Reminder: Here's Everything Blanche Lincoln Lied About
This post originally appeared on Open Left.
The media narrative around the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary is that labor and the netroots opposed Lincoln because she wasn't progressive enough. However, that is not exactly correct. Labor and netroots groups are largely piling on against Lincoln because she broke public promises on key issues that had previously earned her the support of various progressive groups. To put it more bluntly, she won the support of many groups by lying, and now it is payback time.
Unfortunately, Lincoln's betrayal of progressive groups is largely absent from the media narrative on the campaign. For example, take this write-up on today's primaries from The Hill:
But the spotlight will shine brightest on Lincoln, who earned union scorn for opposing a public option in the healthcare bill and refusing to back card- check legislation championed by the labor movement.
The campaign dynamic present here is a simple left-right spectrum: Lincoln is being opposed because she is not sufficiently left-wing. This is actually a narrative that Lincoln is pushing in her own ads. In a recent TV spot, Lincoln says to the camera:
The labor unions are spending millions of dollars against me because I won't vote with them 100% of the time.
However, Lincoln did not simply oppose card check and a public option. She made public commitments of support for both policies, before flipping when it was crunch time.
On November 21st, 2009, Blanche Lincoln stood on the floor of the Senate and declared that she would filibuster any health reform bill that included a public option. However, earlier in the year she signed a document stating that she supported the public option. Further, even as she spoke, her Senate website said that she still supported a public option, she is still cool with the public option:
Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies. Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals of a public plan.
She told progressive groups that she supported their priorities, but then she completely flipped her position when it came time to actually vote.
The same dynamic took place on card check. She voted for an Employee Free Choice Act with card check in 2007, but cimply flipped her position in 2009 once it had a chance to pass:
In the Ozark Mountain town of Rogers, Ark., more than 250 business owners gathered for lunch at a construction company last month to focus on what they saw as a major threat -- a proposal in Congress to make it easier to form labor unions.
At each place setting, attendees found pre-stamped postcards and pre-written letters to be sent to Arkansas' U.S. senators, Democrats Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, who had supported the labor bill in the past. After lunch, the business owners were ushered to computers to send e-mail messages as well.
Five days later came the good news: Two Senate votes had been stripped from the pro-union bill. Lincoln said she would oppose it outright, while Pryor declared the current version "dead" and said he would look for compromises.
It isn't just the public option and card check, either. EMILY's List had also previously supported Blanche Lincoln, but did not do so in 2010 because Lincoln lied to them. From Ellen Malcolm, EMILY's List chair
In 1998, EMILY's List helped elect Lincoln to the U.S. Senate. We believed her when she told us that that, if and when the Senate took up right-wing Senator Rick Santorum's bill to ban what he called "partial birth" abortion, she would insist on a health exception that protects women.
Our members gave generously to her campaign, believing that she would steadfastly stand by the pledge she made to us to protect women's reproductive freedom.
She took our members' hard-earned money to get elected. Unfortunately, when the Santorum bill came up for a vote, Lincoln voted for it even though it provided no exception to protect women's health.(...)
Since she wasn't there for us, we won't be there for her.
Sure, there is an ideological element to this campaign. Sure, there is an anti-incumbent mood. Sure, it is unusual to get a primary challenger as strong as Bill Halter. However, to ignore Blanche Lincoln's repeated betrayals on key issues to progressive groups who had once supported her ignores a central dynamic of this campaign.
Blanche Lincoln brought this primary challenge on herself by going back on several important public commitments she had made in order to win organizational support for her previous campaigns. She simply would not be in this sort of primary trouble if she hadn't lied and if groups like EMILY's List and labor unions were still supported her.