At Obama's press conference last Wednesday, the main headline concerned an ugly racial incident in Cambridge, Massachusetts involving the false arrest of noted Harvard historian, Henry Louis Gates. But within the larger politics of another issue – health care reform, the very one Obama wanted to feature – there was a far more significant racial conflict brewing. The primary barrier to progress in writing the final healthcare bill comes less from obstructionist Republicans than from their fellow travelers, the "Blue Dog" Democrats who are blocking important policy changes, especially ones that would produce a "public option" in the "reform." In today's NYT it becomes clear that the obstructionist "Blue Dogs" are notably white and "nondiverse."
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[Henry Waxman, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee:]
"We have to take up the legislation next week or acknowledge the fact that Democrats do not control the committee any longer," Mr. Waxman said. "I will not allow Blue Dogs to turn over control of the committee to Republicans, which they have threatened to do. I am troubled that some Democrats would rather align themselves with Republicans than work out their problems with fellow Democrats."
Representative Charlie Melancon, a Blue Dog Democrat from Louisiana, said passions were running high because "Mr. Waxman decided to sever discussion with Blue Dogs who are trying to get a bill that works for America." ….
The intraparty dispute had racial overtones. One African-American Democrat, Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia, pointed out that the seven Blue Dog Democrats holding up the health care bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee were "a nondiverse group" of white men.
"They should be more concerned about people who are dying than about their basic philosophy, which involves simply money," Mr. Johnson said. "Which is more important, money or live human beings with flesh and blood running through their veins, who cannot get health care?"
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Of course, the real source blocking genuine reform in healthcare is big money: the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and other "medical industry" companies that buy votes with campaign funds to the Blue Dogs and others. I regret to say that among the Blue/Cross/White Dogs is my own congressman, Scott Murphy from upstate New York. I worked to get him elected, a terrible mistake in retrospect.