Monday, March 22, 2010

health care vote and the coming election

Over the last few weeks I have had an ongoing debate with a friend of mine about the political implications for the health care vote that happened last night. My friend thinks it will end up costing the Democrats electorally and potentially make Barack Obama a one-term president. I suspect, as in most midterm elections, the Democrats will lose seats because that is the nature of those elections, but that they will retain smaller majorities and Obama will be reelected (mostly because there doesn’t seem to be a single Republican challenger that needs to be taken seriously, but that’s another post).

What has been most stunning about this past year in politics is the conduct of many on the right. I found it distasteful when liberals compared George W. Bush to Hitler. I think if you compare your opponent to Hitler and your opponent is not literally committing a holocaust you automatically lose the debate. But I don’t think liberals and Democrats in the Bush years are comparable to what’s been happening from the right over the last year. Just in the last few days we’ve had reports of hate speech about the race and sexual orientation of Democratic members of congress. Much of the tea party movement is based upon simply being at best rowdy and at worst threatening.

Yet, there was this from Boehner; a call for house Republicans to be civil after the vote. It just reminded me of this moment from the Clinton years recounted by former PA representative Marjorie Margolies.

Eighteen years ago, I was elected on the coattails of a popular young Democratic president who promised a post-partisan Washington. A year later, with partisan gridlock capturing the Capitol, there was a razor-thin vote on the House floor over legislation that Democrats said would remake the country and Republicans promised would bankrupt it. I was pressed on all sides: by constituents opposed, my president needing a victory and Republicans promising my demise. I was in the country's most Republican district represented by a Democrat. I had repeatedly said "I will not be a 'read my lips' candidate." I voted my conscience and it cost me. I still remember how, after I voted, Bob Walker jumped up and down on the House floor, yelling "Bye-bye, Marjorie!" I thought, first, that he was probably right. Then, that I would expect better behavior from my kids, much less a member of Congress. And then, that he was a remarkable jumper.

Bob Walker was once my congressman, before Joe Pitts (ugh). I imagine that he is a remarkable jumper.

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