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Why you should vote for Donnelly

Chris Rhodenbaugh | Monday, November 1, 2010

Joe Donnelly is the Democratic congressman of the 2nd district of Indiana that includes Notre Dame, South Bend, Elkhart and surrounding rural areas. He is a proud Catholic and a “double domer,” with an undergraduate and law degree from Notre Dame.

Joe Donnelly, despite his flaws, is the unique type of candidate that should receive votes from constituents across the political spectrum.

If you are a progressive Democrat:

The first thoughts that come to mind might be that Congressman Donnelly voted against the cap and trade bill, as well as ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Donnelly is endorsed by the NRA, he refers to undocumented immigrants as illegals, and he continues to support the war in Afghanistan. All of these are undoubtedly disturbing and make it difficult to garner much enthusiasm for someone who votes like moderate Republicans would, if they still existed in Congress. However, Joe Donnelly is a good man caught up in bad political times. He is also beating all of the political odds by being in a position to win as a Democratic incumbent in a Republican leaning district.

He must be commended for fighting for the people of the 2nd district by voting for the Recovery Act, the health care bill and the financial reform bill. While these three bills were far from perfect they each took a step in the right direction. The stimulus has “increased the number of people employed between 1.4 million and 3.3 million,” according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and helped avert crises in state governments trying to pay teachers, police officers and firefighters across the country. The health care bill ended the worst of insurance company abuses like discriminating based on pre-existing conditions or denying claims without the opportunity to have an independent review. The bill also allows students to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26, will make health insurance available to 30 million more Americans and makes preventative care like screenings and vaccinations free. The financial reform bill created the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a major victory for consumers who will now be better protected from exploitative practices in the financial industry. The bill also creates important rules on derivatives trading, mortgage lending and credit rating agencies that will help prevent a future financial meltdown.

There is a debate raging in the progressive community across the country about whether or not to support conservative Democrats. While supporting more left-wing opposition in a primary makes sense, staying home on Election Day because the Democrat is too conservative does not. As a resident of the 2nd district you have the choice between State Senator Jackie Walorski, a blindly partisan candidate who will ignore your interests, or Congressman Donnelly, a bipartisan congressman who will be open minded to supporting the president and make a meaningful assessment of the district’s preferences before voting. Donnelly voted for health care because he could not resist the relentless pressure from his voting base in the district to vote for the bill.

If Jackie Walorski is your congresswoman no amount of phone calling, office visits or demonstrations will make her vote with the president. She is the Michelle Bachmann of Indiana and will have no qualms bringing national attention to the 2nd district with her radical perspective. Walorski is a proud member of the tea party, an enthusiastic supporter of the Arizona immigration law, believes in a spending freeze on everything but defense, wants to extend all the Bush tax cuts indefinitely and she believes in privatizing social security. In the first debate of the race she justified her denial of global warming as a threat to the country by saying she has consulted Indiana farmers on the issue. Not to mention, she bragged at the debate about always carrying a gun in her purse, even though she was nice enough to “know and respect the laws” and not bring one into the high school where the debate was held.

Joe Donnelly is far from ideal, but he will listen to his progressive constituents, while his opponent is one of the most radical Republican candidates running for office in 2010, a scary thought.

If you are an independent or moderate Republican:

Joe Donnelly, an outspoken “Blue Dog Democrat,” represents a disappearing breed of bipartisan members of Congress, a sharp contrast to his hyper-partisan opponent. Blue Dog Democrats are conservative Democrats that prioritize lowering the deficit, and vote conservatively on social issues.

Joe Donnelly is uniformly pro-life, opposing abortion and embryonic stem cell research. He is known for being an advocate for veterans and small businesses with his position on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the House Financial Services Committee. Congressman Donnelly was instrumental in writing the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 that included language that raises supplemental coverage for severely disabled veterans by 50 percent. In September he wrote language in the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 in response to a critical local small business problem. The language altered a tax penalty provision that would have destroyed an asphalt business in the district and unfairly penalized companies across the country.

This year’s election to many is about which members of Congress vote in line with their party leadership and which members put their district before party priorities. Donnelly has proven that he stands firmly with the 2nd district. The South Bend area needs a member of Congress that will listen and that is why the Indianapolis Star endorsed Congressman Donnelly saying, “Beneath the noise of a nationalized campaign heavy with attack ads, Donnelly’s record shows moderation and willingness to listen to constituents. He deserves to stay on the job.”


Chris Rhodenbaugh is a senior. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.