Margolies knows a little something about tough votes

MARGOLIES KNOWS A LITTLE SOMETHING ABOUT TOUGH VOTES…. When former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-Pa.) talks about the challenges of casting tough votes, she knows of what she speaks.

In 1993, Margolies (then Margolies-Mezvinsky) was a targeted Democratic freshman representing a Republican district. Bill Clinton needed her help to pass his budget plan, which Republicans insisted would lead to economic disaster and national ruin. Her constituents bought into the far-right rhetoric and opposed the Clinton plan, but Margolies supported it anyway.

The Clinton policy went on to produce remarkable economic prosperity — Republicans’ uninterrupted track record of wrong predictions goes back quite a while — but voters nevertheless threw Margolies out of office in the ’94 midterms.

In a terrific Washington Post op-ed today, Margolies tells Democratic lawmakers wavering on health care reform: “I am your worst-case scenario. And I’d do it all again.”

[I]t is with the perspective of having spent nearly two decades living with your worst political nightmare that I urge you to vote for health-care reform this week…. The moral of my brief political story is not that casting a tough and decisive vote necessarily predicts a bad electoral outcome for you, nor that the majority of your constituents is always wrong or always right.

It’s that there are times in all our careers when we must ask ourselves why we’re here. I decided that my desire for public service at that moment was greater than my desire to guarantee continued service. Yes, there are few jobs as rewarding (mostly) as being a member of Congress, and I was let down after I lost. But I believed then and now that being able to point to something tangible that changed our country for the better was a more powerful motivator than the possible electoral repercussions.

I urge you simply to cast the vote you can be proud of next week, next year and for years to come. Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t change my vote.

Margolies’s piece, which is well worth reading, notes that Republicans will attack vulnerable Dems anyway, so they might as well “cast the vote that you won’t regret in 18 years.” She also reminds lawmakers that their constituents’ judgment is not flawless — her district actually thought Clinton’s economic policies would be awful. Her constituents got it wrong, but benefited when their representative got it right. If the goal is for lawmakers to help those they represent, Margolies succeeded in siding with her district’s best interests.

There’s one point, though, that her op-ed didn’t mention, but which is also worth keeping in mind — with her judicious vote in 1993, Margolies secured a place in history. Indeed, her name is still remembered on the Hill, all these years later, as an example of wisdom and courage. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Marjorie Margolies did the right thing and made a positive difference in the lives of millions.

Isn’t this why candidates run for Congress in the first place? Do these wavering Dems really want to be remembered for cowering on the biggest vote of their careers? Do they really want to be known forever as politicians who wilted when given history’s spotlight?

Or would they rather put their stamp on history and be remembered as a hero?