‘I don’t think he gets a pass’

‘I DON’T THINK HE GETS A PASS’…. When considering Democratic lawmakers who oppose health care reform, we tend to think of a few contingents within the party. There’s obviously conservative Blue Dogs, who represent the bulk of the Democratic opponents. There are also some vulnerable incumbents from competitive districts who are simply afraid of a backlash, regardless of how many people the legislation helps.

And then there’s Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio, who has nothing in common with those other Democratic opponents. His district isn’t conservative; he’s not worried about polls; and his re-election isn’t really in doubt. Kucinich simply opposes his party’s reform efforts because, as he sees it, the proposals aren’t liberal enough. Indeed, he voted with far-right Republicans against the reform package in November, even though it included a public option, because he concluded that the public option wasn’t robust enough to earn his support.

This week, Kucinich made clear that he intends to vote with Republicans against health care once again. He thinks the legislation isn’t strong enough, and if his opposition kills the legislation, so be it.

In general, Kucinich doesn’t draw the same kind of progressive ire that, say, Blue Dogs do. The left realizes that Kucinich is sincere. His concerns are genuine. His heart is in the right place. He’s certainly not being cowardly and/or putting electoral considerations above the public’s needs.

But if Kucinich joins Republicans in killing health care reform — as he has said he fully intends to do — the millions of Americans who’d benefit from the Democratic proposals won’t find much solace in Kucinich’s deeply-held principles. They need a champion who’ll make things better, not an idealist who’d rather wait until imaginary support materializes for a more perfect solution.

And with time running out, and the need for every single vote so great, Kucinich is starting to draw justified criticism.

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas warned on Tuesday night that if Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) plays a role in killing health care reform, a Democratic primary challenger would almost certainly await him in the next election.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Moulitsas conveyed pointed frustration with the Ohio Democrat’s pledge to oppose reform on grounds that it doesn’t go far enough. He said Kucinich was practicing a “very Ralph Nader-esque approach” to politics.

“The fact is this is a good first step and he is elected not to run for president, which he seems to do every four years,” he said. “[Kucinich] is not elected to grandstand and to give us this ideal utopian society. He is elected to represent the people of his district and he is not representing the uninsured constituents in his district by pretending to take the high ground here.” […]

“What he is doing is undermining this reform,” he added. “He is making common cause with Republicans. And I think that is a perfect excuse and a rational one for a primary challenge.”

Markos said that Kucinich’s willingness to deny help to those who need it is “completely reprehensible.” Markos added, “I don’t think he gets a pass; I don’t care what his excuse is.”

Watching Kucinich vow to vote with right-wing opponents of reform, it occurs to me that he almost certainly would have voted against FDR’s Social Security plan, which was thin and weak when it was signed into law. He also would have rejected Medicare, because it wasn’t ambitious at all when it passed.

Fortunately for all of us, lawmakers from those eras saw a value in establishing a strong foundation and then building on it in future years. In other words, fortunately for all of us, Social Security and Medicare weren’t dependent on lawmakers like Dennis Kucinich.