The passage of health care legislation has sent tremors down the political spine of the United States. It is understandable that the conservative element in this country fears a strong public option. If the public option finally passed and actually worked, conservatives would have a very difficult time convincing people to believe in their philosophy.
More concerning to me is the outcry from the left, which has taken two different forms. Some of the left voted against the current health care legislation in the House because it didn’t go far enough, and some of the left objects to their congressperson voting for a piece of compromise legislation.
Others on the left are now mobilizing against their moderate and/or conservative Democratic congresspersons because of their vote against the health legislation.
There is currently a list circulating on the internet of the Democratic no-votes on health care reform. My Congressman, Ben Chandler, voted against it. Chandler is a moderate Democrat from a moderate district in Kentucky, a very red state.
Chandler has voted against health reform not based on a principled stand, but based on political survival. For doing so he faces a revolt from the base of his own party. The left-wing blog Barefoot and Progressive has published a scathing rebuke for Chandler’s votes in the health care debate. Chandler’s vote for the Stupak amendment, essentially ending private health coverage of elective abortion procedures, also raised the ire of progressives. There is also now a group on Facebook, “KY Democrats who will never vote for Ben Chandler again”
Ben Chandler is not an anti-health reform, pro-life politician - but he is a politician from a pro-life, anti-health reform state and his district is full of constituents who would gladly abandon him for a more representative congressman should he take positions that are oriented to the left.
This is the kind of behavior that will hand Congress and possibly the White House right back to the Republican Party. If we chase moderate Democrats like Ben Chandler out of the party then the Democrats lose the middle, and the war-mongering, torturous, exploitative and greedy Republican Party marches right back into power.
Remember that the Democratic majority in Congress and this country is a lose coalition of many different interests. What it means to be a Democrat often depends on the district that you are in. Democrats can be as conservative as Max Baucus and Harry Reid, or as liberal as Dennis Kucinich and John Kerry. If we shrink the size of the Democratic tent to only include liberals, even just the social liberals, we can no longer legislate in Washington.
Republicans have destroyed their party by chasing away moderates. They just lost what was once a solidly Republican district in New York because they divided their party over social issues. This should serve as a warning to those who would chase the Ben Chandlers of the world out of the Democratic Party.
Think carefully before you bite the hand that feeds you. Would you really give up your party’s majority in Congress over an issue as inconsequential as abortion?