Toasted Lincoln?

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

Bill Halter, Arkansas Lt. Governor

Bill Halter, Arkansas Lt. Governor

If Arkansas Community Theater (which I just made up) ever puts on The Wizard of Oz, I nominate Blanche Lincoln as the Wicked Witch of the West. If they time it right, I’ll bet she’ll accept the call – and totally miss how appropriate she is for the part. She should have plenty of time to rehearse next year.

Blanche Lincoln, the future former Senator from Arkansas, recipient of $2 million in insurance industry campaign contributions, is an honest politician: When she gets bought, she stays bought. How else to explain her threatened block of any vote on the senate’s health care reform bill if it provided for a public option insurance plan to compete with her industry benefactors? After all, 56% of her constituents wanted to see it in the bill.

So unpopular has she become in her home state that Democratic party officials have been asking her to step aside and let someone more electable run for the seat. So far, Lincoln has said no. Wouldn’t you, if you had that kind of money backing up your campaign? How could you disappoint such a generous bunch of donors?

What does it matter that 450,000 Arkansans are without health insurance? Their campaign contributions don’t add up to a hill of beans.

So now comes Bill Halter, Arkansas’ lieutenant governor, to challenge Lincoln in the fall primary. Halter, as it happens, is the one who secured the site for the free health care clinic in Little Rock last November, inspired by a producer on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC, funded by small individual contributions, and staffed with volunteers and professionals from the National Association of Free Clinics.

On Monday, March 1, at a 7 a.m. (CT) news conference, Halter announced his candidacy saying,

Washington is broken. Bailing out Wall Street, with no strings attached while leaving middle-class Arkansas taxpayers with the bill. Protecting insurance company profits instead of patients and lowering health costs. Gridlock, bickering and partisan games while unemployment is at a 25-year high. Enough is enough.

Last autumn, Democracy for America promised certain senators on the left side of the aisle (I can’t call them Democratic senators – they may be Democrats, but democratic they’re not) that they wouldn’t run for reelection unchallenged. It’s the promise Barack Obama, by way of his chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel (the pit bull turned poodle) should have been making. Now that Lincoln’s got her match, Obama should be working on a challenger for Ben Nelson, whose term is also up. Obama has time to go after Joe Lieberman (class of 2013), the third of the Senate’s crypto-Republicans, all more interested in their own interests than in those of their healthcare-vulnerable constituents.

As you might imagine, Democracy for America hopes to put progressive money where our collective mouth is. Here’s the pitch (2:15):

And here’s the link to use if you like the idea of showing Lincoln she’s toast.


In an ideal world, Bill Halter would be spared the expense of a primary while the Republicans, with three candidates already in the ring, beat themselves to a pulp, the one left standing having to go up against a rested and relaxed Halter. Wouldn’t that be a treat to see?

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