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An Open Letter to my Congressman

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


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 18th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Great letter, David.
Aug. 19th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
Thanks, Deanna.
Aug. 18th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
Sadly, he is not alone. I think there are too many politicians in this country - not all of them, by any means, but too many - who care more about popularity than progress or true reform. And if they don't have the courage or the intellect or the information to stand up and tell the truth, then nothing is ever going to change for the better.
Aug. 19th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
Well put, Jen. If our leaders won't tell the truth and do what's right, how can we expect anyone else to?
Aug. 19th, 2009 12:08 am (UTC)
Get down with your bad self!

Yes, cowardly is a polite word for these type of people. Fine if he disagrees with the bill. Come out and say what in it he disagree with. But this?

Democrat or Republican, that sort of cowardice and self-preservation is astounding. Not exactly a 'Profile in Courage'.

Still, he represents an area of the country that overwhelmingly believes the lies and, realistically, don't we get the representation we deserve? It would take more character than most Congressmen to stand up to that mob. He would almost need a backbone. That's removed when they beome politicians...
Aug. 19th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
Yes, I would almost prefer to have a Republican representing me. Then at least I'd know where he/she stood on the issues. I can at least respect a politician of either party who takes a position, even if it's a position I oppose. But this guy is gutless.
Aug. 19th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
Interesting. Davis voted no to investigate Jack Abramoff.


His record:


Looking at other voting record sites, he seems like he is slightly ahead of the rest of the Blue Dogs. I guess he just didn't feel brave enough in person to stand up and be a man. Sad.
Aug. 19th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
An incredible letter. Thank you for writing it.

I really get so frustrated with this whole issue. You're spot on about countering the rhetoric and lies with weak arguments, sound bytes, and disinformation rather than truth. Why is it so hard to say "That information is not true. There is nothing in the bill about illegal aliens, abortions, or death panels."

Aug. 19th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
It shouldn't be that hard, but he is afraid of challenging the belief system of these people. And their belief system, sadly, is shaped by idiots like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Bill O'Reilly.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 19th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
Re: *applauds*
Thanks, Cat. It would be nice to hear such a thing, wouldn't it?
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
I'll be sending it to his office. A staffer will read it and send me a canned response. But I'll feel better....
Aug. 19th, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
“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.”

And he believes that... (shakes head mournfully) That is beyond comprehension.
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was shocked. The rest was disturbing but not THAT surprising. I've known the guy was a pandering fool for a long time. But this was truly stunning.
Aug. 19th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
Since when are Republicans interested in truth? If the last eight years of hell taught us anything, it taught us that.
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
If he was a Republican, I wouldn't have been so disturbed. I expect that from the likes of Boehner and McConnell. But this guy claims to be a Democrat.
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
Republicans who pretend to be Democrats
Hah. Yeah, there's a lot of that going around for sure.
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
I think Obama and the Democrats could read this letter and learn as well as the Republicans. So far the Democrats have done nothing to try to debate the bill. They have sat back and attacked the people who question them personally with insults such as caling them "Nazis", "Mobsters", and "Un-American".

Why do that? It does not advance the debate of teh bill and only causes hurt feelings.

Despite Obama promising to bring in a new Era of Bipartisianship and Goodwill, he has done nothing so far but said "It is my way or the highway."

The Republicans could also try debating this issue on the philosophical grounds on the role of government in the People's lives rather than showing the bill's flaws by showing extremes.

I guess it is politics as usual in Washington. Should we be surprised?
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
Honestly, Mark, sometimes I wonder if you and I live on different planets. The Democrats have tried to debate this bill and discuss it at town halls and have been shouted down by people repeating the lies about death panels and illegal immigrants being spouted by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. These folks on the right have threatened Congressmen and Senators with physical violence if they support reform (yes, they have -- it happened yesterday at the meeting I attended) and have done all they could to stifle real debate of the issues. These are Gestapo tactics and they ARE un-American.

And Obama being partisan???!!! Are you kidding me? Think back to the stimulus package. He tried repeatedly to work with the GOP, he changed elements of the bill to meet GOP concerns, and then the Republicans in the House still refused to vote for it. As a Democrat I have been disturbed by his repeated efforts to be bipartisan in the face of the crap the GOP has been throwing at him. I hope that he cuts them out of the health care debate entirely at this point. With Charles Grassley repeating the death panel nonsense and Boehner and company repeating the Socialized Medicine nonsense, they don't deserve the consideration Obama has given them.

Edited at 2009-08-19 03:36 pm (UTC)
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
Obama's idea of being "bi-partisan" is "Here is my bill, vote for it. I won't give you time to read it, just vote for it." Sure he cut a few hundred million dollars out of a 700 billion dollar spending package. That is like a drop in the bucket.

I have yet to see a Democratic Senator try to debate the Heathcare Bill on facts. When they get asked a passionate question, they get personal against the questioner. Look at Barney Frank just yesterday. Is that a model of Democratic bipartisian calmly debating the bill?

People are upset and they have a right to show emotion when they speak. Granted a few have gone too far (notably with Arlen Spector) but you cannot, as a US Congressman, reply in kind. The Congressmen/women could ease these people's concerns with sensible calming responses. Like it says in Proverbs, "A gentle response deters anger." You don't have to agree with the people who disagree, just don't snap back at them personally like Nancy Pelosi and the Secretary of Health did. We acually have them attacking their own voters and in one case answering their personal cell phone in the middle of a question. It is like they are doing everything in their power to stoke the flames and anger in the American People.

Obama has moed too fast in his massive spending bills for the average American and he is reaping his fruits as people show their anger. This is not the Change that people voted for.

Aug. 19th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
Actually, it's exactly the change I voted for. I have lots of progressive friends. They feel the same way. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we won. Obama promised health care reform with a public option. It was one of his signature issues. And he won resoundingly.

Your characterization of his approach to the stimulus bill is not at all what I saw happening. The GOP was invited to participate in the process and all they came up with was more tax cuts for the wealthy. The economy is starting to turn around. Every independent economist out there is saying that the worst has been averted, that the stimulus package saved us from a depression and is now fueling the improvements we're seeing.

And I watched excerpts from Barney Frank's meeting this morning. I thought he was brilliant.
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
"And he won resoundingly."

53 % to 47 % is not exactly a resounding mandate. He also ran on a platform of Change, Reform, Physical Responsibility, and Transparancy. He has not delivered on any of these.

"Every independent economist out there is saying that the worst has been averted, that the stimulus package saved us from a depression and is now fueling the improvements we're seeing."

The reports I have seen in non-partisan sources say that the stimulus has done little. I guess it depends on the sources.

"And I watched excerpts from Barney Frank's meeting this morning. I thought he was brilliant."

I guess will have to disagree on his response. I found him degrading and confrontational.

Aug. 19th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
Bush claimed a mandate after beating John Kerry 286-252 in the electoral college and 50.7-48.3 in the popular vote (a margin of 3 million votes). Obama won 365-173, 52.9-45.7, a margin of 9.5 million votes. Historians call a win by 10 percentage points or more a landslide in Presidential elections. Obama didn't win by a landslide, but I'll stick by "resoundingly." He certainly has a mandate.

And I think he's delivered on change, reform and transparency. Fiscal responsibility will have to wait until the recession is over. Cutting government spending during a recession is a recipe for utter disaster.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)
Dave, I couldn't agree more. There are elements of the stimulus package of which people aren't aware, but which are having beneficial effects on the economy. And then there are things like the cars for clunkers program and the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers that are highly visible and highly successful. The people who don't think the stimulus is working don't WANT to think it's working.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )


Australia, Ghost Gum
David B. Coe

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