This Letter to the Editor was originally published in the Burlington County Times in January 2017, written by a constituent of the NJ 3rd Congressional District. The letter seems particularly prescient these few months later as the rubber has hit the road with voting on the issues addressed below.
I read with interest the Christmas Day feature ‘Middle Man’ on re-elected congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey’s 3rd District.
I first learned of the moderate Tom MacArthur in the run-up to the November election where our local airwaves were flooded with commercials about Mr. MacArthur’s record of party independence, even though his voting record reflects a consistent history aligned with the far right on a broad selection of issues.
From repealing the Affordable Care Act, undermining the Environmental Protection Agency, deregulation of the very modest financial reforms that addressed the catastrophic financial collapse of 2008, and countless other votes, Mr MacArthur’s record characterized the years of obstruction that President Obama faced in office with the Republican Congress. It was obstruction that held our country from economic recovery and has created a great divide between the two major parties.
There’s scant scrutiny of Mr. MacArthur’s actual record in this front-page article, which seems a happy repackaging of press releases from his congressional website. Interestingly in the article, Mr. MacArthur admits that the dozens of votes he made in his short congressional tenure to repeal the ACA will now be challenged with the hard fact of Republican majorities in the US House and Senate, and now with a President Trump who has indicated throughout his campaign and in ‘first 100 days in office plan’ that demolition of the Affordable Care Act is a priority to ‘make America great again.’ What was formerly a toothless political statement thrown as a bone to the conservative base will now be a real-world problem that Republicans will need to address in the real world–which won’t be easy given the complexity of the issue and how many people will lose their health insurance with repeal of the ACA. We will see how realistic the Republican plans are to help people get good insurance coverage in light of this loss.
We will also see how Mr. MacArthur’s newly-found position in the middle will impact his solid voting record undermining the very type of environmental protection legislation that likely kept a Pennsylvania toxic waste incinerator from being constructed in Bristol– upwind of and directly across the Delaware River from neighborhoods and communities in his Burlington County district. For those of us in these communities, this type of legislation worked in the real world to protect our health, our neighborhood quality of life, and our property values.
It is my hope that the congressman’s new identity as a moderate is more than a campaign strategy. Given his consistent record otherwise, I am not hopeful. More importantly, though, it is my genuine hope that the very important role the BCT can have in keeping its readers informed about what is happening in congress can go beyond the issues that these representatives find advantage in presenting.
There’s never been a more important time for the independent press to question thoroughly and report–without bias–to help inform the voting public, keeping us in touch with policy-making, rather than distracted by someone’s outrageous tweet.
A healthy democracy will have a rigorous debate of issues, and Mr MacArthur has every right to vote his beliefs and agenda while representing our district. For our democracy to work, however, voters need to be informed on the issues and on his record to understand the implication that these votes have on our values and vision for our country.
We need to go beyond the fiction of elections and stay engaged with the process between Novembers. Mr MacArthur deserves a chance to work for us, but he also deserves much more scrutiny as our servant in congress by both his constituents and the press. I hope the BCT will give him the scrutiny he deserves this term.