I don’t what effect the votes of Ben Nelson, Olympia Snowe etc. will have on their political careers. But whenever Senators cast votes on a bill like this, I think of New York State Assemblyman George Michaels:
Mr. Michaels personally favored a woman’s right to choose but had voted against the proposed law twice at the behest of the Cayuga County Democratic Committee. He did so at the beginning of April 1970 when the bill went down to a narrow defeat.
But on April 9, he realized that the measure was doomed without his support. He rose to take the microphone, his hands trembling. “I realize, Mr. Speaker, that I am terminating my political career, but I cannot in good conscience sit here and allow my vote to be the one that defeats this bill,” he declared. “I ask that my vote be changed from ‘no’ to ‘yes.’ “
His tearful reversal provided the 76th vote needed for passage. The State Senate quickly added its approval and Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller signed the bill into law. “I found myself caught up in something bigger than I am,” Mr. Michaels said about his agonizing decision. “I’m just a small country lawyer.”
Mr. Michaels sought a sixth term that year, but piqued county leaders denied him renomination and he lost the June primary in a four-way race.
Assemblyman George Michaels was never eulogized by David Broder. He never appeared on “Meet the Press” or earned millions of dollars as a lobbyist.
I feel bad that in this age no thinking person can use the phrase “principled decision” without a healthy dollop of irony.