One of the things that has frustrated me the most in following politics for the past few years is the way that members of the Democratic Party have increasingly turned on one another. We’ve always been a party of differences — it’s been the defining feature of the party that we don’t all agree on everything. To say you have “conservative values” is limiting because it’s pretty, well conservative. Whereas being “liberal” means you’re open to more ideas.
Or so I used to think.
Not to re-hash the slurs of the 2008 campaign, but it was nasty. It was petty. You back Obama, I back Hillary Clinton, and you would think we could debate the merits of each candidate. Instead, it often turned into nothing more mature than schoolyard taunts and insults.
And today, I would think that all good Democrats would be fighting for and agreeing on 2 things: ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ensuring adequate health care for all. But we’re not even agreeing on these most basic ideas. The latest example of the dysfunction of the Democratic Party came when A-list blogger (I say snarkily) Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos went on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown and basically threatened Dennis Kucinich’s political career based on Kucinich’s opposition to the current Health Care reform bill:
I don’t think he gets a pass. I don’t care what his excuse is. … He”s not elected to grandstand and to give us his ideal utopian society. … He’s not representing the uninsured constituents in his district by pretending to take the high ground here. … I think that’s the perfect excuse and rationale for a primary challenge.
A far more rational voice on the matter comes from John Nichols at The Nation who writes:
Long before Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi began talking up health care reform as a top priority for the Democratic Party, Congress and America, Dennis Kucinich was doing so. Indeed, the former Cleveland mayor, Ohio legislator, two-time presidential candidate and now senior U.S. House members has across the past 35 years been one of the country’s steadiest proponents of real reform of our broken health-care system.
So Kucinich’s questioning of the reform legislation being advanced by President Obama and House Speaker Pelosi is neither casual nor uninformed.
The congressman from Ohio knows the intricacies of the health-care debate as well as any key player in Washington. And he objects to the compromises contained in the measure the president and the speaker are whipping House Democrats to support. “This bill doesn’t change the fact that the insurance companies are going to keep socking it from the consumers,” says Kucinich, who argues that, “The insurance companies are the problem and they are getting a bailout.”
This is not a new complaint from Kucinich. Nor is it an unfounded concern.
I’m sick of the Democratic Party. We finally get the majority and we don’t even know what to do with it. I have no doubt that this attack on Kucinich (who, by the way, is introducing a bill as I write to end the fighting in Afghanistan) was somehow orchestrated by the White House (I’m lookin’ at you Rahm.)
Again from Nichols:
This is not to say that Kucinich’s approach is the right or wrong one. The point is that Obama, Pelosi and their lieutenants need to recognize that the congressman’s dissents are based on principle. He is not seeking some sort of “Cornhusker kickback” or “Louisiana Purchase” deal. Rather, Kucinich is seeking to make what he sees as a flawed bill better.
As such, Democrats ought not be worrying so much about whipping him into shape as they should be listening to him — and working with him. After all, what Kucinich is proposing is not extreme. It’s what should be in the bill.