Examples of courageous behavior: Soldiers going to the rescue of a downed comrade in the face of withering fire. A skilled pilot landing a huge plane on water to save the lives of all the passengers. The vote of a courageous politician who realizes that what he is doing is right but is also mortally wounding his subsequent election, and for all practical purposes ending what he hoped would be a political career.
Those are all examples of facing danger with resolution and dignity and determination and the act is called being courageous. It is not necessary to climb into the ring with Muhammed Ali or Mike Tyson. Each person faces his or her Waterloo in whatever field of battle they exist. In the workplace, in school, on the athletic field or in the every day personal interactions with our fellow man. And what about politicians?
When you are elected to public office, you state your principles. I am, the candidate will say, for higher or lower taxes, for more emphasis or less on education, more spending or less spending, more military or less military. Normally, the issues are important but often not life-changing, and the politician can meet his obligations. But, from time to time, issues that affect the lives and possibly deaths of constituents come before the elected official. It is when the issue is so important and also at variance with the will of a large percentage of the voters he represents that courage comes into play.
The fall of 2009 is such a time. The place is the United States Congress. The issue is health care reform.
For many years the Democratic Party in the south and some other areas of the country was faced with both real and invented issues that engaged the voters. It meant that politicians in those areas, who identified themselves as belonging to a group in Congress called Blue Dogs, often took issues at variance with the national Democratic Party. Normally this was over one issue. Spending. The Blue Dogs were admirably for maintaining a more reasonable approach to government spending, for reducing the national debt and for spending increases that would be offset by budget decreases, a system known as “paygo” for “pay as you go.”
By advocating, as this blog does, for the People, the Blue Dog Democrats were able to win more new seats in the House of Representatives and more Senate seats than ever before. In 2009, the nation came out in overwelming support for the Democratic Party which said that it stood for legislation that would fix the extortive health care costs and restrictions of private health care insurance, would get us out of Iraq, would bring labor to the bargaining table again to keep jobs in the U.S., and to fix the economy so that the middle class would not become the lower class. And yes, the American People also said that they wanted us to begin to reduce the deficit.
On the other hand, economists told us that, if we did so while losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month, we would enter a second Great Depression. Remember that during the last year of the Bush Administration we doubled the job losses and by December of 2008 we lost 630,000 jobs. In other words, in December 2008, we lost a number of jobs roughly equivalent to the entire population of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. So, the People were angry. Lax regulation, wars, jobs sent overseas, huge deficits, unchecked greed on Wall Street and health care costs through the roof brought more Democrats into Congress…to fix those things.
And what was the first big challenge, and the most important legislation of the last 30 years? Health care reform. And what have the newly elected representatives in those Blue Dog areas done? They are running away from a challenge by the health care industry. The health care industry has launched an unprecedented assault on Americans. The amounts of money being spent by an industry to keep its $14 million CEO salaries, its luxury-resort parties, its restrictive policies, its medicine-by-billing-clerk, and its corporate jets is unprecedented in U.S. politics. And if they win, it will set an example for every other grossly wealthy enterprise that all they need to do is enlist the help of the propaganda firms that acknowledge that they set up the so-called, idiotic “tea parties” and the shouters and the screamers at the town halls, and the fake problems scaring that segment of largely undereducated and intellectually lazy American people who listen to Right Wing propagandists and take their lies for truth.
So where is the courage of a Charlie Stenholm or a Martin Frost…going down to defeat facing what were then overwhelming odds? What did their sacrifice mean? Did it mean that the Blue Dogs should cut and run at the first sign of a potential defeat in 2010? Or should they stand strong against lobbyists–even these super-lobbyists–who want to take over our government?
If House members and Senate members who have no conscience or no courage fail to vote for the public option, then it will not be a loss. If Blue Dog Democrats cannot vote for health care reform then they are not true Democrats. This is not a test of loyalty to the Party. This is a test of loyalty to the People. The People need this bill. The People are hurting, going bankrupt, dying. And the Blue Dogs can end that with one small vote. Or they can continue to to hang back and rationalize, as has been pointed out by Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight.com.
If the Blue Dogs can’t get into this fight, then the Democratic Party and the People are better off without them. It is time to stand up or clear out.