I know we live in a sound bite, Facebook world where only the last five minutes seem relevant, but remember Todd Akin? Most of us (but amazingly enough, not all of us) can agree that this guy is a fool. A fool yes, but not harmless. While August’s commentary focused on whether or not Akin would remain on the ballot for Senator, I was thinking about the fact that he’s been representing Missouri for twelve years; and while his colleagues in the House are too savvy to utter the words “legitimate rape,” many share his ideology (think: Paul Ryan).
There would be a silver lining to the insane little Akin episode if it drove home the fact that the Congressional races matter. A lot.
Over the past four years, impasse after impasse has demonstrated that the House has quite the impact on our lives. Our system of checks and balances was well conceived, but right now we have more check than balance. Those who would critique Obama should first point a finger at Republican Congressmen so hell bent on ousting him that they put that objective ahead of the well being of 314 million citizens.
Our own neck of the woods (the New York 18th) was recently redistricted. As it currently stands, come November our Representative will switch from Nita Lowey, a twelve term Democrat, to Nan Hayworth, a one-term Tea Partier currently representing the 19th. In less than two years in Congress, Representative Hayworth has voted to prohibit use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood, to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and for Ryan’s Path to Prosperity Budget; she initially voted against increasing the debt limit, ultimately voting yea for the Boehner proposal. The list goes on and on, but you have the flavor. I will note that in a departure from her conservative roots, Ms. Hayworth supports gay rights (sort of – watching her flank, she won’t go as far as endorsing the Equal Marriage Act but she was a member of the LBGT caucus). Then again, a la Dick Cheney, one of her children is gay. Call me cynical, but I find it hard to respect those who can only muster the backbone to do the right thing when it hits close to home.
This summer, Tom and I attended two receptions for Congresswoman Hayworth’s Democratic opponent, Sean Patrick Maloney. Mr. Maloney is the diametric opposite of Nan Hayworth, a strong supporter of women’s reproductive rights, of gay rights, of the Affordable Health Care Act, and a foe of the Ryan budget proposal. You actually don’t need to know much more; the contrast with Nan Hayworth is so stark that it’s hard to envision anyone being on the fence between the two.
For those of us who live in New York, there’s a temptation to skip going to the polls (especially if the first Tuesday in November is rainy). After all, New York will go easily for Obama and Senator Gillebrand’s re-election is a given, so why bother? It’s that attitude that brought us Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a politician who has wrecked havoc on affordable housing, social programs, and women’s rights -- my point being, it all matters. And here in the 18th district, Hayworth versus Maloney matters a lot because this is one of those hot Congressional seats that truly is contested.
House issues blend the local and national, so while I get to vote yea or nay for Ms. Hayworth, those of you who don’t live in my district will be affected by my choice. I urge you to look closely at YOUR choices. They will affect you, and some also will affect me. Washington’s tight gridlock over the past four years is proof positive that unless we succeed in changing the blue/red mix in Congress, we’ll be facing another frustrating four years of rancor and inertia. Of the 435 House elections in November, only about 100 are truly in play. Our district is one of them; you should check to see if your district is too. Tom’s analysis of the House races can help you with that. Here’s the link:
Wendy, I was just in the elevator with Rachel Maddow and Will MacAvoy. Both wanted to know how to get you on their shows.ReplyDelete
Excellent commentary. Ultimately, the defining identity of the tea party may well not be its idealogy but rather its absolute refusal to compromise, and an unflinching refusal to compromise will ultimately strangle a representitive democracy. One hopes that an Obama win would remind republicans that extremism makes for good soundbytes but bad election outcomes, and the centrists who make government work will arise anew. Until then, Wendy's words are fair warning to us all.