Monday, March 22, 2010

The Stupak Star

The ascent of Bart Stupak (D-MI) is an astounding and laudable political maneuver. Stupak has represented Michigan’s First District since 1992 and serves as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. According to statistics at Google Trends, Stupak was a relatively insignificant political force only two years ago. Even as late as September 2009, he was relatively unknown outside of Washington circles.

However, with the heating up of the healthcare debate, Stupak stormed onto the national scene becoming an instant household name. He emerged as a leader of some ten pro-life Congressmen and women that threw a wrench into Pelosi’s plans. It was only with a promise, by President Obama, to sign an executive order affirming the long-standing federal policy of non-funding of abortions that Stupak and his gang decided to support the bill.

His support for and ultimate passage of the legislation has disappointed many newfound supporters on the right, who feel betrayed by his commitment to the 'sanctity of life’. The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List group has even revoked an award that they were to present to him. Some reports indicate a growing political movement fomenting against him in Northern Michigan. A Republican doctor, Daniel Benishek, who has never held political has stepped forward to run against Stupak in the upcoming election. Benishek has quickly amassed a large following.

However, despite the fallout from his actions, Stupak’s political strategy – whether intentional or not – will reap him many rewards. It is unlikely that Republicans can mount a significant challenge against him. The district he represents has been in Democratic hands since 1933. Stupak has been its representative for the past 18, winning over 65% of the vote in all four of the last elections that were stuffed with as many as five candidates. The Cook Report ranks Stupak’s district as a “Solid D[emocrat]”.

Furthermore, if Stupak faces even the slightest uphill battle in his campaign, it is undeniable that the Democratic war chest and even Pelosi and Obama will come to a quick rescue. After winning his support for their pet project they would be foolish to let him, out of all Congressional Democrats, swing.

The brilliance in Stupak’s maneuvers is that he successfully capitalized on his unique position to launch himself into the national spotlight. Not only did he become the leader of the pro-life Congressional Democrats, but he outshone all of them. He managed to steal the spotlight and make his person and his issues the prime focus of America. The media, Washington, and most Americans sat, white-knuckled, waiting for his decision on Sunday. By ultimately falling in line with the Democrats he has ingratiated himself to the leadership while making himself nationally famous (or infamous).

The execution of his rise is almost so categorically perfect that one, maybe cynically, wonders if he was a “Yes” vote all along. The executive order that facilitated his vote is, as Stupak admitted, tenuous. Many may argue that Stupak played a brilliant bluff that, after 18 years, launched his political career. Regardless, expect to see a lot more of Bart Stupak in the future as he undoubtedly will become a much bigger player in Washington.


  1. First, let me say that I am a republican. Second, let me say that I am neither for or against abortion. I believe women have the right to choose for themselves. Should I leave the party because I believe this? Bart Stupak is a Democrat who does not share my point of view. He made a stand for what he believes in, and he got what he wanted. His constituents are democrats, so obviously, he would vote as a democrat - only he really didn't, did he, until he got the concession he wanted. He is wrong and you are mad because . . . .?

  2. Amanda~

    Thanks for commenting. First, I'm not sure I indicated that I was mad. While I am disappointed that the bill passed, Stupak is, at the end of the day, no more or less to blame than any of the other 218 Congressmen that supported it. What I do feel is intrigue at Stupak's rise - and that is the point here. I think, whether truthfully or cynically, he played an excellent hand (so to speak) and solidified a good position for himself. As a politician his acts were impressive.

    Second, as to "He made a stand for what he believes in, and he got what he wanted". I'm not so convinced that he got what he wanted in terms of ideology. An executive order holds far less clout then legislation. What he got was an assurance that is only as strong as Obama's desire to hold off his base and the committment of future presidents. The significance of this hinges on whether Stupak was really committed to his expressed ideals or if this was merely an attempt to get national exposure. I can't really guess which is true.

    All I can say is: disappointed in the outcome, but mad just doesn't work here.


  3. Josh--

    I guess the Stupak Star has gone nova ...


  4. Well put Karl. Surprised me a bit. Stupak denies it but I think the Tea Party may have scared him.


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