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Published: Thursday, 12/6/2012

Dissing Miss Kaptur

Ohio delivered President Obama’s re-election, by most accounts. But that was so last month. Democratic leaders in the U.S. House asked this week what our state has done for the party lately. The evident answer: Not enough. Ohioans shouldn’t forget the insult.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, on the strength of her three decades of seniority, was in line to become ranking Democrat in the next Congress on the House Appropriations Committee, which decides where federal dollars get spent. That post would have been of great benefit to Miss Kaptur’s economically battered northern Ohio district, and to the state as a whole.

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Instead, the House Democrats’ policy and steering committee, in a secret, go-to-hell vote, passed over Miss Kaptur in favor of Rep. Nita Lowey, who represents an upscale district in suburban New York City. That decision remains to be ratified by the full Democratic caucus, but it looks like a done deal.

Miss Kaptur will remain the second-ranking Democrat on the committee, and its longest-serving member of her party. She accepted her defeat with typical grace. But state and local Republicans, with future campaigns in mind, are gleefully portraying Miss Kaptur’s snub as a calculated Democratic trashing of Ohio.

Although House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California proclaimed her neutrality in the contest, some analysts said she quietly backed Ms. Lowey. Something similar happened four years ago, when the Democrats controlled the House and Ms. Pelosi was speaker: She helped engineer the ouster of Rep. John Dingell of southeast Michigan as chairman of the influential Energy and Commerce Committee in favor of the less-senior Rep. Henry Waxman, who represents an affluent Los Angeles district.

New York? California? A pattern seems to be emerging: The national Democratic Party will take every vote it can get from “flyover” states such as Ohio and Michigan, and demand more. But when the time comes to distribute leadership positions, the coasts are first in line.

Miss Kaptur’s position on abortion rights is somewhat more restrictive than that of other House Democrats. She has been less than enthusiastic about engaging in the full-time money-raising that is expected of congressional leaders these days. She has challenged Ms. Pelosi’s leadership from time to time.

But if Democrats criticize — accurately — their Republican counterparts for marching in ideological lockstep, then they need to demonstrate their own capacity for ideological, as well as geographical, diversity.

Instead of merely lobbying for a consolation prize for Miss Kaptur, the state Democratic Party and her Ohio party colleagues in Washington should condemn this coastal power play, and urge the Democratic caucus to reverse the policy committee’s expression of contempt.

And perhaps someone from the heartland state of, say, Illinois, might also want to discuss political geography with Ms. Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders. Someone such as the occupant of the White House, who owes his second term to Ohio voters.



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