Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Political Courage

I received an e-mail from nephew Abraham about Sunday's historic vote on health reform. I think it bears repeating, so here it is.

Hi friends and family,

Last night, Congress made history by passing the most comprehensive health care reform in nearly 50 years. For some representatives, a "yes" vote meant they were standing up for 32 million uninsured Americans in the face of a tough re-election fight. Health Care Reform was passed with only 3 votes to spare, which means every single one of those votes was essential - but it could cost these representatives their jobs.

They did the right thing anyway, and that's exactly why they need to be sent back to Congress for another term. We can help make that happen, by giving just a few dollars to any or all of them - they're going to need every penny. No matter how little you can afford to give, it'll make a difference by showing them, their constituents and the media that this was the right thing to do. Their opponents are going to make literally millions of dollars in contributions off of these gutsy votes. Let's get their backs, like they just got ours.

Here's the list of the most vulnerable Democrats to vote yes, from FiveThirtyEight.com (list was compiled before the vote; Space voted no). And here's the roll call vote from last night.

Donation pages for the 20 most vulnerable Democrats voting Yes on Health Care Reform:

Betsy Markey - CO 4th
Suzanne Kosmas - FL 24th
Earl Pomeroy - ND At Large
Brad Ellsworth - IN 5th
Tom Perriello - VA 5th
Baron Hill - IN 9th
John Spratt - SC 5th
Mark Schauer - MI 7th
Chris Carney - PA 10th
John Boccieri - OH 16th
Alan Grayson - FL 8th
Kendrick Meek - FL 17th, running for Senate
Mary Jo Kilroy - OH 15th
Paul Hodes - NH 2nd, running for Senate
Harry Mitchell - AZ 5th
Carol Shea-Porter - NH 1st
Allen Boyd - FL 2nd
Joe Sestak - PA 7th, running for Senate
John Salazar - CO 3rd, running for Senate
Bill Foster - IL 14th

Thanks for reading this far. Even if you can only spare a dollar, pick a candidate (from the top, ideally) and show your support!


Of course, this is my blog, so I get to add a postscript. There's two more members of the House of Representatives who aren't on this list who ought to get a serious nod. They are Nancy Pelosi and Bart Stupak. Though a vote in which 219 people vote on the winning side is clearly a collective process during which many had to vote principles rather than politics, some individuals seem more heroic than others.

Pelosi's leadership was indispensable to the outcome. She was clear all along that Democratic members of the House could not simply pass the Senate version of healthcare reform. She led the way to Sunday's two-part vote, and she led with grace and persistence. It seems likely that most of the speakers who preceded her could not have won passage of the bill.

It's not often that I praise pro-life politicians, Stupak is perhaps the first. In general, I distrust pro-life politicians. Sure, opposition to abortion may be a personal choice consistent with individual religious beliefs, but I don't believe that makes a pro-life position an appropriate political choice; pro-life politicians seem to me to be doing a politically expedient thing. That's my bias and I'm sticking to it. All the more surprising then that Stupak's choice, to bargain for a presidential order maintaining the status quo prohibition against federal funding of abortions in exchange for his vote for healthcare reform, struck me as profile in courage.

For Stupak, sticking to his pro-life position would have been the politically expedient thing. It probably would not have hurt him in his district, at all. Bargaining with the president, who is also the leader of the pro-choice party, was a nervy decision, also. And as the author of an amendment that would have forbidden any interpretation of the bill that would have relaxed the ban against federal funding of abortion, Stupak's vote for healthcare reform carried much more weight than the votes of other pro-life Democrats. Arguably, the bill would not have passed without Stupak.


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