Primary Threats Pushing Dems to Support Public Option

On Monday,
I noted that the upside of a contested Democratic primary here in
Colorado are huge, because it will force whomever the nominee is to be
far more concrete and progressive in their positions on issues. And
within two days, that truism has already been proven correct. It's a
good lesson not just here in Colorado, but everywhere: primaries are
good because they make legislators more accountable to the constituents
they are supposed to represent.

Notice on Saturday
that appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) was still all wishy-washy on
the public option, saying he technically supports it but probably
wouldn't fight for it - and probably wouldn't vote against a bill
without a public option:

Bennet said that he favored a so-called public
option, which would provide an alternative insurance source for those
who can't get private insurance. "But as I stand here today, I think
it's very unlikely that the public option part of this will pass."

Now, just a few days after headlines about a potential Senate
primary challenge from former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), Bennet
is aggressively insisting he will fight for the public option. The tone and the positioning represent a huge change.

The Denver Post editorial board - which leans conservative, by the way - has it exactly right:

[Bennet's] silence on a few contentious issues,
such as the Employee Free Choice Act, prompted Republicans to deride
him as "Silent Senator Bennet." But we don't think Sen. Michael
Bennet's silence was for lack of an opinion; rather, he was hoping to
stave off a primary challenger from his left...

Bennet may not like it, but we say the more the merrier. Coloradans
deserve a choice, not a coronation...While Bennet is the U.S. senator
from Colorado, only one person - Ritter - has voted. Colorado will be
fortunate to have wide-open races on both sides of the aisle.

Whether or not Romanoff ends up running a progressive campaign or
not, it's nonetheless true that primaries are good for democracy
precisely because they force politicians to take positions and answer to voters.

To those who say that an appointed senator who has never run for
or held public office before automatically deserves an uncontested
primary and coronation, I say that's a lot of bullshit. Additionally,
with Bennet voting against cramdown, taking no position on EFCA and
flip-flopping around the public option, its clear that ColoradoPols has it exactly right:

There was a time, perhaps, when Democrats would
be making the smart political move by trying to disguise their every
opinion in order to appear more moderate. But that was also a time when
Republicans controlled everything. If Bennet ends up losing the
Democratic nomination to Romanoff, he'll have nobody to blame but
himself (and whoever advised him to be so overly cautious on policy

Put another way, if Bennet really wanted to avoid a primary, he
would have bent over backwards to be accountable to voters - not bent
over backwards to hide his positions and coddle big money. Those who
argue that longtime public servants like Romanoff or other Colorado
Democratic candidates should have looked at Bennet's behavior and
simply backed off show themselves to be far more loyal to
institutional/establishment sensibilities than legislative success,
progressive results, electoral choice and democracy itself.

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