The politics of John Adler’s vote, and why I don’t want to hear him defended

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?

Comments (30)

  1. srlaser

    I can vote for Adler and I know many other Democrats who feel the same as I.

    Pissing on your base is always a loser move.

  2. Bertin Lefkovic

    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.

    Why would you contribute a moment or a penny to help John Adler?  Aren’t you in LoBiondo’s district?  I assume that he will have some token opposition.  Helping someone who has no chance in hell of winning, but stands for something, is far better than helping someone who has no chance in hell of winning and doesn’t stand for anything.

    As far as Wisniewski is concerned, I think that this is another strike against him.  While the party should be invested in re-electing its incumbents, it has to be even more invested in standing for something.  As is, it is unclear what, if anything, the NJDSC stands for and the Chairman did not change that much, if at all, with this statement.

    I am actually more bothered by Wisniewski’s statement than Adler’s vote.

  3. jdm28

    I (unfortunately) live in the 3rd district and have let Adler’s office know that I will never vote for him again.  I stayed  up late on election night watching the results in the 3rd (and well into Wednesday) and was elated that I finally would have a decent representative in Congress.  Now I feel like a total fool.

    I don’t want Runyon, but a vote for Adler is now out of the realm of possibility.  I will no longer vote for any candidate that takes my vote for granted.  And that goes for state Senator James Beach, too.

    My only hope now is that Cherry Hill is gerrymandered from the 3rd (it’s the only Camden county municipality in the district) and into the 1st.  I’d be proud to vote for Rob Andrews.

  4. Jay Lassiter

    you can try to forgive and forget and “move on” but in the absence is mutual trust and affection, it’s hard to accept and it’s really painful.  that’s how i see it.

    you can’t un-curdle something.

  5. Eric9to5

    This was the President’s signature issue, and Adler had the balls to vote No on every roll call related to it. Even the reconciliation bill, which made the package “cheaper” and more attractive to the Blue Dogs. I have to say, I’m much less ticked off at Bart Stupak and his ilk, who recognized the historic importance of getting something done and were willing to deal.

    And I have to say I found his arguments unpersuasive – doesn’t bend the cost curve enough? Too expensive for small businesses? Well, then either work to amend the bill before passage, or work on subsequent acts to improve it. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The fact is, he’s a fair-weather Dem who’s more concerned with staying in office in a GOP district than with doing the right thing.

    According to an iPhone app I have, Adler votes with the party 91+% of the time. Not good enough if he’s not with us on the big things.

    I’m not voting for him in November, and will support any primary challenger to him. The fact is, we all say we don’t want Runyan but, to be fair, if Adler votes with the GOP on anything of substance, there isn’t any real difference, is there?

    And, I’d rather have my picture taken with a former Iggle than with a traitor to his party and its principles.

    Here’s praying that the Administration and the DNC hang Adler out to dry.

  6. CarvedNStoneDem

    Of course I would never vote for Adler’s opponent. In his district Adler doesn’t stand a chance of prevailing absent very strong support from the Democratic base. He won’t have it, He’s toast. On the other hand Runyan has the potential to be such a disaster in 2 years hopefully we can have a real democrat for a challenge. Let’s start laying that groundwork now and not waste resources and time on an election we’re sure to lose.

  7. jdm28
  8. Hopeful (Post author)

    to the people in the district who worked for Adler, I wasn’t harsh enough.

  9. jdm28

    Why are they wasting time here?  They should be reading

  10. Thurman Hart

    has to allow people to disagree, even on very important issues.  And part of keeping that big tent open is letting people air out grievances.  

    As a Democrat who couldn’t support Jon Corzine, I can understand why someone feels that their basic values have been betrayed enough that they just can’t vote for the lesser evil anymore.  I can’t tell anyone how to vote.  I can only tell them that they have to live with whatever vote they cast.  

  11. ErikPreuss

    Adler’s decision to vote against healthcare is in no way a betrayal to Democrats or his district.  Healthcare passed by 7 votes in the house.  I find it very hard to believe that if his vote had been a make or break vote for the bill that he would have voted against it.  This was purely a political move that made ALOT of sense.

    Adler is in a conservative district and with the current political climate he could not afford to vote for the bill unless it was absolutely necessary.  It would not be worth it at all for him to vote for the bill and have that cost him his seat in November.  Republicans are going to have large gains in November and the last thing we need is for him to lose his seat because he voted for a bill that he didn’t need to vote in favor of.  It wouldn’t be practical for him to give up his seat based purely on idealism.  I truly believe that if he had absolutely needed to.  I think it is being very short-sighted to consider this a betrayal if his vote of No causes him to be reelected.


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