Under current Massachusetts law, there must be a special election and the Governor has no power of appointment. The current law is a result of Democrats changing the law in 2004 so that then Republican Governor Mitt Romney would not appoint a replacement for John Kerry in the event Kerry were elected President.
This flip-flop makes clear that those Democrats pushing to change the law once again are rank hypocrites who play games with the law for purely political purposes. These games prove why we should not trust politicians, particularly the current Democratic leadership, with our health care system.
Even the Boston Globe, which supports changing the law again, does not try to excuse what happened in 2004:
Some state lawmakers fear they will look like hypocrites if they change the law to allow for such an appointment. In fact, they will. The shift in 2004 was indeed a naked effort to block former governor Romney from appointing a fellow Republican if Senator John Kerry were to win the presidency. Kennedy himself played a behind-the-scenes role in the political sleight of hand. A Globe editorial in March 2004 took Romney’s side and urged the legislative leadership “to scuttle this undeniably partisan bill.’’ The bill passed, and its dispiriting effects are now in full force. But sticking with a bad position for the sake of consistency or to save face would hardly serve the residents of Massachusetts.But Yglesias has figured out a way to spin 2004 and 2008 so that people who criticize the Democrats for changing the law are the ones who are hypocritical. In a post titled Strange Hypocrisy, Yglesias proposes that the legislature use whatever process best replaces the existing Senator with a person who best reflects what the voters really want:
This is being described in some quarters as “hypocritical,” which really strikes me as silly. The underlying principle here is that the outcome of senatorial vacancies should reflect the underlying preferences of the people of Massachusetts. You could imagine a different state in which the parties are much more competitive in which this bobbing and weaving really was nothing more than a transient majority in the state legislature entrenching its power. But does anyone seriously dispute that the Massachusetts electorate prefers (a) to be represented in the U.S. Senate and (b) congressional Democrats? It’s been over ten years since the Bay State sent a Republican to Congress, and the last Republican Senator lost in 1978.But who will determine what are the "underlying preferences" of the voters, if not the voters themselves? What if the voters really want a change? Under Yglesias' theory, the Governor would have to appoint a proxy for the deceased Senator, someone who will channel the deceased Senator in a seance-like manner, regardless of the fact that every Senator -- appointed or elected -- is free to vote his or her conscience regardless of campaign positions and promises.
Yglesias could take the Boston Globe approach, and just admit that the Democrats are being hypocrites, but to allow such an admission would call into question why such hypocrites should be entrusted with our health care system. In trying to find a consistency where none exists, Yglesias unwittingly exposes the pure politics behind much Democratic rhetoric on health care restructuring.
Ezra Klein, another leading pro-KennedyCare blogger, takes Yglesias' concept one step farther, calling on each Senator to have a "living will" containing the name of his or her successor:
It's weird to give governors any autonomous role in this process. If I were writing these laws, every senator would have a "living will" of sorts that names an interim replacement in the event of their incapacitation, and those interim senators would not be able to compete in the subsequent election. And that's what Massachusetts should do. Let Patrick pick the interim senator this year, as Kennedy can't do it, but write the legislation such that it won't need to be changed every few cycles.The fact is that good arguments can be made for allowing a temporary appointment, or a quick special election, or some combination. There is no right or wrong.
What is wrong, however, is to change the rules mid-game so as to ensure one party's predominance. It is hypocrisy plain and simple. The fact that two leading liberal proponents of KennedyCare refuse to call it as such demonstrates why we cannot trust our most intimate health care decisions to the government in general, to politicians in particular, and most of all, to the liberal intelligentsia.
You may be promised now that you can "keep your doctor" or "keep your health insurance," but who is to prevent the rules from being changed for political purposes after the fact? People who would change the law in 2004 to benefit the Democrats, then propose changing it again in 2008 to benefit the Democrats, cannot be trusted.
UPDATE: I like Jules Crittendon's take on Yglesias' spin:
Also fun is this one from my favorite not-quite-30 deep thinker, Matthew Yglesias. He’s explaining why Kenedy’s effort to prevent a Massachusets GOP governor from being able to appoint John Kerry’s replacement, and Kennedy’s deathbed effort to give appointment power back to the current Democratic governor, is not rank hypocrisy and cynical anti-democratic manipulation. The lefty lad explains that because Massachusetts politics are dominated by Democrats, it’s OK for Democrats to dominate Massachusetts politics. His explanation fails to acount for the 16 consecutive years that a succession of Republicans held the governor’s office .. which is elected statewide, as it happens … and the fact that both Kennedy and Kerry generally have lost about one-third of the votes in this bluest of states.--------------------------------------------
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