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Stupak: A Case Study In Political Miscalculation

Politico’s arena is usually a cesspool of Republican ideologues spewing their uninformed talking points into the empty, uninteresting recesses of DC’s pettiest news organization. But occasionally, one of the right-wingers will get it right, as Steve Lombardo, billed as a “Republican political consultant,” did today.

The topic was the news that Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) would be retiring from Congress at the end of his current term. You may remember Stupak from when he threatened to derail health care reform if it included the federal funding of abortions (which it did not).

The Tea Party Movement has been quick to take credit for this announcement, but Lombardo gives a more intelligent and honest analysis:

Rep. Bart Stupak was a casualty of bad politics rather than the health care issue. Ultimately, several Democrats will be defeated because of their health care vote but this was about a politician alienating virtually every segment of his constituency. He must have seen this coming. Certainly they did some polling and saw that he was left without a leg to stand on.

It is certainly true that Stupak alienated every segment of his constituency. People who supported health care reform were angry with him for blocking it for so long. People who opposed health care reform were angry with him for finally letting it pass. People who support a woman’s right to choose were angry with him for turning health care reform into an abortion rights fight. People who oppose a woman’s right to choose were angry with him for not taking a harder line on the issue. Democrats were angry with him for being too conservative. Republicans were angry with him for not being conservative enough.

Stupak completely alienated his base, and this is a problem many “moderate” Democrats have faced in the past. Just look at Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds: he spent his entire campaign trying to separate himself from liberals, and then none of the liberals showed up to vote for him. Now, Virginia is stuck with an executive branch that cares more about discriminating against gay people and acting like slavery didn’t happen than bringing jobs back to Virginia and dealing with ridiculously congested highways.

Moving into the 2010 election cycle, Democrats need to decide who they are and what they stand for. Really, there are two options: one is that you can stand by your base, get high turnout among Democrats, and try to win over some independent voters by sticking to the Democrat principles of keeping Wall Street, big banks, and corporate interests accountable. The second is that you can completely abandon the policies that make a Democrat a Democrat, cater to the “center,” and not get any votes at all.

Take lessons from the likes of Stupak and Deeds. Represent the people who elected you, or they won’t elect you again.

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