Reading Slog’s account of Sen. Maria Cantwell’s supposed conversion on healthcare reform, it’s like deja vu all over again regarding perhaps the most enigmatic member of Washington state’s congressional delegation. First Cantwell was under attack for not taking a forceful position on the public option and other reforms, and now she’s being praised for her sudden burst of leadership.
And the conclusion?
And the bottom line for those, like Moon, who were raising a ruckus over Cantwell’s apparent wavering on the public option: the pressure worked.
Yeah, well, maybe. But this sort of scenario has played out so many times over the past few years, you’ve gotta wonder if what frequent critics consider to be her “apparent wavering,” really isn’t just an artifact of Cantwell’s methodical, deliberate and relatively effective legislative style? I mean, keeping up the political pressure doesn’t hurt, but the raft of amendments Cantwell has offered to the Baucus bill suggest that she’s been neck deep in the details for quite some time, and an active participant in the thorny, behind-closed-doors negotiations within the Senate Finance Committee.
So could it be that the type of public podium-rattling many of us progressives demand, just isn’t a good fit to Cantwell’s wonkish personality, or to the brand of quiet, insider leadership she seems to prefer? And do we make a mistake by assuming she’s less progressive than she really is?
In fact, Cantwell’s reputation as a bit of a pro-business centrist seems to be distorted by a genuine streak of pro-business centrism that fails to extend itself to nearly any other issue. Indeed when examining her voting record, you may be surprised to learn that Cantwell proves just as progressive as her more high-profile colleague, Sen. Patty Murray, and the presumably progressive stalwart Rep. Jay Inslee. And on healthcare issues? Cantwell ranks the most progressive of the three, scoring an impressive 98.54% over her lifetime in office.
So did Cantwell cave to constituent pressure by coming out strong for the public option in the end, or did she hold steady in the face of mounting criticism from the left, by refusing to publicly say anything that might jeopardize her private negotiations?
I don’t know. But knowing how stubborn Cantwell can be, and her lack of passion for retail politics, I don’t think it’s safe to assume the former.