Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, will be published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Photo by Ports Bishop)
The news that Harold Ford Jr., a conservative Democrat from Tennessee, is considering a primary challenge to New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is as laughable as ludicrous. I'm still having trouble taking Ford's bid seriously, but judging from a front page story in today's New York Times, Gillibrand's camp is preparing for war.
Democrats have had more than enough of Joe Lieberman and his antics, including in his home state.
"No one should hold health care hostage, including Joe Lieberman, and I'll say it flat out, I think he ought to be recalled," said Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura, the dean of Connecticut's Democratic Congressional delegation. "I know that may not even be an option in Connecticut, but 45,000 people die every year because theydon't have health care. We don't have the luxury to hold up a bill that could make a difference in people's lives. This is what we were sent here to do."
DeLaura endorsed Lieberman during his race against Ned Lamont in '06, calling him "a very close friend of our family" and a "person of integrity who has fought so many good fights for people. I am proud to have worked side-by-side with him in this primary." (She endorsed Lamont after he defeated Lieberman in the Democratic primary.)
The New York Times has an excellent graphic up today profiling the 39 Democrats who voted against healthcare reform in the House of Representatives on Saturday night. The Times notes that 31 of these Democrats represent districts won by John McCain, as if that's a sufficient excuse. But take a closer look at the numbers. Paradoxically, those Democrats voting against healthcare reform represent constituents most in need of health insurance.
Dan Boren of Oklahoma, arguably the most conservative Democrat in Congress, leads the way. Twenty-nine percent of his non-elderly constituents lack health insurance. He's followed by Harry Teague of New Mexico (25 percent uninsured), Waco's Chet Edwards (23 percent), North Carolinians Mike McIntyre (23 percent) and Heath Shuler (21 percent), Blue Dog leader Mike Ross (22 percent) and fellow Southerners Gene Taylor (22 percent), Jim Marshall (22 percent) and John Barrow (21 percent).
These Democrats will talk about fiscal responsibility and cost containment and preserving the free market, but let's get real--their votes had nothing to do with ideological concerns. After all, the legislation was severely watered down to please people like Mike Ross, who voted against the bill anyway. It was all politics, even though 22 of these Democrats won their districts by double-digits. Ross led the way, defeating his practically nonexistent GOP opponent by 72 points! He's hardly an endangered species.