Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A tough political position to be in.....

I have recently heard many comments about the way freshman Congresswoman Melissa Bean (Democrat, Illinois 8th District) voted on CAFTA. She was one of the few Dems in the House to vote for it, and the only Dem from Illinois to vote for it, as it passed by the narrowest of margins 216-214.

It is unfair to suggest she alone caused it to pass (as I have heard some say), as about 30 other Dems voted for it. But this provides an interesting example of how a representative can be torn on how to vote. Rep. Bean is a career small businesswoman, and went on to defeat the powerful, long-time incumbent Phil Crane in a “David vs Goliath” campaign in 2004. She is more of a fiscal conservative with some more liberal social views who ran in a strong Republican district. Now, almost half of her campaign funds came from unions, who of course were overwhelmingly against CAFTA. However, the two largest employers (I believe) in the 8th District are Motorola and Abbot Labs, who were strongly for CAFTA. A majority of her constituents were for the trade agreement, and it is almost a certainty that she is on top of Karl Rove’s hit-list for the 2006 midterm elections.

This is as close to a win-lose position as a representative will get. Vote against it, and she shows party loyalty and rewards some of her top contributors, but then face the wrath of the national GOP as well as many of her constituents in 2006. Vote for it, and break the confidence from loyal supporters as well as the DNC, but do what most of your constituents want as well as win likely corporate support and contributions (and perhaps Rove and company take it a bit easier on her in 2006). As a supporter of Bean when I lived in the 8th District, I was admittedly disappointed with her vote, but I can understand how much pressure both sides must have put on her and why she voted that way. It will be interesting to see how this affects the 2006 campaign, and it is an interesting example of what many public servants go through in tight, controversial votes.

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