Sen. Max Baucus has raised the ire of millions of progressives around the country by consistently standing in the way of single-payer health care during discussions of health care reform in the 111th Congress. He has steadily worked to implement the around-the-edge tweaks that Big Insurance and Big Pharma want – not the deep top-to-bottom revolution that our health care system requires. He excluded every single-payer advocate from the initial discussions with representatives from every industry interest group and fellow Senators. He sent a staffer to town-hall meetings in Montana to solicit his constituents’ opinions – which went overwhelmingly against the current system and in which strong majorities expressed interest for a public health care system to at least compete with private insurance. Not only were his constituents against the system the staffer was sent to talk about, they were justifiably upset that their own Senator didn’t show up for his own town-hall meetings.
These actions are signs that Sen. Max Baucus has been bought off by the health care industry. He isn’t listening to his constituents – many of whom worked to get him reelected last year – which is even harder to do when he won’t show up to talk with them directly now that his job is safe for the next six years. And there’s the crux of the problem. Montanans and other interested citizens need to get in touch with Baucus’ office and make it quite clear that removing options from the table at the beginning of a discussion is bad politics. I’m sure many Montanans realize, just like I do, that single-payer wouldn’t get passed by Congress this year even if it weren’t preemptively excluded. That’s beside the point. The point is Americans are making their demands for real health care reform known and Baucus and other ConservaDems are pointedly ignoring them. They do so at their own peril.
As I mentioned, Sen. Baucus was reelected last year, so threatening his job is nearly pointless this early in his current term – 2014 is a long way off. Rest assured, however, that by 2014, we’ll have a very good idea of how well his legislation is working to revolutionize health care in the U.S. People, including myself, will not easily forget his involvement with whatever happens. So what’s left? Well, electing more populist Democrats in Montana would help put pressure on federal level policymaking. I recognize that that process is slow. Interested progressives can also keep an eye on the remainder of the Senators on the committee of interest, the Senate Finance Committee. Their reelection dates will be important, especially if they are in 2010.
Speaking only for myself – I will not only not support Democrats like Max Baucus who prefer to represent industries at the expense of people, I will begin supporting their opponents in the future.* I don’t care if they’re other Democrats or if they’re Republicans. Democrats that don’t do the job they were sent to Congress to do, especially when that job is so clearly defined, do not need their jobs.
* I realize the reelect numbers of incumbent Senators – it’s very difficult to get them out of office once they’re in. Supporting their opponents will only be part of the effort I make in the future to remove them.