It almost feels like a bad dream at this point, but 2009 and 2010 were dark times to be a Democrat. Tea party furor, fueled by the provocateurs at FOX News, erupted in town halls all across the country, in a desperate attempt to derail the age-old progressive dream of health care reform. The cacophony intimidated many Democrats into caving and opposing the Affordable Care Act.
A few brave souls, however, did not succumb to the pressure, despite knowing that a vote in favor would likely cost them their seats in Congress. One of them was Rep. Gary Peters, who represented a swingy district in suburban Detroit that had supported Obama but had also voted for George W. Bush twice before. It was precisely the kind of turf where a freshman Democrat sticking his neck out for the president's signature priority would be putting his entire political career at risk.
But Peters did so anyway. The chance to extend health insurance to millions of people, and thousands of Michiganders, was too important to pass up, he said, no matter the consequences to him personally. And so, with everything on the line, he cast a vote for the law Republicans once derisively dubbed Obamacare. Then, an amazing thing happened.
Gary Peters won re-election—by a hair. That allowed him to continue his career, and put him in an ideal position to carry forward the Democratic mantle in Michigan after longtime Sen. Carl Levin announced his retirement last year.
But the Koch brothers haven't forgotten Peters' support for the ACA, something he's proudly backed ever since. That's why Republicans have already dumped over $6 million in negative ads—filled with lies and distortions—to try and stop him from keeping this seat blue. What's more, Peters' opponent, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, is the wealthiest candidate running for Senate anywhere in the nation and has self-funded her campaign to the tune of $3 million. She's tried to hide the extent of her fortune, but she has plenty more where that came from.
And the sad thing is, these well-financed lies have worked. During the winter, when Obamacare's disastrous rollout dominated the news, the Kochs pounced, driving down Peters' poll numbers. Fortunately, he's since rebounded thanks to his own aggressive ad campaign, but it's cost a lot of money—fighting back against bullshit isn't cheap.
That's why we need to help. Peters nearly lost thanks to the ACA once before. Given how successful the law's been, progressives absolutely cannot allow that to happen again. And with the Senate on the line, we need to take this seat entirely off the table for Republicans.
Peters is also with progressives on our top priorities, including comprehensive immigration reform, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and ending the filibuster once and for all—just check out his answers to our questionnaire. And he's here today at Netroots Nation in Detroit, where he spoke from the heart about the city's resurgence before introducing none other than Elizabeth Warren.
In short, Peters is someone we very, very much want to see in the Senate next year, to join folks like Chris Murphy, Tom Udall, and Jeff Merkley to steer the chamber in a more progressive direction. But it won't happen if we don't put our backs into it.