According to the Kansas City Fox affiliate (via TPM DC), Congressman Dennis Moore, who represents northeastern Kansas and is the only Democratic representative from Kansas, has cancelled public events after credible death threats. He tells the reporter that he’s gotten two separate threats, and finds this turn of events unacceptable. “I expect to have differences with people, differences of opinion. And, I respect people’s opinions,” he said. “But, I expect exchanges we have to be respectful and not threatening. As a former prosecutor, I certainly do not tolerate threats well and that’s why I contacted the police department.”
I checked with his staff, and everyone is OK, but concerned. Moore represents the district where George Tiller’s (alleged) murderer lived and was arrested. It’s a highly heterogeneous district, with liberal Lawrence lumped together with evangelical churches that spawned the state’s anti-evolution and anti-gay activism. He has to walk a fine line, and threats of violence don’t help him find ways to improve health insurance for all of his constituents.
The logic of these threats is bizarre. Moore is a prominent Blue Dog; that group has a reputation for slowing progress toward a bill and for watering down provisions of the reform bills in the House. While Moore’s name hasn’t come up much in the health insurance debates, I’d hardly think opponents of the reform would instantly regard him as an enemy. Nor, of course, should reform advocates regard him as an enemy. He’s in a tough situation, and I can’t see why anyone would want to push him away.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (who replaced Nancy Boyda as the representative of the Kansas 2nd) has presented health insurance staff at town halls to defend her stance against insurance reform. She claimed to possess a plan for healthcare, telling voters: “We have a plan, but we haven’t been invited to the table to present it.” Kansas Democratic Party executive director Kenny Johnston responds: “If Lynn Jenkins has a plan that can reduce suffering she has a moral obligation to share it so Congress and the American people can weigh in. Every day she keeps her plan secret another 70 Kansans lose their health insurance coverage.”
Johnston shows the way to have a policy debate. Not with death threats, not with lies about “death panels,” but with clearly articulated arguments addressing actual policies. It’s fair to ask why Jenkins is shilling for the insurance industry, and why she won’t present whatever plan she might have. It’s fair to ask disagree with choices Moore has made in negotiating insurance reform. It’s not fair to demonize him and threaten him for trying to make things better for Kansans.