In the high-stakes battle over health care, a growing cadre of liberal activists is aiming its sharpest firepower against Democratic senators who they accuse of being insufficiently committed to the cause.
The attacks — ranging from tart news releases to full-fledged advertising campaigns — have elicited rebuttals from lawmakers and sparked a debate inside the party over the best strategy for achieving President Obama’s top priority of a comprehensive health-system overhaul.
The rising tensions between Democratic legislators and constituencies that would typically be their natural allies underscore the high hurdles for Obama as he tries to hold together a diverse, fragile coalition. Activists say they are simply pressing for quick delivery of “true health reform,” but the intraparty rift runs the risk of alienating centrist Democrats who will be needed to pass a bill.
In recent days — and during this week’s congressional recess — left-leaning bloggers and grass-roots organizations such as MoveOn.org, Health Care for America Now and the Service Employees International Union have singled out Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) for the criticism more often reserved for opposition party members.
“Will Mary Landrieu sell out Louisiana for $1.6 million?” says one Internet ad that suggests a link between contributions she has received from the medical industry and her reluctance to back the creation of a government-sponsored insurance option.
Why the full frontal assault on Democrats? Simple. If Harry Reid can muster a simple majority, the leftist Democrats plan on blasting this health care “fix” (it is not) through, bypassing the normal rules of the Senate.
What they are not calculating, I suspect, is that should they do so, they will own – wholly – the ire of those people who are forced off their private health insurance because their employers decided it was cheaper to pay than play in a rigged game.
If I were one of the targeted Democrats, my back would be up right now. I sincerely hope this effort by the likes of MorOn.org accomplishes exactly the same result as their attacks on the surge in Iraq: the opposite of what they intended.
I’ll just point out that MorOn.org is very, very loud and knows how to grab left-leaning media attention. But in terms of actual strength, not so much. So the targeted Senators have no real reason to fear the sliming from such groups.