Post Politics: Man-crushing on Jim Cooper

Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 11:45pm

In the wake of the historic congressional health care reform vote, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I identify with Rep. Jim Cooper.

I’m no Jim Cooper, I realize. I’m not well-bred. I lack an Oxford education. Budget summaries give me a headache. And I don’t know the first thing about investment banking.

Politically, we don’t much line up either. Point of fact: Few are politically parallel with Nashville’s congressman.

Cooper may be a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, but he’s not really an average Blue Dog. He’s conservative on fiscal issues but not by any means a cultural conservative. While loyal to his word and principles, he’s not really a partisan.

He is, to use a clichéd political definition, a maverick.

Before this recent health care vote, Cooper was the subject of a barrage of negative attacks from the left. Opponents created an anti-Cooper Web site and a PAC to gin up funding for a primary challenge.

As intellectually honest as Cooper’s policy reform proposals may have been, his failure to genuflect at the altar of the “public option” got him nothing but bile from progressives.

But after all that wailing and gnashing of teeth about Cooper’s closet Republican corporatism, he ultimately voted the “right way.” And what did he get for his trouble?

A new round of attacks — this time from the right.

All of sudden, the man who wasn’t progressive enough for Nashville was being assailed as a socialist by the right-wing tea party crowd, and few of his progressive critics stood up to set the record straight.

While this may be a bit self-indulgent even to express, I feel a certain kinship with Cooper.

Since I’ve been a professional blogger, I’ve been called every name in the book — and have been accused of being a Republican, a Democrat, a left-winger, a right-winger, a racist and a traitor. Republicans talk to me about “our” cause, and a Democratic politico once tried to lure me to the “dark side” of political consulting.

I have had my writing rebuked publicly by conservative radio talker Steve Gill for questioning our civilian leadership’s use of the military and by liberal attorney and politico David Briley for “crossing the line” in a discussion about race. I have been told privately and publicly by people of various political persuasions that they know deep down that I am really on their “side.”

So when the proverbial poop hits the fan on the Internet, things can get dicey. There is no built-in constituency to back me on political or ideological grounds. When you self-identify with an ideology or party, you have protection; people have your back without question. When you don’t join a cause, group, ideology or party, you can rely only on the kindness of friends and strangers who have no knee-jerk reason to defend you.

Cooper is similarly a political loner. He can be counted on — but only to do what he thinks is right. He is loyal — but only to what he believes is the truth. That has cost him politically because no one group supports him without question.

In politics (and on the Internet), it’s much more comfortable simply to pick a side. And really, there’s no shame in it because only through collective action is there hope to exert change in politics.

Perhaps I flatter myself to self-compare with Cooper. But it’s not all flattery, because in the end, Cooper didn’t stand alone or contrary on this health care debate. He didn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He put away cynicism and embraced something imperfect.

In that way, I wouldn’t even pretend to be like the congressman. Because I often retreat into cynicism. I frequently lack faith in the system and in the possibility of true reform. I stay apart from the crowd sometimes because it is easier to stay away from the messiness of compromise.

Contrarianism like that, for it’s own sake, is no better than blind allegiance to ideology.

I admire Cooper because he walks the thin line between principled individualism and collective idealism, which is a place I’ve never been.

Kleinheider is’s political blogger. Visit Post Politics at

14 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 11/16/09 at 8:35

Cooper is nancys *itch and does what he is told to do.

By: KEW on 11/16/09 at 9:12

The politics of Middle TN are complicated, and putting Cooper inside nation-wide Democratic politics makes it more complicated. He is a conservative Democrat when viewed at the national level, and I guess a moderate in Middle TN. Because he supports a rational policy on reproductive health I guess that makes him a moderate in Middle TN. And this may explain why he is not being supported for his vote for the health care bill in the House.

Regardless, foolish comments like the first one above by idgaf suggests why being a reasonable, principled person here is difficult.

By: vechester on 11/16/09 at 9:23

Cooper puts on this air of "blue dogness" for political expediency, but in the case of the health bill, he went far to the left to please Pelosi and her Lemmings. (dittos idgaf) He is NO blue dog dem!

I have never donated money to a political candidate, but am now strongly considering doing so for anyone who can remove Cooper from his seat.

The liberal left knows they have to do their work this year because next year's storm is coming for the libs.

By: Time for Truth on 11/16/09 at 9:40

KEW, your post makes sense.

vechester, nobody will be removing Cooper from his seat, at least not this time around. If anything, the health care vote helped thwart a potential (and unwise for the Democrats) primary challenge from the left.

There will be Democrats losing seats in 2010, but with the Republicans looking like immature name-calling extremists and obstructionists, they'll hardly clean house. They blew it on the House race in NY by going with the teabagger, and they have the potential to blow it in the Florida Senate race too. And if the quality of Repub candidates that have faced Cooper in the past is any indication of the future, he will be there as long as he wants to be.

By: KEW on 11/16/09 at 11:03

So nice and calm, Time for Truth. And, just to gauge left-right, no one who voted for the Health Bill in the House went far to the left. Instead, a bill was signed in the face of nearly intractable partisan politics.

By: EDUNITED on 11/16/09 at 12:18

What your article shows about Cooper is his weakness. He's a Democrat from a fiscally conservative district. His key votes reflect the National Democrat Party's agenda most of the time. Yet, he returns to his district and explains the way he votes as doing a little good in a bad bill.

The reactions of pundits from the Left and the Right identify him as intellectually dishonest. Genius though he is, Cooper's voting patterns reflect a mostly liberal agenda. Rather than using his formidable intellect to find better solutions, he has voted for the policitally advantageous. This seems to show a lack of intellectual courage. As a result, I don't know what he truly believes, but actions speak louder than words.

Mr. Kleinheider, it doesn't take a genius to vote as Cooper has. I would not wear your similarity to him as a badge of honor.

Ed vanVoorhees

By: govskeptic on 11/16/09 at 12:50

This vote doesn't tell us much. It's the next vote that will tell where the good Congressman stands! P.S.: I do literally mean "The good Congressman".

By: pswindle on 11/16/09 at 1:41

Whe does the GOP always elect not-so-smart people? (ex. Bush) Rep. Cooper is a very bright man, and he will take care of the people in TN. He had to vote on the health bill in order to get it in the senate. Look what Bush has done to our country. Tn went for a dumb over smart, and look where it got us.

By: idgaf on 11/16/09 at 1:56

He voted for every spending bill that nancy and barry wanted so how can he claim to be a conservative?

By: koolbass on 11/16/09 at 2:29

Since I sincerely believe our federal govt being involved in health care is UNconstitutional and also dangerous for our rights, not to mention the fed's constant failures at running businesses, I'm opposed to Jim Cooper and his misguided vote for Pelosi's bill.

My wife and I each wrote to him, and we both received the same form letter saying he believed a health care bill was necessary, and he was only sending on a "flawed" bill so the Senate would pick it and improve it.


Jim's reward for his foolishness will be my opposition to his reelection, and a check from me to anyone that opposes his reelection!!

By: tdterry1999 on 11/16/09 at 4:58

cooper like gordon needs to be voted out.we do need change.and this is where we should start.

By: sidneyames on 11/17/09 at 7:43

Kleinheider are youlike cooper in this way: Out of a job soon?

Vechester, be careful when you say and do this: I have never donated money to a political candidate, but am now strongly considering doing so for anyone who can remove Cooper from his seat.

My first campaign contribution was $100 to Karl Dean and now I want my money back to help pay my increase in taxes for his out of control big image projects.

By: MissTN on 11/17/09 at 10:28

Really? We're going to support ANYONE who opposes Cooper?

Money does not a good candidate make.

I'm going to continue to support STRONG CANDIDATES with STRONG IDEAS. Which means at least waiting until I know who is opposing Cooper before I start pledging any money or support.

By: VelazquezJosie on 8/29/11 at 10:14

This is known that cash can make people free. But how to act if someone does not have money? The only one way is to try to get the home loans or just financial loan.