Who Is Jim Cooper And Why Is He Trying To Kill Health Care Reform?
James Hayes Shofner Cooper is part of the Tennessee political elite, the son of former Governor Prentice Cooper. He represented a very conservative Tennessee swing district from 1982-1994 and he was a garden variety Blue Dog Democrat, quick to sell out his constituents to corporate interests and quick to spout right-wing talking points. In the big Clinton battle over health care in 1993 he was Hillary Clinton's nemesis among reactionary Democrats and worked harder than anyone to undermine health care reform, going so far as to imply Clinton was veering towards socialism. He hasn't accused Obama of being a socialist yet but this year he is one of the leading Blue Dog foes of meaningful health care reform. If the House had a treacherous Gang of 6 (a kind of health care death squad) the way the House of Lords does, he would surely have wrangled his way onto it.
In 1994 Cooper gave up his House seat to run for an open Senate seat and was thoroughly thrashed by Fred Thompson. He opened a law practice in Nashville, one district over. When that heavily Democratic 5th district came open, he jumped at the chance to run for Congress again. But whereas his conservative Blue Dog status was tailor-made for his old exurban swing district, the heavily Democratic 5th-- which hasn't had a Republican since 1897, when the GOP turned away from progressive ideals and went all corporate-- isn't as good a fit for the reactionary Cooper. Obama won the 5th with 56% of the vote, despite losing Tennessee with only 42%. Cooper is far more conservative than his district and, although he endorsed Obama early-- mostly because of smoldering rancor with the Clintons-- he was one of only 11 right-wing Democrats to vote against Obama's stimulus package. He's one of only a small handful of Democrats from solid Democratic districts who votes as frequently as he does with the GOP. He toils behind the scenes watering down progressive legislation and making it more corporate friendly and less family friendly. That's Jim Cooper's role-- and the corporations pay him well for his troubles.
Lately there have been rumblings that his constituents are getting sick and tired of his negative role in the health care debate... again. After gobbling up $184,759 in thinly disguised bribes from the Insurance Industry (on top of another $900,664 from the Medical-Industrial Complex), Cooper takes his marching orders, as always, from Big Business. He's no better, and no less corrupt, than a Republican. If Insurance CEOs want to kill the public option and substitute some pathetic, ineffective co-ops, they know they can depend on Jim Cooper to help carry out their wishes.
"A co-op," he disingenuously spouted off on MSNBC Friday, "is really used over three-quarters of the land area of America so we buy our electricity that way. It's a creature of the New Deal. It's worked really pretty well over all the country for 70 or 80 years. It's owned by the customers; it is not owned by the government. It works. It works real well."
But Rep. Cooper hasn't always been so enthusiastic about the rural electric co-op model. In fact, just last year, Cooper published an article in the Harvard Journal on Legislation that blasted the rural electric co-ops, which he argued had "turned away from their historic role" as pro-consumer organizations and had "taken on deeply troubling anti-consumer behaviors."
No doubt his corporate masters will get him a new set of talking points next time they send him over to TV or radio to do their dirty work. Don't let Jim Cooper and a pack of bribe-hungry Republicans and Blue Dogs frustrate real health care reform again. Please consider joining Blue America in thanking the 65 progressive members of the House who have drawn a line in the sand and said they will not vote for any legislation that excludes, at minimum, the public option that President Obama campaigned on and, in part, won the presidency on. We've collected nearly $400,000 in less than a week. If you can't for any reason donate, please consider phoning the office of a member of Congress who backs health care reform and saying thanks for their courage and dedication. You can find the phone numbers here. Jim Cooper's is not on the list.
Strange that Howard Dean is the one out there making the case for the public option while Secretary Sebelius is just bumbling around like a pathetic mess. Why doesn't Obama get rid of her and give the job to Dean?