Thursday, December 24, 2009

Attacks from the Left

Long before we met, my husband worked for Senator Harris Wofford. Wofford had been appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, Sr. in 1991 after Sen. John Heinz was killed in a helicopter crash. Wofford won a special run-off election that year, besting the much better known Dick Thornburgh (a former Governor of Pennsylvania and Attorney General under Reagan) by campaigning on health care reform, of all things.

In 1994, however, Wofford lost his re-election campaign, partly because of attacks by NAARAL that claimed Wofford wasn't pro-choice enough. His Senate seat was then turned over to none other than Rick Santorum. In other words, that approach got us a dozen years of a staunchly pro-life senator.

The story in the New York Times about an ad attacking Obama for lack backing down on the public option and his promise not to mandate the purchase of insurance that's set to air in Wisconsin where Russ Feingold is up for re-election reminds me of the attacks on Wofford. Pace the tea baggers, politics and policy making is no place for ideological rigidity. With the Senate split, just barely, along party lines and little work being done across the aisle, there's too much hanging in the balance (climate change legislation anyone?) to moan about less than perfect legislation or to demand a Senator vote a particular way. Remember that old chestnut about the nose and the face and cutting it off and what not?

Which is to say we elect senators and house representatives to represent our voices and we elect them to make choices of their own. We ask them to serve and to lead. Demanding they do exactly what one interest groups asks under threat of retribution perverts the more nuanced work of representation. And if Feingold were to lose and a Wisconsin version of a Santorum were to take his place, we'd all have that burden to bear.

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