Commentary: Massachusetts Senate election result wasn't a fluke

The most Democratic state in the nation elected a Republican to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. That's a verdict President Obama and congressional Democrats can't obscure with excuses or set aside as a fluke.

Of course, it's anyone's guess exactly what Massachusetts voters were saying Tuesday as they strongly favored Republican state Sen. Scott Brown over state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

But the election certainly does not mean that Democrats should pass health reform by any procedural means necessary. Brown's ability to deny Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was an undeniable part of his triumph.

Even some of those Americans inclined to support efforts to reform health care, including The Eagle editorial board, have objected to the side deals and secrecy of the process. When you campaign on transparency, then operate in the dark — making inexplicable and costly exceptions for certain states and constituencies — you invite distrust.

And while Obama and the Democrats have been obsessively focused on overhauling health care, Americans have been worrying about joblessness, government spending and the threat of terrorism.

Health care still needs reform. And Democrats at least have tried to make their plan pay for itself — something Republicans didn't bother to do when they added the Medicare prescription-drug benefit in 2003.

But it wouldn't be a bad thing if Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill now reordered their priorities and sought to tackle the problems of access and affordability in American health care incrementally, and with some measure of bipartisanship.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.kansas.com.