Politicker NJ has a notable quote about John Adler by Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski (in an interview that otherwise focuses on bashing Christie’s terrible budget choices) that defends Adler’s no vote on health care reform:
“I certainly in my legislative district feel comfortable making the case healthcare reform – for the reform the House adopted,” Wisniewski added. “I believe John Adler made the right decision for his district. He knows his district.”
Obviously, Wisnewski wants us to understand this as just another vote. It’s not unusual, after all, to see members feel pressure. Democrats have picked up Republican votes in swing districts this way from time to time. So we hear that it is just necessary politics, and it’s the voters’ fault after all. Adler is admirable for siding with the Republicans in his district. Even if Wisnewski doesn’t really believe this, he surely thinks his job to publicly support his incumbents. Political parties, after all, are as much about a group gathering and holding onto power as they are about advancing some noble principles.
But principles do come into it, especially for ordinary voters and the activists who make up “the base.” The Democratic base is very unhappy with John Adler, because this wasn’t just another vote. We all know the Republicans decided to oppose a moderate bill to destroy Barack Obama’s Presidency and the Democratic Congress, openly admitting that they aimed to make it his “Waterloo.” Meanwhile, Democrats, as Ted Kennedy’s beautiful memoir reminded us, have been fighting for universal health care for over a generation, and Obama and Adler promised health care reform in their campaigns. In this context, for Adler to join the other side and attack the bill was an astonishing betrayal. (Let me say, too, that his announcements in both votes came while we know frantic negotiations with Stupak et al. to round up votes were still going on; I believe Adler was not “released” by leadership.)
Perhaps Wisniewski would think we’re worrying too much about a bill, that after all, passed anyway. But I would remind him, and any other party leaders, of the tremendous disasters of the last decade. You see, to the people who vote and volunteer Democratic, from 2000-2008, and even earlier, the disasters were not solely due to Republicans. Democrats acquiesced as Republicans lead us into those disasters. Some Democrats in Congress voted to invade Iraq, not only due to their “districts” but many because they thought it would help their presidential campaigns! Some Democrats voted for the Bush tax cuts that wrecked our finances. Some Democrats voted to dismantle the system of financial regulation that had served us since the New Deal (I include the 1990s votes here) returning us to the pre-FDR world of financial panics every decade. Democrats voted to curtail civil liberties. They agreed to torture detainees and bypass the court system. In short, Republican administrations have easily found Democrats to go along with every lousy, disastrous, extreme conservative idea they could dream up. (Only on privatizing Social Security in 2005 did Nancy Pelosi finally keep Democrats together to say no, or rather, “Never. Is never good enough for you?“)
And so, I fear, and I suspect many in the base fear, that John Adler has shown that the lessons he learned from the Bush (43) Administration is that the cowardly Democrats, the Democrats who voted with the conservatives, were the smart ones. This is why, I think, Adler’s no vote on health care reform is even worse than a vote to abandon one core principle and undermine his party’s President. if John Adler remains in Congress long enough, and finds himself in Congress with a Republican Administration, for all I know he’ll be voting to invade Iran, end the inheritance tax, deregulate the banks, or give Social Security to Wall Street. It could be any crazy conservative idea, because “It’s the right thing for his district.” I definitely don’t want Republican Jon Runyan to win. I’m even putting my time into that. But the truth is, I no longer really want Adler to win.
Blue Jersey readers, what do you think? Am I too harsh? Do you feel otherwise? Should Wisniewski defend Adler’s vote?