Yesterday Regina Thomas made it official and is now campaigning for the Democratic nomination against reactionary Blue Dog John Barrow. For many in GA-12, his dual votes against Choice and against health care reform were the last straw. Jim Morekis at Connect Savannah summed up on the ground: he's in trouble; Republicans won't reward him for voting the Republican line and Democrats are looking to punish him. The district is hurting and Barrow is certainly not unaware of the research his own committee, Energy and Commerce, did on his district. The bill he voted against Saturday night would have been particularly beneficial to residents of hard-pressed GA-12. "In Congressman Barrow's district," the report reads, "the Affordable Health Care for America Act" will:
• Improve employer-based coverage for 346,000 residents.
• Provide credits to help pay for coverage for up to 187,000 households.
• Improve Medicare for 90,000 beneficiaries, including closing the prescription drug donut hole for
• Allow 15,700 small businesses to obtain affordable health care coverage and provide tax credits
to help reduce health insurance costs for up to 13,700 small businesses.
• Provide coverage for 90,000 uninsured residents.
• Protect up to 2,100 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
• Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers by $69 million.
21% of the residents of the district not on Medicare are uninsured-- 125,000 people. About 90,000 of them would have been covered by the bill Barrow so vehemently fought against, first in committee and then on the House floor. Morelis writes, though, that "Barrow is no fool... a consummate survivor and a crafty pool shark of a politician-- knowing all the angles, using each shot to set up the next one."
But Barrow, usually so adapt at navigating the often stormy political waters that surround being a white Democrat in the deep South, may have taken a vote too far this time.
Like many congressmen in conservative districts, Barrow paid close attention to the theatrics of the "Tea Party" movement over the summer. Despite the almost 100 percent certainty that most Tea Partiers-- or teabaggers, or whatever they call themselves -- will vote straight Republican in the next election, many so-called Blue Dog Democrats still march to their tune on the health care issue.
With his "no" vote, Barrow sent a signal that despite representing a district that gave Obama 55 percent of the vote, despite representing one of the most poverty-stricken districts in the U.S., despite probably needing every African American vote he can get in 2010 to keep his seat, he would still dance with the Tea Partiers rather than the 21 percent of his constituents desperately in need of real access to health care - however imperfectly and bureaucratically administered as it is likely to be.
The blowback has already begun. I'm copied on a local health care e-mail list, and while I won't share the names of who is on it, I will share with you a very typical sample comment:
"A no vote puts him at the mercy of his base. Or what's left of it."
Barrow cannot be naïve as to the ramifications of his vote. While he studiously, and I believe wisely, avoided open town hall meetings this summer -- thus avoiding YouTube moments with rabid Tea Partiers foaming at the mouth while screaming nonsensical slogans like "Keep your government hands off our Medicare"-- Barrow did hold a number of invitation-only meetings with local African American leaders.
They told him in no uncertain terms that they and his most loyal constituents expected a "yes" vote on health care reform after all the support they'd given him in beating back Republican challenges-- including standing with him against a fellow African American in the person of Thomas.
Now, I strongly suspect all bets are off. In fact, I'm pretty much sure of it.
Yesterday's Atlantic Journal Constitution pointed out that Barrow fears his district's (white) conservatives but not the Democratic (black) base. He caters to the conservatives and figures he can muddle by with the Democrats. Last year Obama's ill-conceived endorsement saved his neck. It's not likely that Obama will make the same mistake twice.
You can help Regina defeat Barrow at the Blue America Bad Dogs page. She responded to his perfidy yesterday:
John Barrow attended the Chatham Dems Committee Meeting on Monday night: lots of double talk and contradictions. He said that he is for health care reform but not the one that the House passed. He said that he is 'pro-choice' at the same time he voted for the Stupak amendment. He says that he wants to regulate the Insurance Industry (which, by the way, gave him over $80,000 this year alone), but he voted against the public option-- which within itself will regulate the industry to a degree. He says that he wants to make sure that a person can not be turned down on the basis of pre-existing conditions (which is in the bill)-- but he voted against it.
Well, John, the people of the 12th cannot afford to wait until you get a perfect bill-- so exactly what are you looking for and what are you waiting on? WE need health Care reform now! People in Georgia have long memories and voters in the 12th expect a Representative to do what he promised to do. When John Barrow voted against the President's health care bill last week, Barrow didn't just turn his back on the 21% of his constituients that are uninsured; he also reneged on his campaign promises. He took a slap at every woman in America when he voted to include the restrictions on abortion coverage. Healthcare reform is not about abortions-- it's about insuring the uninsured at reasonable costs. If more women had access to healthcare and contraception, there would be less need for abortions. My reputation as a legislator in Georgia for 14 years has been following through on my committments and promises. Healthcare costs are bankrupting our country and too many Georgia families. And too many of our people who can't afford coverage-- or are deemed "uninsurable" by the for-profit insurance industry-- are being sent to an early grave. We are going to take back Ga's 12th on July 20th 2010 and we will make it clear that this country-- just as I am-- is for and by the people, not for and by the wealthy and powerful corporate interests-- even if they do bankroll all of one party and too many from my own.
Regina is hardly the only Democrat in GA-12 to have noticed that Barrow is voting with the Republicans on virtually every important piece of legislation. This is a letter from the Bullock County Democrats that went out just in time for Barrow's appearance in Statesboro this evening (5-7pm at RJ's Seafood & Steaks, 434 South Main Street).
This letter is being written with the utmost concern and has been endorsed by the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party of Bulloch County. In recent months the debate over health care reform and the economy has more than saturated the news networks, newspapers, and our daily lives. It is for certain that our country is at a crucial historical moment. It is during these times that we must make meaningful, bold moves for the long-term well being of our beloved country.
Several months ago, one of my dear friends lost his battle with his ever failing health. In an effort to help him, several members of the community raised money to help pay for his medical expenses. Near the end of his life, his friends and family received the news that he was in dire need of a heart transplant. Well, suffice it to say, he was unable to get the transplant and eventually lost his battle. As I have reflected on my friend's life, it is clear that his death was due to a lack of consistent health insurance.
Mr. Barrow, I understand that there is a lot on your plate and as a public servant you are often pulled in many directions. Nonetheless, you must understand that you are more than just this region's representative. You are one of its leaders. Rosalyn Carter once said, "A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be." John, we want a health reform bill that has the public option. Any bill without a public option is a win for the lobbyists and the insurance companies.
Mr. Barrow, we have supported you throughout your time in the House. Even in the cases where we did not agree with your voting record, we stood firm and said John Barrow is our guy and we will back him. However, now our concern has grown into action. So, please be advised, that as chair of the Candidate Recruitment Committee for the Democratic Party of Bulloch County, an active search for a Democratic challenger in upcoming elections for the 12th district is a strong possibility. As always, you have an open invitation to meet with our membership to share your specific view points and clarify your motivations regarding this pivotal point in healthcare reform. We hope that you will actively support moving our country forward and support President Obama, as we do. (We have not forgotten how President Obama publicly supported
you during the last election.) Please do not take our trust in your service for granted.
Again, please give Regina a hand here. In fact, the first 6 people who donate at least $30 today will get a special Blue America thank-you: a rare special edition Best of Chris Issak two disc set-- a CD with 14 re-mastered classics and a DVD with 18 videos including audio commentary from Chris on each one. Memories are made of this... and this:
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