Thursday, April 21, 2005

MoveOn is Wrong to Attack Hoyer

A number of readers here and at Centerfield have argued that is justified in its attack on Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) because the bankruptcy bill is a bad bill (MoveOn’s ad can be heard here). But should one vote on one bill open up a congressman to public attacks from his own party?

The issue isn't whether Hoyer made the "right" decision on one bill. The issue is that American politics is being consumed by groups such as MoveOn who want government to be run on partisanship, where decisions are made on high by party hardliners and then dutifully executed by elected officials.

Steny Hoyer has been a solid Democrat on many, many issues and a strong moderate voice in a too-often polarized House. As Raw Story reports even MoveOn admits Hoyer is a good Democrat. MoveOn Washington director Tom Matzzie responded to complaints that their actions were unfair by saying:

Mr. Hoyer has a good record on a lot of issues and we like him… but it’s never acceptable for a leader in the party… to disagree with the rest of the party on an issue connected to core values like justice for middle class values, especially when it’s such an obvious Republican bill.

But Hoyer wasn’t some renegade on this issue. As reported in the Baltimore Sun, Hoyer was just one of 73 Democrats who voted for the bill. But instead of fostering a clearly much-needed debate within the party, MoveOn is using harsh, disciplinary tactics to weaken a party leader.

MoveOn doesn’t want debate. MoveOn wants conformity to its vision. And it’s that attitude that is so worrisome for moderates. If congressmen and women fear reprisal for voting “wrongly” on so much as one bill, there will be no room for centrists.

The question is not whether you agree with Hoyer’s vote but whether you want political parties that use their money and power to silence all dissent and all moderates in their own party.

For more on this issue, check out The Moderate Voice’s excellent coverage on the threat to centrism.

Update: for even more on this issue, we've posted thoughts here


At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

after listening to the ad my feeling is it is based on fact. I could find nothing to argue with.

I don't understand your objection. unless your objection is that the ad is being run at all. but why wouldn't moveon constituents want to show their displeasure with hoyer? hoyer probably thought the vote would be swept under the rug after the bill passed. but it is a horrible bill and hoyer aceepted $300,000 to help pass it.

Why shouldn't hoyer's constituents know why he helped pass a bill that will be so destructive to them.

hoyer voted for the bill. now he must accept responsibility for it. let the light be shown on his actions

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

As I see it, there are three problems with MoveOn's actions. First, several constituents of Hoyer's have told me that he has supported the bill in all its incarnations. His vote for the bill was no surprise. Why not run an ad before the vote and mobilize his constituents to pressure him to change his mind? MoveOn's decision to attack him after the vote is the politics of retribution rather than the politics of action.

Secondly, 73 Democrats voted for the bill. This is a much bigger problem for the Democrats than one bad representative. But, again, instead of using their money for positive action, MoveOn is simply being vindictive.

Finally, Hoyer is a very solid Democrat. He's not even a member of the DLC (which MoveOn often criticizes). Yes, the bankruptcy bill was a bad bill and all congressmen who voted for it should be criticized. But my worry is that MoveOn is trying to change policy through intimidation rather than working with Democrats they disagree with.

The bankruptcy bill was a bad bill. But as MoveOn increases its power, how often will they try to enforce their more radical opinions? It sets a bad precedent to publicly attack a congressman over just one vote. If the parties find that it's easier to enforce discipline than it is to build consensus, moderates will be the losers because they are most likely to go against the party line.


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