I'm serious. I know I’m going to be eviscerated for saying this, but it is time to find a challenger to primary Kucinich in next year's congressional elections.
Kucinich was one of 39 Democrats to vote against historic health care reform last night. I have been reading all day about what a brave vote Kucinich took and how principled he is for not voting for something because it wasn't sufficiently progressive. Following his "No" vote, Kucinich released a statement that made lots of good points about why we need to abandon the for-profit insurance industry, but what was missing from his statement was an apology to the 1.3 million people without insurance in Ohio, the congressman’s home state. For the first time in America’s history we have the opportunity to cover 96% of Americans and Dennis Kucinich said that wasn‘t good enough.
Kucinich’s failure is not one of ideology, but one of his legislative ability. Make no mistake, I’m just as liberal as Kucinich and would have preferred Medicare-for-all. However, the mark of a good legislator isn’t just their principles, but their ability to develop consensus, use their vote to improve legislation and finally, use the art of compromise to achieve a better deal for the American people. The congressman failed to build consensus on any of his more liberal alternatives (HR 676, etc.), he failed to improve the legislation by securing enough votes for his single-payer amendment and at the end of the day he failed to compromise on the most progressive piece of legislation in 40 years.
Raul Grijalva, Anthony Weiner, and Lynn Woolsey are just as progressive as Dennis Kucinich, but they were able to use their legislative prowess to significantly improve the bill. They didn’t get 100% of what they wanted, but they withheld their vote until the bill was significantly improved. At the end of the day they didn’t tell the American people that they were going to have to wait on health care reform until progressives can win enough elections to get a single-payer plan. To use a football analogy, our quarterback just threw a hail mary pass that puts health care reform on the 10-yard line. Had Kucinich been coaching the team he would have spiked the ball and headed back to the locker room.
This is a pattern with Kucinich and every time he votes with Republicans, whether it be on energy or health care - he forces Speaker Pelosi to cut a deal with a more conservative Democrat, often weakening the bill. Progressive groups are going to spend the next year railing against the 38 Blue Dogs and the 176 Republicans who voted against health care reform last night. But, I bet you won’t hear a peep out of them in regards to Kucinich’s vote. I see no difference. At the end of the day, a no vote is a "no" vote.