January 27, 2010

Hey, Harry!

Martha Coakley lost the Democratic Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown last week. The vote was close: 52 to 47 percent. The stunner was that a Republican could win, even with a four-point margin, in a supposed blue-state stronghold. This is not news.  What national leaders have made of this victory in the ensuing week, meanwhile, deserves scrutiny.

GOP Conference Chair Mike Pence concluded after the election that the American people had spoken through the people of Massachusetts, telling Washington that “enough is enough.”   Just to be perfectly clear, that’s not the message I sent. I’m American. And I voted, too.

I thought, a year ago, when I trained down to Washington to hear Barack Obama take his oath of office, that at last I could lift my voice, and the sound of my voice would be recognizably American for the first time in a long time. Today, reading the front page of The New York Timesa week after the election, I realized that was a brief, dreamy moment. The people I voted for, the people I sent to Washington, the people who are supposed to be my voice in government, have abandoned the message I sent them to deliver and the work I wanted them to get done.

Look at what Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had to say about the Democratic Party’s brand new take on health care reform. “We’re not on health care now. We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.  There is no rush.”  No rush?  Hey, Harry! I voted to rush!

I kept reading, only to receive the second in a one-two punch.  Senator Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., sounded a death knell for effective government regulation of carbon emissions.  “Realistically, the cap-and-trade bills in the House and the Senate are going nowhere.  They’re not business-friendly enough, and they don’t lead to meaningful energy independence.”  And why does Sen. Graham get to thumb his nose now? “Reality is hitting, and the reality is the American people are interested in jobs, not extreme legislation.”  That answer from Larry Nichols, CEO of Devon Energy and chair of the American Petroleum Institute. Nichols may head an organization with the word “American” in it, but I can assure you, he doesn’t speak for me.

Barry, Harry, Larry? Listen up. I am American. I voted for you.  And this is the message I’m sending to Washington today, hours before the president is set to deliver the State of the Union:

Leaving health care unreformed, allowing the insurance industry to continue flushing a chunk of the GDP down the toilet every year, that’s not business friendly.  And kissing cap-and-trade goodbye? You will be rich and powerful enough for the rest of your lives to afford the platinum version of health insurance. When you’ve had your third bypass surgeries and all your joints replaced, and you are sitting in rockers on the front porches of your vacation homes, I’d like you to explain to my great-grandchildren why there aren’t any more polar bears.  Please remember to tell them that back in 2010 you were too chicken to listen to the American people who voted you into office and told you they were ready for change.