You gotta hand it to Rep. Mike McMahon — for a freshman, he’s one of the smartest, savviest pols around.
Take his “No” vote on the health care reform package last month. A “yes” vote would have been easy — earning McMahon the glowing support of local unions, progressives and even the Working Families Party, that paper altar to which most Democrats now routinely genuflect.
And it also would’ve earned him a big albatross.
The kind you wear around the neck.
In his first term in Congress, McMahon has been a reliable vote for the Democrats. Sure, as my own colleagues pointed out a few weeks ago, a line-by-line view of McMahon’s voting record shows that he leans towards the Republican side of the aisle (and sometimes falls over it) when it comes to the military, denying legal rights to terrorists or refusing to cap executive pay.
But when Nancy Pelosi needs something, McMahon usually doesn’t need his arm twisted.
But on health care, McMahon was simply not on board. For months, he’s been telling The Brooklyn Paper that the House bill didn’t cut costs enough and would endanger local hospitals, so his vote was no surprise.
Afterwards, the reaction was predictable: The Working Families Party and some of the big unions announced that they not only can’t support McMahon anymore, but will actively seek out a liberal Democrat to challenge him.
Working Families Party spokesman Dan Levitan was positively apoplectic, saying that 6,500 of his party voters who pulled the lever for McMahon in 2008 won’t do so again.
“I’m sure those voters are now thinking, ‘We used to have a Republican, we thought were getting a change and we still have a Republican,’ ” he said.
I’d finish typing this column, but I’m laughing too hard. So instead of beating a Republican 60-33 percent, as he thrashed Bob Straniere in 2008, McMahon will only win by 40,000 votes!
Besides, right now, the leading liberal to challenge McMahon in a Democratic primary is Steve Harrison, the Bay Ridge lawyer who lost to former Rep. Vito Fossella and then lost to McMahon. Harrison has $11,000 in his war chest, according to federal records. McMahon has $1 million.
Worse, McMahon’s Bay Ridge-Staten Island district is not one that a liberal can win. There’s a reason why Barack Obama lost the 13th District in 2008, why John Kerry lost it 2004 — and why Democrats couldn’t take it back for three decades: It is not a liberal district.
Better still for McMahon, his health care “no” has emasculated both of his Republican challengers — Mike Grimm and Mike Allegretti — both of whom argued that McMahon didn’t do enough to stop the bill.
In the district, McMahon’s “no” vote speaks louder than their carping.
Whatever you feel about McMahon’s health care vote — and I personally think it stunk — his “no” proves that when you strip away all the ideology, all the demagoguery and all the posturing from both parties, there’s Mike McMahon, standing in the clearing.
The Republicans can’t make a wedge out of this issue. And the liberals shouldn’t even bother.
Rep. Mike McMahon will meet with two Democratic clubs over the next two weeks. Democrats for Change at Union Church Parish Hall [8101 Ridge Blvd. between 81st and 82nd streets in Bay Ridge, (718) 213-2667] on April 1; United Americans Democratic Club at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church [7420 Fourth Ave. between 74th and 75th streets in Bay Ridge, (718) 836-9702] on April 8. Both meetings begin at 7:30 pm.
©2010 Community News Group
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