Friday, December 13, 2019
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Where have all the liberals gone?

With the downfall of Rep. Anthony Weiner, the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the ousting of Senator Russ Feingold, and the dissecting out of Rep. Dennis Kucinich's congressional district, it's difficult to find many liberal members of Congress that continue to stand up for a no-excuses liberal policy agenda (granted, some of these said individuals didn't always toe the liberal policy line themselves). America, it seems, has moved further to the right and many of our "liberal" political representatives across the country appear unwilling to stick out their political necks for an agenda that seems less capable of making any political headway. Take Rep. Nancy Pelosi as one major example of this point. What some conservatives decry as a "radical liberal" (i.e. Nancy Pelosi) is to liberals like myself a pragmatic liberal who will shirk her liberal policies when circumstances dictate such an event.

Indeed, our Congress is full of pragmatic liberals like Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Henry Waxman, and many more. Although I respect these individuals for their relatively solid political leadership, they have consistently thrown off the liberal mantel when the coast has not been absolutely clear. Their unwillingness to stand up for a liberal policy agenda has left many of their liberal constituents without a voice in the Congress or a friend to turn to.

As America moves further to the right of the political spectrum, more individuals in the liberal camp will necessarily find themselves outside of the mainstream political discourse, a discourse which was never that liberal to begin with. If, however, you respond that the recent legalization of gay marriage in house of New York State provides a counterargument to my point, let's not be so quick to jump to that conclusion. The legalization (at least for now) of gay marriage in New York was not premised upon "equality for all," even though you'll hear shades of this argument. Rather, the right for gay individuals to marry was based upon an argument of "individual rights," a classical liberal argument. Liberals seek basic equality on moral grounds, not necessarily on grounds of individual rights and freedoms, even though this is a major component of modern liberal thought.  

That is what Gabby wants.

I will explain my title only at the end.  Please bear with me.

I do not normally read Dana Milbank.  Shortly after his column today went up online, my wife read it, and told me I would want to read Arizona shooting inspires the best of politics.  She was right.  And I think you will want to read it as well.

It begins simply enough:  

On Saturday, one member of Congress took a bullet to the head - and 434 of her colleagues stared into the abyss.

On Wednesday, chastened lawmakers returned to the Capitol vowing to change their hostile ways.

Regardless of the causes of the shooting, there was recognition by the Members of the House of the same spirit addressed last night by the President, of a need to dial back some of the rhetoric.  Milbank touches on that.  He reminds us that yesterday was supposed to be dedicated to the Republican attack on healthcare, yet instead

Breaking only for a prayer service, the members spent eight hours exchanging vows to do better by each other.

Dennis Kucinich Switches To “Yes” On Health Care Reform

I never thought I'd say this as long as I lived, but here it is, "Thank goodness for Dennis Kucinich!"
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced this morning that he will in fact vote for the Senate health care bill. Kucinich's switch was a major pickup for Democrats who are clinging to a razor thin majority on health care reform and have been struggling to find the votes to get it passed.

"This is not the bill I wanted to support, Kucinich said. "However after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and friends, I decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation."

Kucinich originally voted no on the House version of the bill last fall.

What's interesting about Kucinich's decision is that he, more than almost anyone else, represented opposition to the current health care reform approach from the left. Like many on the left, Kucinich would have preferred a single payer system or at least a robust public option. In the end, however, Kucinich came down on the side of pragmatism and "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the possible."  With that, it appears that opposition to health care reform legislation from the left has essentially evaporated, with one notable exception in the blogosphere. Personally, I'm with the pragmatist camp, which I'm amazed to report now includes Dennis Kucinich.

P.S. Among Virginia Democrats, it appears that Rick Boucher is undecided, Tom Perriello is undecided, and Glenn Nye is undecided. Jim Moran and Glenn Scott are definite yes votes, and my guess is that so is Gerry Connolly, but we'll see...

UPDATE: See here for every representative's position on health care reform legislation.