In 2010, as a freshman congressman, I stared down the same threats that many Republican representatives face today, and I had to balance what I thought was right versus what I knew was politically advantageous. I was a Democrat representing a red Virginia district. Back then, a vote backing the Affordable Care Act — which Republican strategists had already branded “Obamacare” — meant facing millions of dollars in right-wing attack ads and almost certain defeat at the polls that fall.
My critics were right: I did lose my seat. But I never regretted my vote. Not once.
Since then, hundreds of Americans have reached out to tell me how the ACA has helped them personally: parents who obtained life-saving treatment for their adult children because they were able to keep them on their insurance plans; workers who left dead-end jobs to pursue their dreams, secure in the knowledge that they could buy insurance on newly created exchanges.
The arguments that periodically surfaced — and not all from the right of the party — that Democrats should have abandoned the ACA were always genuinely terrible on multiple levels. Even on their own terms they made no sense — it is implausible that trying and failing to major comprehensive health care reform would have been better politically, and even if it would have been marginally better it is implausible in the extreme that control over any federal veto point would have changed had Dems given up. But even if the political argument was right, it’s still wrong — the whole point of getting elected is to do stuff.
Make sure to read Clare Malone’s profile of Perriello at 538 — he’s very impressive and I hope he succeeds.