Blue Dogs Determined To Save Jobs-- Their Own
Blue Dog prepares for the 2010 midterms
Few things get me more pissed off than when elected officials in DC stop discussing what's best for their constituents and insist that the agenda shift to doing things about protecting their own political careers. Yesterday The Hill captured the moment perfectly: "Vulnerable House and Senate Democrats want their leaders to skip the party’s controversial legislative agenda for next year to help save their seats in Congress. In the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, they don’t want to be forced to vote on climate change, immigration reform and gays in the military, which they say should be set aside so Congress can focus on jobs and the economy."
Blue Dogs and other reactionary Democrats-- who vote against their own constituents and for their campaign donors as a matter of course-- are particularly hysterical over the prospect of being put between that rock and hard place so close to an election. One of the worst, as we've been warning all year, is corrupt Arkansas corporate lackey Blanche Lincoln. And she's doing her best to persuade the Senate leadership to abandon work on the entire progressive agenda on which Obama and congressional Democrats campaigned. On behalf of the corporate interests who have bankrolled her repulsive career in politics, she opposes financial regulatory reforms as well as meaningful health care reform and any substantive efforts to reduce unemployment. "That’s an awful lot to bite off and chew for right now,” said Lincoln, who described herself as “not in a hurry” to tackle climate change, an issue she has some jurisdiction over as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Instead of delivering on the Hope and Promise thing that propelled Obama-- and dozens of Democrats-- into office, conservatives are (surprise, surprise) urging slowing things down and leaving tough issues for some time in the distant future.
Some Democrats are worried the ambitious agenda could make winning reelection that much harder.
“If it was up to me, I would figure out how to handle the war and fix the economy,” said Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.), a senior centrist Democrat who has found himself in the crosshairs of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has recruited a promising GOP challenger.
Tanner worries his party may be trying to bite off too much in the 111th Congress.
“For all of these big issues, the trick is-- to use a football analogy-- to go for a first down instead of an 80-yard Hail Mary,” he said. “Some of the more philosophically driven people want to do an 80-yard Hail Mary, but getting first downs is how you legislate over time.”
A group of vulnerable Democratic lawmakers see healthcare reform, climate change and immigration reform as desperation passes down the length of the political playing field. They acknowledge that healthcare reform may very well pass, but they say that climate change and immigration reform have dim prospects.
Rep. Bobby Bright, an Alabama centrist [actually a full-blown reactionary, neo-Confederate Blue Dog, but hey, what's in a name?] viewed as one of the most endangered Democrats in the House, said that many Americans feel alarmed by the drastic legislative changes moving through Congress. He said leaders should consider breaking up sprawling controversial bills into smaller pieces that voters would not find so daunting in size and scope.
“Maybe this healthcare bill is going drastically too far,” he said. “If we could take it in smaller steps, we could build confidence.
“We can’t come in and change the world overnight,” he said. “We’re moving forward at a pace that average people are concerned about, and my constituents very much so.”
This morning Manu Raju and Jonathan Allen tackled the same story line at Politico under the comforting banner: Red-State Dems Worried, Rethink Agenda. Who could have predicted? Conservative Democrats point to Creigh Deeds' loss in Virginia and blame it on the progressive agenda, purposely ignoring the fact that Deeds killed his own chances of winning the governorship by running away from the progressive agenda. The moment he lost was when he declared, during in a debate, that he would opt out of the public option. At that moment Democrats simply decided he wasn't worth voting for. And they were correct. The single worst member of the Democratic caucus in the House, Alabama Blue Dog Parker Griffith, has tried to appeal to Republicans and ignore Democrats. Self-respecting Democrats couldn't possibly vote for him in 2010; he has opposed everything that makes someone a Democrat.
“I should be nervous,” said Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat from Huntsville, Ala.
Griffith said the Democratic rank and file is “very, very sensitive” to the fact that issues being pushed by party leaders “have the potential to cost some of our front-line members their seats.”
House Democrats, forced to take a tough vote on a controversial cap-and-trade climate change bill in June, may have to vote as early as this weekend on the even more controversial health care bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team have struggled to get moderates on board for that vote, and Tuesday's results won't make the task any easier.
“People who had weak knees before are going to have weaker knees now,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), a relatively liberal congressman who seemed safe in 2010 but now thinks a Republican challenger might feel emboldened by Tuesday’s election results... Election Day losses in Virginia and New Jersey have congressional Democrats focused like never before on jobs-- their own.
Will they consider that Bill Owens was losing to GOP-backed teabagger Doug Hoffman right up until he was forced by labor unions to publicly embrace Democratic issues, like the public option. As soon as Owens showed that he was a Democrat after all-- or at least that he'd be willing to vote like one-- he surged ahead and managed to win the election in a reliably Republican district. And he did this despite every big gun in the right-wing arsenal-- from Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Jim DeMint and Ann Coulter to Glenn Beck and Mike Pence-- being trained on him.
If conservatives and Villagers interpret the elections in a light that fits in with what their corporate donors are demanding, progressives aren't being fooled. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said it was “nonsense” to suggest that the results in New Jersey and Virginia represented a referendum on President Barack Obama. To the contrary, he argued that the results meant that Democrats should redouble their efforts to “make sure we deliver on the promises of the last election.” Bingo!
Adam Green of the PCCC summed up the real lesson from this week's election: "Democratic and independent voters will abandon Democratic candidates if they act like Republicans and don't deliver on the big progressive change they campaigned on. The single biggest thing President Obama could do to help Democrats lose in 2010 is to support a health reform bill that gives away the store to special interests and lacks the strong public option that Democratic and Independent voters are clamoring for."
Nate Silver looked at the New Jersey race and backs up Adam's proposition: "In New Jersey, it was Jon Corzine who tried to nationalize the race, making sure that everyone knew that Chris Christie was a Republican. And insofar as this went, it worked: voters who said their main issue was health care went for Corzine 78-19 (!), according to exit polls, and he won voters focused on the economy and jobs 58-36. Christie won because he focused on two local issues that are very important to New Jerseyans-- corruption and property taxes, and won overwhelmingly among voters who keyed in on these issues."
Republicans are looking at seats help by conservative Blue Dogs-- who vote with them-- as their most likely pick-ups for 2010. This morning CQPolitics focuses on Virginia, where sniveling Blue Dog freshman Glenn Nye is among the walking dead and is unlikely to win a second term unless the Republicans screw up their own chances with an internal battle pitting a mainstream conservative against a teabagging maniac (which is exactly what's happening in Virginia's 5th CD, something that will probably guarantee the re-election of an actual moderate-progressive Democrat, Tom Perriello).
Another big GOP target is a freshman in a red-leaning New York state district, Eric Massa, whose voting record is also moderate to progressive. His answer to the GOP threats is not to withdraw and cower under his bed the way the Blue Dogs do, but to go on the attack. He was just on the House floor making on of the most powerful speeches I've ever heard about ending the occupation of Afghanistan. Please take a look and imagine if we had a Democratic caucus filled with men and women like this:
If you liked that, by the way, Eric Massa is prominently featured-- in the #1 slot-- on our Blue America No Means No page and today might be a great day to let him know what you think about his approach.
Eric is blogging live about this at Daily Kos.