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Question: When is it right to vote against a good man?

Answer: When he is out of touch with his constituents, and when there is another good man to replace him.

RO KHANNA, MIKE HONDA AND STEM CELL RESEARCH: Future Meets Past in California 17th District

By Don C. Reed

Question: When is it right to vote against a good man?

Answer: When he is out of touch with his constituents, and when there is another good man to replace him.

Twelve-term California Representative Mike Honda (72) is a good man. Because he has been in office so long, he is endorsed by much of the Democratic establishment.   However, due to redistricting, he is now running for a different district than the one he served so many years—and this new district, California 17, includes Silicon Valley, the computer capital of the world. Whoever represents this district must understand technology and issues that did not even exist when Mr. Honda was in his prime.

Ro Khanna (37) is young, energetic, and in tune with the modern-day world: the slender Indo-American is endorsed by such computer industry leaders as Google’s  executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s CEO Sheryl Sandberg, and Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer.

My personal area of interest is stem cell research: to ease suffering and save lives.

So I asked each candidate a simple question: did he support embryonic stem cell research?

This is not small. Embryonic stem cell research is in the California Constitution, part of  Proposition 71, the Stem Cells for Research and Cures Initiative.

In California, where biomedicine is rising fast (already the number two industry in the entire state, second only to computer manufacturing and equipment) every Representative must understand what is at stake. When the recession almost put out the lights recently, biomedicine remained stable and strong.

As the home of the California stem cell program, we are the largest source of embryonic stem cell research funding in the world.

Already California partners with 14 nations in stem cell research endeavors, and we are close to breakthroughs in multiple diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and blindness.

Not knowing about stem cells in California is like living in Hollywood, without being fluent in movies.

Ro Khanna was already up to speed.  When I asked him if he supported embryonic stem cell research, he said: “Of course! Prop 71 was one of the best decisions any state ever made!” We spoke about some of the recent advances, and he was enthusiastic and informed.

Then I attended one of Mike Honda’s  fundraiser lunches,  to hear him make his case for a 13th term in office—and had a completely different reaction.

Though Honda had a good speech (one he had plainly said a thousand times before and could do in his sleep) there was no energy. He just talked.

But exhaustion is common among politicians, who work far harder than is generally suspected. Maybe he was just tired.  But if he was going to be representing our district now (thanks to re-districting)  I had to know if he was someone to support, ignore, or oppose.

So I asked him the same question: did he support embryonic stem cell research?

He seemed confused, as if he had forgotten that he had once supported it. He had, in fact, voted yes on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act in 2007.

But now?

He mumbled something about adult stem cells and no need for controversial research and went on.

I tried for a follow-up question, but he had nothing else to add, repeating himself about adult stem cells not being controversial.

Nothing against adult stem cells, which have been around since 1942 (the health benefits of bone marrow transplants were discovered as an attempt to heal radiation poisoning,  part of the A-bomb effort) and which have unquestioned value. But embryonic stem cells (taken from microscopic blastocsysts  left over from the In Vitro Fertilization process, otherwise to be thrown away) are incredibly powerful.  The best that can be said for any “substitute” stem cell source is that they are “just as good as embryonic”--and so far I am not convinced anything else has reached that status.

As a country, America has long since decided to support human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research; we have had the great debate for more than a decade, and both sides have been heard at length.

 The result? A recent national poll (Harris Interactive) shows 73% support.

"There is now overwhelming public support for using embryonic stem cells in biomedical research," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, a service of Harris Interactive. "Even among Catholics and born-again Christians, relatively few people believe that stem cell research should be forbidden because it is unethical or immoral."

There are very good reasons for this amazing level of support: number one being that we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Our families deserve the best medical treatment science can provide.

But there are also human economic reasons to keep in mind: like the threat of going bankrupt, or losing our homes. Whether by injury or disease, once a medical condition becomes chronic, the bills just skyrocket.

“…half of all bankruptcies in the US occurred in the aftermath of a serious medical problem….”—Elizabeth Warren,  “Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a National Study “ by David Himmelstein, et al.

Home foreclosures? “We studied homeowners going through foreclosure in four states and found that medical crises contribute to half of all home foreclosure filings. If these patterns hold nationwide, medical causes may put as many as 1.5 million Americans in jeopardy of losing their homes each year…”
--Get Sick, Get Out: The Medical Causes of Home Foreclosures, by Christopher Robertson, et al; Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine, Vol. 18, No. 65, 2008

Nor can we forget the national debt.  

How much is the most recent instalment of the national debt?  According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, “In 2013…the deficit was “only” $642 billion.”

But add up the annual costs of just four chronic conditions: heart disease and stroke ($432 billion), diabetes ($174 billion), lung disease ($154 billion), Alzheimer’s disease ($148 billion)—that adds up to $908 billion, not far south of a trillion dollars.

Chronic disease and  the deficit is like gasoline and  a campfire.  

If the costs of disease grow so high that people go bankrupt, who gets stuck with the bills? We  all do. Either the taxes go up to pay for social programs, or we borrow, and  put it on the tab-- and the national debt goes up.

So there is the choice. Unless we are planning on abandoning our loved ones, we either have to take care of them—or cure them.

Stem cell research is crucial to our nation.

When we send a man or woman to Washington today, he/she  must fully understand the urgent importance of biomedicine in general, and stem cells in particular.

“I believe that America must follow California’s lead and invest in embryonic stem cell research. Government investment in R&D has been responsible for much of the medical discovery and technology that we take for granted today. With a forward looking research agenda in Congress, we can continue that tradition and lead the world in finding cures for some of the most intractable diseases.”

—Ro Khanna, personal communication, 26 April, 2014

Ro Khanna “gets it”.

Mike Honda, apparently, does not.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hey This is What Primaries are For (0+ / 0-)

    If it's a well done challenge, either the new guy gets it, or the old guy returns and gets nudged up to speed on an issue that's crucial to our future.

    Good luck!

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 04:58:11 AM PDT

  •  Half a pass for being single-issue diarist, who (4+ / 0-)

    has long been focused on bio-medical issues, but:

    No, Honda is not required to be an expert in this area just because his district now includes Silicon Valley,

    No, this does not justify calling him

    out of touch with his constituents,

    Most importantly, the campaign so far (for gory details: search "Khanna" on Dkos website) has suggested that Khanna is not

    another good man to replace him.
    If diarist wants to demonstrate that Khanna is actually a good man likely to be as good a Congressman as Honda, on the

    wide range of issues that are important to their constituents and to Kossacks,

    it will take a lot more than Khanna responding better on the diarist's single issue under the conditions reported by this diary.

  •  bleah (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cali Scribe, wilderness voice

    Honda may not be up to speed on your pet issue, but that does not make him out of touch. Khanna is the face of business interests trying to dump a progressive and replace him with a tool.
    Also, unless your map of "Silicon Valley" doesn't include San Jose, Honda has always represented Silicon Valley.

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 08:44:09 AM PDT

  •  Also, listing Marissa Mayer (3+ / 0-)

    as a supporter is unlikely to impress many folks on a Democratic blog. Ms. Mayer lives in a penthouse suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. She joined her good buddy Mark Zuckerberg in funding which (according to its wiki page) supports the Keystone pipeline and drilling in the Arctic.

    As has been noted above, it is a wonderful thing that there is a primary for Rep. Honda's district. I certainly hope that we are allowed to have a Presidential primary as well in the upcoming election season. Neither Rep. Honda nor Sec. Clinton are entitled to an uncontested victory.

    However, Mr. Khanna will have to do a lot more than (1) be young and (2) support a single issue to win votes from voters.

  •  Aegism? That's all you've got? (4+ / 0-)

    You seem to be saying that, though he votes correctly on the issue you drill down on, Mike Honda is old. He lacks energy, he's tired, all those tropes about old folks. That's a pretty Silicon Valley way of looking at the world these days.

    Honda's undergraduate degree is in biological sciences, but that was a long time ago and at lowly San Jose State, and you know what happens with the passing of time, right? Even though he votes correctly on the issue, can he really understand how important the issue is--to you?

    Mike Honda knows there are a lot of folks in Silicon Valley who fix cars, clean rooms, wait tables, deliver produce, pound nails, etc. Does "slender," "energetic" Ro?

    And all those Silicon Valley execs, didn't their companies just agree to fines for fixing the job market in the valley?  And aren't their companies playing both sides of the Net Neutrality issue?

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