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Olympia Snowe -- Consequences of one election, one vote

By       Message Jean Hay Bright     Permalink
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To: U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican - Maine
From: Jean Hay Bright, your 2006 Democratic challenger
Date: October 12, 2009

Dear Senator Snowe:

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If what the pundits say is true, it appears the future of health care in this country now rests on your shoulders. That's quite a load for one person.

It now appears that your one vote, your personal and political view of the world, will indeed make the difference in the lives of millions of Americans.

How many bankruptcies due to astronomical medical bills, how many deaths (now estimated at more than 40,000 per year) due to inadequate or non-existent health insurance, will occur -- or not occur -- because of your one vote? That is the outcome that you must weigh in balancing the various pressures being placed on you, and I understand those pressures are considerable.

On the one hand are the needs of your Maine constituency and the needs of the American people. On the other hand are the desires of your medical and pharmaceutical campaign contributors for a bill they will be happy to live with, and the overt Republican Party's intense desire to see President Obama fail at all costs, regardless of the consequences in the lives of ordinary Americans.

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From my perspective, the choice is clear. From yours, I'm not so sure. One of my key campaign issues when I ran against you three years ago was single-payer national health care. You made it quite clear during the campaign, and repeatedly since then, that any sort of public plan was not on your agenda.

If you do the right thing and vote for a health care bill that includes a viable public option, I will applaud you.

If you do not, then, I think you know, you will bear the brunt of the public's anger, not just here in Maine but all across the country, over the inability of Congress to bring America, at a minimum, up to the health care standards enjoyed by every other industrialized nation in the world.

That is quite a legacy, one that I'm not sure you want as the premier culminating achievement mentioned when your long public career comes to an end.

If it is of any comfort, I, more than most, understand that you do not bear the total responsibility here. That goes to the Maine voters who collectively, election after election, have voted for you despite their polled and stated preferences for positions on issues that you abhor.

You won the election we shared by more than 70 percent, not a record affirmation, but nearly so. On election night, media exit polls showed that two-thirds of actual Maine voters claimed "Ending the Iraq War" was a high priority for them. Yet two-thirds of that group, of those who told pollsters that ending the Iraq War was a high priority, told the exit pollsters that they had voted for you.

As you well know, ending that illegal war in Iraq was another one of my key campaign issues. I had railed against you during the campaign for your votes for the Iraq War Resolution, for the Patriot Act, your votes to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo Bay detainees, and several other major votes related to those issues.

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If only half of those self-proclaimed anti-war voters had cast their ballots based their issues, based on their own self-interest and a view of the world that they knew we shared, I would be in Washington now, and getting health care for all Americans would not be such a struggle.

As Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor last summer, "Elections have consequences."

We are now seeing the consequences of your reelection in Maine in 2006. I hope Maine voters remember Senator Graham's remark, and make that essential connection, the next time they cast their ballot, in any election for any office, in the years to come.

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Writer and political activist Jean Hay Bright is now semi-retired, running an organic farm in Dixmont Maine with her husband David Bright. Her two political books are "Proud to be a Card-Carrying, Flag-Waving, Patriotic American Liberal (1996), (more...)
 

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