Just a few weeks after voting for the controversial health care reform bill after winning a somewhat meaningless executive order on abortion, Rep. Bart Stupak has announced he will not seek reelection in November. His campaign would have been a much tougher fight than he had faced in the past, with national opposition on the right and on the left attacking his cave-in to partisan principles and his needless drawing-out of a poisonous political process for seemingly a few more moments in the spotlight.
Those on the right probably shouldn’t have been too surprised that Stupak shrugged off his pro-life views for so little – after all, he told supporters last year that he would try to get the best deal he could on abortion and still vote for health care. But he was disingenuous in suggesting that he might block the bill’s passage, and even held up a bloc of like-minded Democrats as proof that it could be done.
In the end, he found himself in the awkward position of voting for a Senate health care bill that contained none of the abortion restrictions his Stupak Amendment had provided, then railed against Republican abortion language that was simply the exact legislation that his own amendment contained. Some may say Stupak put the good of the country above his own interests, but voting for an unpopular health bill isn’t a profile in courage, it’s a profile in partisanship.
Dan Benishek is the Republican front-runner and has benefited from an influx of cash since Stupak’s health care vote. He is a first-time candidate and will have his work cut out for him as other Democrats look to take the field now. Stupak’s district is blue-collar and pro-life, and while it’s not necessarily a lock for the GOP, Stupak’s retirement certainly helps their chances.
More than that, Stupak’s decision to step aside, taken along with the sudden retirement of numerous other Democrats, is a reminder of the immense dissatisfaction of the American people with the Congressional agenda over the last two years. The party in control of the White House traditionally always loses seats, but this election looks like it’s shaping up to be something else entirely. I won’t pretend that it will anything like the earthquake of 1994 or the complete obliteration of 1946, but most reputable pollsters acknowledge that 2010 is shaping up to be a midterm election worse than most for the incumbents.