Compromise is almost impossible in Congress because of constant pressure to hold fast to core beliefs. The Freedom Caucus of the Republican Party is often cited as exhibit A in this hard-line approach, but Rep. Ami Bera is discovering Democrats can be just as bad.
Bera is a second-term congressman from the Seventh District in the Sacramento area, a toss-up district that has caused both parties to spend huge amounts of money to win the seat. In the last go-round in 2014, almost $20 million–the most for any congressional race in the country–was spent by both sides. Bera won by 1,455 votes.
Naturally, the winning Democrats expect a return for the money and work they put into electing Bera twice, but he has fallen short of their expectations on at least two issues. First, he bucked the labor unions by voting to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Pacific trade deal, and then voted to temporarily halt the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S.
Retaliation was swift. The Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club refused to endorse Bera for a third term, forcing him to go hat in hand to the state party convention in February to get its endorsement. Some party activists have said they will stay on the sidelines this year, and the Teamsters and carpenters unions have endorsed his only announced opponent, Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
“I think Congressman Bera needs to do some soul-searching as to whether he’s a real Democrat or not,” said Robert Longer, political and legislative director for the Communications Workers of America, local 9421. “If he believes in the district, he will connect with the voters, he will connect with the folks who got him into office. Otherwise, he will have to find another job.”
The district has about 11,000 more Democrats than Republicans, and 76,000 “Decline to State” who will probably decide the election. But Bera better be careful if he reaches out to them. He may get his arm chopped off.