An Open Letter to my Congressman
August 18, 2009
To Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN4):
I attended your town hall forum today in Winchester, Tennessee, eager to hear what you had to say about health care reform, hopeful that you might offer some much needed clarity in a debate that has been muddied by lies, distortions, and misinformation. I cannot begin to describe for you the disappointment I felt when I left the forum a mere fifteen minutes after you began speaking.
You were asked about provisions that are supposedly in the pending health care bills that would grant government funded health care to illegal immigrants. You were asked about provisions that are supposedly in the bills that would allow for on-demand, federally-funded abortions. You were asked about provisions that are supposedly in the bills that would euthanize elderly patients who were deemed by government bureaucrats to be too ill to warrant treatment. In other words, you were presented with the full panoply of lies currently being propagated by opponents of health care reform and conservative critics of your party’s President.
It’s true that each of these questions was greeted with applause. Approximately half that people in that room believed the things they’d heard from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. But you had an opportunity to present these people with the truth. You’d made a point of telling us all that you had read the bills currently under consideration in the House of Representatives. You know what’s in them; that’s what you told us. You could have stood before us all and answered the lies and distortions head on. You could have said, “There is no provision in any of these bills that would give health care to people who are in the country illegally. There are no provisions that would provide free abortions to anyone. There are no death panels. There is no talk in Congress of euthanizing anyone.”
That would have been the courageous thing to do. That would have demonstrated true leadership.
Instead you pandered. You took the coward’s way out. “I will not vote for a bill that allows government money to pay for abortions,” you said. “I will not vote for a bill that gives government health care to illegal aliens. . . I won’t vote for any bill that would allow anyone to be euthanized.” And the people applauded.
Then you said, “There are 47 million people in this country who don’t have health insurance, and to tell you the truth, I think most of them want it that way.” People clapped for that, too. I couldn’t take any more. I left.
You took several minutes at the beginning of the forum to tell us that you’re neither a conservative nor a liberal, that you rank right in the middle on the National Journal’s ideological scale. You said it with pride. You’ve also made a point of declaring yourself undecided on the question of health care reform. Apparently, you equate vacillation with strength; you believe that by following the vicissitudes of public opinion you show yourself to be a leader. You’re a political weather vane who thinks he’s a meteorologist.
Sometimes, sir, a politician has to show some backbone. Yes, you were elected to represent us in Congress. But you were also sent to Washington to educate yourself on the issues and then to educate us in turn. And if we refuse to learn, then it is up to you to act on our behalf. If you read the history of our Constitution, if you read the FEDERALIST PAPERS, you will find that Madison and Hamilton saw a dual role for members of Congress. You were to be representatives AND delegates. You were to represent our views, but you were also to act on our behalf when issues were too complicated to be readily understood by the people at large. Sometimes you must do what is right, even if it is unpopular, even if it might cost you an election.
You had an opportunity today to show us what kind of leader you are. It turns out, you’re not a leader at all. You are Tennessee’s Cowardly Lion. You are an empty suit. You don’t care about doing right, about making decent laws that will actually help the people of your district or state or country. You care only about what will prove to be good politics. I am ashamed to call you a fellow Democrat and embarrassed to have you as my representative in the United States House of Representatives. You will not have my vote next year or ever again.
David B. Coe