap up health care reform that had supposedly passed the high hurdle of compromise among Democrats. And from still a broader perspective, this is about the power of one party to employ the filibuster to derail opposition on the other side of the aisle, regardless of what most Americans claim to want.
It's strange how things got this way. Historically the filibuster, and its demand for a supermajority to be broken, was a rarely invoked hammer swung by a smaller party against its larger rival. When both sides possessed large contingents of moderates who could work together for the greater good, the filibuster reminded everyone to be civil.
Those days are long gone. One after another, big-thinking strategic thinkers have been sent packing, and the current minority party has decided to use the filibuster in place of meaningful debate and respect for electoral mandate. Politics becomes no more than mere tactics.
Yeah, I'm pissed at Republicans today, but this failure is shared by both parties. Each side is led by thick-headed, thin-skinned hacks who once would have been dismissed as bomb-throwing backbenchers, folks necessarily bypassed by bipartisanship. The problem is that virtually anyone who might be mistaken for being a "statesman" left the building long ago.
So we're waiting to hear if a former nude model, now a stalwart Republican, wins a seat once considered a mortal lock for the Dems and breaks their 60 seat hedge against filibuster. Even I, a Californian, am following this race closely; it's exciting political theater. But it is also quite sad.
Someone will win today's election, but no one will win the broader battle. Instead we see further proof of how selfish agendas have supplanted what Lincoln summoned as "the better angels of our nature."
No matter the outcome of this vote, and no matter what kind of health care reform finally reaches the president's desk (if any plan survives tonight's bloodletting), it's clear that America is sick - and getting sicker.