When history came calling, Jason Altmire turned away.
The two-term congressman from McCandless voted against his party's long-fought effort to reform health care in America.
He stood with insurance companies that raised premiums by 30 and 40 percent, tea party protesters who mistake decibels for decency and wild-eyed Republicans with a zeal to bring down a president.
By claiming to want a better bill, he stood as a defender of the status quo, which leaves millions without health coverage, denies insurance for pre-existing conditions and causes headaches for employers and misery for working-class families.
By voting no, Jason Altmire turned his back on his president and his party, and today he stands as a Democrat in name only.
In true D.C. doublespeak he tried to spin his nay as a virtue, a profile in courage -- a man principled enough to be independent of his party. Tell that to the single working mother in Beaver Falls who can't afford next year's premium.
People in high office seldom get such a clarifying moment -- when their voice and their vote matters to the nation and to posterity. We have seen such moments with the dawn of Social Security, the declarations of war on Japan and Germany, the court rulings to end racial segregation. Jason Altmire looked his moment straight in the eye and couldn't muster the backbone to embrace change.
Some day in the future children will ask him how he voted in Congress to secure affordable basic health insurance for Americans. He'll no doubt repeat his story that he wanted a better bill, that he wanted to lower costs -- everything except that he was on the wrong side of history.