I was completely caught up in the moment on Tuesday, March 23, when President Obama signed the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” and later when he thanked a larger crowd who had worked to make it happen. I was struck by the real joy reflected on many tired faces, the child-like exuberance in the room – feelings that only occur after a long struggle and when success is at hand.
Though I felt a part of the celebrations as a citizen of the United States, I was deeply saddened that Western North Carolina did not have their official representative present. Now I know some are happy about that, but I am not. I felt wiped out as Heath Shuler continued to cast “No” votes against health reform.
In my opinion, Heath Shuler cruelly voted against the children of Western North Carolina when he voted against: HR 2749 (Food Safety Regulation Amendments); HR 1256 (FDA Oversight of Tobacco Products); HR 1 (“The Stimulus Bill”); HR 1931 (Hate Crimes Expansion); HR 3162 (SCHIP-State Children’s Health Insurance Program); HR 7081 ( United States-India Nuclear Agreement); HR 4872 (Health Care Reconciliation Act); HR3590 (Health Care Insurance Law Amendments). There were other “No” votes that touched the lives of children, but these are the most egregious in my mind.
It seems strange that Representative Shuler touted his budget requests for WNC this week in the March 24 Asheville Citizen. I would think that some of those projects are part of the stimulus dollars that he voted against. And, he voted against the 2009-2010 Appropriations Bill (HR 3288). So his request for $65 million dollars for the next budget cycle does not compute in my mind.
A vote is a very precious thing. As I have aged I have been unwilling to cast my vote for anyone who does not uphold the basic ideals of this country and who does not work for regular folks. When Heath Shuler first ran, my friends kept telling me that he was the lesser of two evils and that is why I should vote for him. I think that is what gets us into trouble. We do not hold out for the best – not a perfect human being, but someone really good who believes in Democratic ideals in their very fiber. I did not vote for Heath Shuler then and I certainly will not ever vote for him after these latest votes.
This is how I vote. I ask that an absentee ballot be sent to my home so that I can take my time completing it, research judges, etc. I do not check the box that says “straight democratic” or “straight republican.” I fill out each section individually and when I get to the section of US House of Representatives, I leave that blank. (This will not invalidate your ballot).
I urge all of you in District 11 who are disenchanted with Heath Shuler to find your own voting strategy, but do VOTE. It is critical to replace Senator Burr this year, and it is critical to support other candidates. There are several good people running in the primaries against Senator Burr, please vote for one and then in November, vote for the one who won the primary election. Don’t stay home just because you don’t want to vote for Heath Shuler. There are ways around that.
And for those who say it is important to vote for a Democrat so that a Republican does not win, I say “Nonsense.” Not when that Democrat does not support us, our President, and the basic foundation of Democratic ideals. Take a stand! As some one said recently “We need courage.”
Heath Shuler may win again, but that does not mean we have to support him through campaigns, money, or votes. We need to really hold his feet to the fire should he continue to be the representative for District 11.