Monday, February 13, 2006

Support Democrat Henry Cuellar

In today’s Wall Street Journal, John Fund profiles Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar who is facing a tough primary challenge from his left. Many liberals are upset that Cuellar, a first-term congressman has taken the Republican side on a few issues.

For the most part, Henry Cuellar has focused his first term on border issues. His district stretches from the south part of San Antonio all the way to the Rio Grande, so issues of cross-border crime and drug-trafficking are high on the minds of his constituents. But he was also one of only 15 House Democrats to vote in favor of CAFTA and has consistently backed Republican tax cuts and a robust national defense.

Is he a Democrat or just a Republican in Democratic clothing? That really depends on what “Democrat” means. If a Democrat cannot be pro-free trade and anti-taxes, then he’s not a Democrat. But if there is room in the party for dissent and differing opinions, then Cuellar’s support for such things as broadening government-funded healthcare and increasing corporate regulation and accountability makes him appear to be a pretty real Democrat. In fact, a review of where he stands on the issues leads me to peg him as just to the left of the center.

The sad fact is, if Cuellar were a Republican, there would be plenty of rightwing sites calling him a Democrat in Republican clothing and demanding he be purged from the party. In today’s partisan atmosphere, anything less that total party allegiance is regularly viewed as traitorous.

And Cuellar has definitely been branded as a traitor. Searching blog directories, I can find hundreds of posts slamming Cuellar and demanding his ouster from the party while I cannot find a single post supporting this accomplished, independent congressman. Is there no one who thinks Cuellar should be allowed to break with his party from time-to-time? Is there no one who thinks representatives should cast votes that they think are right and not simply mimic the desires of the party base? Is 85% allegiance not enough? It has to be 100% or else?

This kind of thinking is wrong and I strongly reject it. Henry Cuellar deserves support and he has mine. I may not agree with him 100% of the time, but he is what the Democratic party in Texas once was. Tough when strength is needed. Caring when compassion is called for. And, most of all, always independent of spirit and mind. I grew up a real Texas Democrat. Henry Cuellar is a real Texas Democrat.


Blogger David Schraub said...

Couldn't Democrats rationally conclude that Ciro Rodriguez is a better representative for their interests than Cuellar? Keep in mind, Ciro isn't some random activist pissed that Cuellar has drifted right occassionally. He's the ex-Representative from that district that Cuellar befriended, then betrayed, in 2004. Ciro was highly popular within the House, the leader of the Hispanic Caucus, and overall considered a stellar guy and great representative. In terms of power and influence, he almost definitely outstrips Cuellar in nearly every category. That's why the local newspaper endorsed Rodriguez for the seat.

In normal races of this sort, its a longtime moderate Democrat trying to hold his seat against a firebrand and overly enthusiastic novice (I'm think the Lieberman challenge here). That isn't this case. I don't think Democrats are unreasonable for wanting Ciro back, and the fact that he is an ex-rep trying to get his old seat back is an important fact that I think changes the dynamics of the race and how we should view it.

4:00 PM  

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