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Poor John Peterson and the SCHIP “Bullies”

October 18, 2007

My hometown of State College, PA in the normally placid Happy Valley was one of the hotspots for the SCHIP debate because of U.S. Congressman John Peterson staunch defense of Bush’s veto. As virtually every Catholic and faith-based advocacy organization has pointed out, the Republican opposition to SCHIP is inconsistent with their claims to be pro-life, pro-child, pro-family.

Peterson normally likes to keep quiet about towing the Bush line in relatively liberal State College, so when he wrote a column in the Centre Daily Times defending his support of the veto you knew he was feeling some pressure. (Morning’s Minion at Vox Nova wrote an excellent post showing the blatant distortions in the Republican line Peterson is towing so no need for that here.)

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What was astonishing was how threatened he appears to be by the outpouring of support for SCHIP that his constituents showed in response. When I look at the photo on the front page of the Centre Daily Times of a candlelight vigil that the SEIU organized in front of his office the day after his column ran (above), I see a picture of what Democracy ought to look like — citizens actively engaged in voluntary associations to petition their elected representatives. Peterson seemed to mistake the candles for torches, and the posters for pitchforks because he seemed to see an angry mob. The CDT quoted him as calling the pressure he is feeling on this issue “bullying.” Aw, poor John.

What all this shows is the power of the legislative advocacy that I am sure many readers of this blog will have taken part in. From all accounts, the House will fail to override the veto of SCHIP. But there’s no reason to be discouraged. All the rallies you took part in, the calls you made and letters and emails you sent still have made a mighty difference. When the Bush administration sits down to negotiate the next version of this bill, they will do so knowing how strongly we want health care for children. And if we keep working on it, we will eventually have the votes to get what we want. That’s how representative democracy works.

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