John Barrow is a Congressman from Georgia’s 12th District. He has been in Congress since 2004 when he won election in 2004 when he ran for Congress in the 10th District that includes my old stomping grounds of Athens, GA. After that election, the Republicans in Georgia took a tip from Tom DeLay in Texas and engaged in some rogue mid-decade reconfiguration of Congressional Districts. The new 10th District was designed for Barrow to lose the seat in 2006 and so he moved to Savannah and ran in the newly drawn 12th District. He had a close race in 2006 and held onto the seat by a narrow 864 votes. In 2008—riding Barack Obama’s coattails—he easily won re-election with 66% of the vote.
Tonight, John Barrow faces a choice. He is an old friend and I worry that a cowardice born of ambition is about to lead him to vote NO on HCR.
He needs to hear from some folks about this vote—and soon.
I’ve known John Barrow for years, decades really. Back in the day (as the kids say), John and I both lived in Athens, Georgia. I published an alternative newspaper there and John was a lawyer and a member of the Athens City Council. In 1989-1990 I worked to support unifying the local Governments of Clarke County, Georgia and the City of Athens into one new Unified government: Athens-Clarke County. It was a hard fought campaign, but we won the Unification Vote and then a progressive slate of candidates won control of the new local government. John was one of those progressives and he represented the Fourth District of the A/C Government for many years. Over many elections and legislative battles, I supported him and wrote many an editorial upon his behalf.
I left Georgia in the late-nineties, but I would stop in and visit John when I came back to Athens from time to time. When I heard that he was running for Congress in 2004, I gave him my support and did what I could do to help him win. When he had his close race in 2006, I did what I could to support him as well. I was happy to see him win.
I’ve been playing phone tag with John for the last few months on HCR. I’ve heard him on my voice mail and I’ve spoken with members of his team. I have to say that as of tonight, I am not encouraged by what they’ve been saying. More troubling are the reports I’m hearing from other contacts in Georgia that John Barrow is leaning to a “NO” vote on HCR. To some longtime friends he has been ‘apologizing’ as he talks about his upcoming vote. These are not good signs.
While some whip counts have Barrow listed as undecided, others list him as a firm “NO”. My effort to find out where he stands is—so far—disappointing. It looks like Barrow may be a NO vote and the worst part of all of it is that his reason is just cowardice born of ambition. It would pathetic if the stakes were not so high.
John has been a back-bencher in Congress. It is hard to see anyplace where he has made his mark in his almost six years in the place. In some ways this makes sense given the difficult District that he is in, but it is not that difficult for a Democrat—the GA-12 went for President Obama by 54.09% of the vote in 2008 and that margin carried Barrow back to Congress. If Barrow’s goal was just re-election he could vote YES on HCR and most likely do just fine come November, but I’m hearing that he has his eyes on a bigger prize. It seems that his ambition for higher office is the force that is driving him towards a NO vote.
The talk in Georgia is that John wants to run for the Senate in 2014 and that he thinks a NO vote on HCR will be smart positioning for that race. He seems to be making the bet that a NO vote on HCR will be forgotten by then. Hell, he seems to be making a bet that Democrats will forget his betrayal by the fall and support him with DCCC money, fundraisers, grass roots support and ground troops for his re-election. He seems to feel that even if he votes to kills HCR that Democrats will still rally to support him in November and that they will support him again in 2012 and then get behind him when he runs for the Senate in 2014.
John Barrow needs a little dose of reality.
He needs to hear that voting NO on HCR will only place him on a fast track to the END of his ambitions. He needs to hear that a NO vote is a betrayal that will not be forgotten. He needs to hear that a NO vote will lose him support in every election from here on out. He needs to know that Democrats will not support him for anything if he votes NO. HIs fear of a NO vote needs to become greater than his fear of a YES vote when it comes to his ambitions. I wish my old friend was a fellow who put doing the right thing first, but he is not. Fine. If ambition is his motivation, he needs to know that a NO will be his end of his political career.
I keep hoping that I will hear that John Barrow will be a vote FOR HCR, but I feel a need to let an old friend know that there will be a price for his calculated cowardice if he votes NO on HCR. This vote will be John Barrow’s test. He has a choice between a Profiles in Courage moment or a base capitulation to the fearmongers of the Right. I want him to do the right thing.
This is a message that I have left for John and one that I will tell him if he returns my calls. It is a message that I hope you will share with him as well.
I know John. He is a decent fellow, but he is driven by his ambitions. That’s fine as far as that sort of motivation goes, lots of politicians are driven by ambition. Many have done excellent things because of that motivation. But many, many more have let their ambition trump their integrity. And from time to time a vote comes along that shines a light on every backbencher trying to just skate by to the next election and forces them to decide between courage and cowardice.
That light is now firmly focused on John Barrow. On Sunday he will cast a vote that will either be a Profile in Courage or a Capitulation to Chicken-shit Fear.
If you are in the 12th District of Georgia, give Barrow a call:
Washington, DC / p: (202) 225-2823 / f: (202) 225-3377
Augusta, GA / p: (706)722-4494 / f: (706) 722-4496
Milledgeville, GA / p:(478) 452-4611 / f: (478) 451-0717
Sandersville, GA / p: (478) 553-1923 / f: (478) 553-9215
Savannah, GA / p: (912) 354-7282 / f: (912) 354-7782
Vidalia, GA / p: (912) 537-9301 / f: (912) 537-9266
If you are in Georgia outside of the 12th District, give John a call as well and let him know that his dreams of running for the Senate in 2014 are dead if he votes NO on HCR.
And if you are in the rest of the Nation, call and ask him to put the needs of our Nation above his ambition.
You might also call the DCCC at (202)863-1500 to let them know that you will not be able to send them any money unless they can guarantee that none of your money will go to any weasel who votes NO on HCR.
If Barrow votes NO, I would rather see the 12th District in Republican hands than see John re-elected. Such a cowardly act can not be rewarded.
Fortunately, if Barrow votes NO there is an alternative. He has an opponent in the Democratic Primary, Regina Thomas. She ran against him in 2008 and took 24% of the vote. I suspect that if John Barrow decides to votes with the Republicans to kill HCR she will do much, much better this year.
I will keep trying to get up with my old Athens-Clarke County Commissioner and see if he can explain to me where he stands on HCR. In my conversations with his aides, they just repeated Frank Luntz talking points and then wedged on about the importance of supporting John in November to “hang on to” a Democratic Majority in the House so we could make progress on passing a Democratic agenda in the future. Well, Health Care Reform has been a core item on the Democratic agenda since way before John or me were born. We have a chance to fulfill that goal within the next few days. John has a chance to be part of that if only he can find where he left his backbone.
Perhaps some calls will help him locate it.
I hope my old friend will do the right thing and vote YES. We shall see in a few days what he does. And then we will know what needs to happen next.
John Barrow of Georgia has made a decision, he told me, but refused to say what it is
We’ll know soon.
In the meantime, keep making those calls. Do not let up.