Time Reporter's Advice to Endangered Dems on Health Care Vote: Think of Your 'Legacy'

"As the House prepares for its final push on health care, there are Democratic members, particularly those from conservative districts, who are facing a hard truth: This is the kind of vote that can end a career," Time magazine's Karen Tumulty lamented in a March 3 Swampland blog post entitled "When A Hard Vote Ends A Political Career."

Eh, suck it up, the veteran journalist practically counseled House Democrats wary of voting for the Democratic health care legislation, after all, there is life after politics. Just look at Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinski, who lost her seat in the 1994 midterm election which swept Republicans into control of Congress.

Margolies-Mezvinski doomed herself with a vote to hike taxes, Tumulty noted, but brought readers up to speed on the former congresswoman's life after politics to lay out the case that Mezvinski thinks her vote was worth it in the long run.

Tumulty concluded with a hint that Democrats in endangered seats need to consider leaving a "legacy" by passing ObamaCare (emphasis mine):

This week, I caught up with Margolies, who has since founded Women's Campaign International, an organization that develops female leaders in emerging democracies and post-conflict regions, and who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. (She is also, by the way, is Chelsea Clinton's future mother-in-law). Margolies, too, is struck by the parallels she sees between the agonizing choice that she faced back then and what lies ahead for some House Democrats:

"I never thought they would come to me," she recalls. "It's tough. It's very tough. It's not an easy thing to get to Congress." By the next election, she says, one-third of the women who had come to the House in the Class of 1992 were gone--largely as the result of that one vote.

Margolies insists that she did the right thing. What was wrong was with politics itself, she says. The bill was at least 80% grounded in Republican-backed ideas, and had been endorsed by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. The fighting over that last 20% was "heartbreakingly partisan to me, and I'm very much a centrist," she recalls. "It just infuriated me."

She thinks it has only gotten worse since she left Congress. "What has happened is the minority has taken over," Margolies insisted. "Democrats don't frame as well as Republicans do. [And for Democrats,] this is the vote that is going to get a tremendous amount of play in their districts."


Margolies thought that she could make her constituents understand why she had made the choice she did. But she underestimated the power of the sound bite. "I was really good at the four-minute explanation when I went back back to the district," she says. "But it's the Frank Luntz 30 seconds that kills you." She notes ruefully that her name has become shorthand in Washington for committing political suicide. "I was a terrible politician. It was a drive-by," she says. "I never thought I'd become a verb."

Over the next few weeks, it will worth keeping an eye on Democrats from conservative districts with that in mind. This will be one of those rare votes that confronts them with a choice between political survival, or leaving a legacy when they are gone.

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