Democrats: Vote your conscience on health care

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By Marjorie Margolies
Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dear wavering House Democrats,

I feel your pain. Eighteen years ago, I was elected on the coattails of a popular young Democratic president who promised a post-partisan Washington. A year later, with partisan gridlock capturing the Capitol, there was a razor-thin vote on the House floor over legislation that Democrats said would remake the country and Republicans promised would bankrupt it.

I was pressed on all sides: by constituents opposed, my president needing a victory and Republicans promising my demise. I was in the country's most Republican district represented by a Democrat. I had repeatedly said, "I will not be a 'read my lips' candidate," when asked if I would promise not to raise taxes.

I voted my conscience, and it cost me.

I still remember how, after I voted, Bob Walker jumped up and down on the House floor, yelling "Bye-bye, Marjorie!" I thought, first, that he was probably right. Then, that I would expect better behavior from my kids, much less a member of Congress. And then, that he was a remarkable jumper.

I am your worst-case scenario. And I'd do it all again.

In recent days I have become something I never imagined: a verb. I hear that when freshmen enter Congress they are told, "We don't want to Margolies-Mezvinsky you." I had no idea that when I voted for the Clinton budget, I was writing the first line of my obituary.

So it 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. Here are three things to keep in mind if you fear being Margolies-Mezvinskied this fall:

-- Votes like this are never a zero-sum game.

While it is easy to say my balanced-budget vote cost me reelection, that assumes the line of history that followed the bill's passage. Had I voted against it, the bill wouldn't have passed, the Republican opposition would have been emboldened, the Clinton presidency would have moved into a tailspin . . . and all of this could have just as easily led to my undoing.

Simply put, you could be Margolies-Mezvinskied whether you vote with or against President Obama. You will be assailed no matter how you vote this week. And this job isn't supposed to be easy. So cast the vote that you won't regret in 18 years.

-- America is a strong country -- despite what the cynics say.


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