Thursday, June 14, 2012

Eclipse Of The Blue Dogs?


Tuesday one of the 9 conservatives the Blue Dogs are trying to slip into the Democratic House caucus was defeated-- Arkansas state Rep. Clark Hall, who went down (and went down ugly) to Scott Ellington. There are 8 horrendous fake Democrats left: Leonard Bembry (FL), who still has a primary, Dave Crooks (IN), Pam Gulleson (ND) who had no opponent in her primary last night, Nick Lampson (TX), Brendan Mullen (IN), Hayden Rogers (NC), Rob Wallace (OK), who still has a primary, and Charlie Wilson (OH). With "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel in control, all 8 are being pushed by the DCCC-- Mullen, Crooks, Gulleson, Wilson and Lampson already on Red-to-Blue and Hayden Rogers, Leonard Bembry and Rob Wallace on the Emerging Races list.

The Blue Dog caucus lost half its members in the 2010 Great Blue Dog Apocalypse. Blue America helped that along by making sure Bobby Bright, the single worst Blue Dog-- who was advertising that he wouldn't vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker if he were reelected-- was defeated. This year a shitload more are retiring, including some of the worst of the worst: Heath Shuler (NC), Dan Boren (OK), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Mike Ross (AR). And the first Blue Dog with a serious primary, Tim Holden, was overwhelmingly defeated by Matt Cartwright, another race Blue America helped out in. Jason Altmire, another Pennsylvania Blue Dog was also defeated in his primary. But what's been happening is that the Blue Dogs have been migrating to a less understood caucus of conservative, pro-Big Business Democrats, the New Dems. All sorts of slimy Blue Dogs have infiltrated, from John Barrow (GA), Adam Schiff (CA) and Jim Cooper (TN) to Jason Altmire (PA), Loretta Sanchez (CA) and Mike McIntyre (NC). I suspect that Blue America will spend the rest of this election cycle fighting Republicans rather than Blue Dogs, not because we don't want to defeat Blue Dogs, just because there aren't any really good targets left. But we'll watch and see what presents itself. Meanwhile Mike Conrad did an excellent analysis of the Blue Dog disease infecting the DC Dems and I want to suggest anyone interested in exterminating Blue Dogs read the whole thing carefully. Below are some excerpts:
Blue Dogma-- The belief that the role elected conservaDems as we know them play in the Democratic Party is a necessary and productive one born of immutable laws of politics. This belief, built upon on a set of myths and misreadings promoted by those whose political relevance depends on them, keeps Democrats from clearly seeing the opportunities and challenges in front of us.

Admittedly, the proponents of the this belief have been pretty successful at getting influential Democrats to internalize their narrative. ConservaDems and their self-described “centrist” defenders go to great lengths to cast themselves as “realists” and “pragmatists” keeping the party tethered to the political mainstream. But if their claims were checked against the record, it would largely be on the grounds of realism and pragmatism that the decision would be made to stop propping Blue Dogs up. They have unrealistic ideas about elections, routinely overlooking fundamentals like economic security metrics and turnout. On the policy front they have little interest in doing what we know works if K Street or the right-wing object to it, as they always do. That conservaDems get away with doing this while laying claim to realism and pragmatism is a testament to the free ride they have received up until this point.

It’s natural to initially think that there must be a redeeming quality to elected Blue Dogs, otherwise they wouldn’t be the institution that they are. But the truth is that, for the most part, they owe their stature to a series of interlocking myths-- and organizations, first the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) and now Third Way, that champion these myths for their own ends.

...[T]he Democratic Party has a conservaDem problem that can no longer be ignored without major cost. In 2010, 16 years after the Blue Dog Caucus was founded, their ranks were decimated. Predictably, they claim the lesson from the debacle is that the party needs more of them. To paraphrase the often used line about movement conservatism: conservaDems cannot fail, they can only be failed.

The DLC acted as if the success of the party depended on its ability to secure the votes of conservative Southern voters. Their pitch seemed to be tailored to conservative white men in the South. This cohort was on its way to becoming a much less critical part of a winning Democratic coalition, but the DLC presented itself as the key to an all-important center that would determine the party’s fate. Third Way is the new DLC in the sense that they have their own conservative Southern voters: supposed “centrist” voters whose idea of a “centrist” matches up with the Beltway and who vote based on that alignment. If these voters actually exist outside of DC, there aren’t many of them, yet Third Way remains emphatic that the road to electoral victory lies through them.

...Blue Dogs are all about the deficit, except when they’re not — which is most of the time. Many of them supported the ideas that paved the way for the Great Recession and helped cripple efforts to get us out of it; they supported and continue to support the Bush tax rates for the most wealthy, some even going along with Grover Norquist’s fringe crusade to get rid of the estate tax; leading Blue Dogs endorsed the repatriation scheme; many of them supported the Iraq War; they’re far too close to AHIP and PhRMA to do anything positive about health care costs, the driver of any long-term deficit problem; and because of their fealty to Wall Street they won’t be supporting a financial transactions tax or serious efforts to reign in a decidedly reckless financial sector.

It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Blue Dogs are either clueless about the very issue that is their self-proclaimed reason for existing, or much like elected Republicans they don’t really care about the deficit as much as they like to use it as an all-purpose excuse, often an incoherent one. You could approach Heath Shuler with a proposal that is broadly popular good policy that happens to reduce the long-term deficit, but if K Street objected he would oppose it, alluding to “the deficit” and “the center” as his reason for doing so.

What They Really Do

Prevent Results

Again, persuadable voters respond to results or lack thereof. Making legislation less effective, as Blue Dogs in Congress have done, enables the conditions that push swing voters to the other party. Catering to economically irresponsible Blue Dogs leads to Democrats losing winnable elections.

Cycle of Self-Fulfilling Doom

Blue Dogs are always going to be vulnerable. When they freak out and lurch to the far-right they fail to help themselves, if not making things worse by turning the fundamentals against them, while hurting Democrats in majority-making districts. Blue Dogs have shown themselves to be unwilling to recognize, let alone break, this cycle. When a lot of Blue Dogs lose, as they did in 2010, they blame their nominal party’s lack of complete devotion to propping them up (under the guise of “the deficit” and the “the center”), but they show little interest in getting the right answer to not very difficult question of why so many of them lost.

Undermine Our Coalition

Just a brief list:

Heath Shuler partnered with Tom Tancredo on extreme anti-immigration legislation.

Blue Dogs helped block long overdue labor law reform, which on top of being a big problem from a policy perspective, did major damage to the Democratic coalition in Midwest swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

ConservaDems dragged out the health care reform process for so long that it turned voters against the finished product. ConservaDems also watered down the legislation (note the considerable group of voters who oppose the bill because it doesn’t go far enough). To finish the political malpractice trifecta, “deficit hawks” pushed back the implementation timeline.

Blue Dogs signed on to the right’s attacks on women’s health.

...Elected conservaDems, through their contributions to the ongoing Great Recession, their decision to take part in the obstruction of things Democrats have campaigned on for a long time, and their painfully apparent detachment from core Democratic values, encourage disaffected progressives to disengage from electoral politics. Among the “nowhere to go” doctrine’s many flaws is the assumption that those on the receiving end of it will remain invested in electoral politics.

You'll never find a Blue Dog-- we learned the hard way-- on the Blue America list... nor even someone who might be a stealth Blue Dog the way Chris Carney and Patrick Murphy were. We avoid supporting New Dems, who are mostly a bunch of Blue Dogs without the KKK sheets and burning crosses. And one of the main things the Blue Dogs and New Dems have in common is slavish devotion to institutionalized Beltway corruption. Both are financed by Big Business in an effort to have people inside the Democratic Party to water down initiatives that are pro-consumer, pro-environment, pro-worker, and most of all, pro-regulation of predatory business practices.

One of the slimiest and most corrupt members of the California legislature, putative Democrat Juan Vargas-- who I predict will eventually switch parties-- is running for Congress... and will win. A water carrier for Big Insurance, he's been embraced and endorsed, predictably, by the New Dems. Labor and revolting Sacramento Establishment Democrats were so eager to get him out of the state, that they actually backed him in his House race! And he's doing all he can to make sure he has no viable opposition. Yesterday Christopher Cadelago at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Mehrad Yazdi at Republic Reports had the whole story.
Democratic state Sen. Juan Vargas used some of the $630,000 he spent running for Congress in the primary election on an unusual but ultimately fruitful cause-- direct mailers promoting a Republican rival, his preferred opponent in November.

California’s new primary system lets the top two vote getters advance to the November election regardless of party affiliations. In Vargas’ heavily Democratic district, the odds of two Democrats ending up in the top two positions were significant. Running against a Republican in the general election would be a safer bet. So Vargas’s campaign decided to promote one of his Republican challengers, Michael Crimmins, a wounded war veteran:

They planned to mail comparison pieces to likely Republican voters that would continue to criticize Ducheny, place Vargas in a neutral-to-favorable light, and raise the name identification of one of the three Republicans on the ballot…In all, Vargas spent at least eight times more promoting Crimmins than the Republican spent on his own campaign. If the plan didn’t work, Vargas was almost certain to square off with [likely Democratic challenger] Ducheny.

Crimmins was not even the choice of the local Republican Party, which instead backed businesswoman Xanthi Gionis. Crimmins had even been ousted from the local GOP central committee. Crimmins ended up beating Ducheny and Gionis and will face off against his admirer Vargas in the runoff election in November.

Vargas is well-funded thanks in part to his chummy relationship with the banking industry. As the chairman of the California State Senate Banking Committee, he killed a foreclosure mitigation bill that would have helped consumers better understand and hold accountable the mortgage market. Soon after, he dined with Bank of America lobbyists. He’s received tens of thousands of dollars from the banking industry to fund his current race.

California, the Democratic Party (at least for now) and America are stuck with this worthless and corrupt wheeler-dealer. We'll probably never get rid of him until his greed gets the best of him and he's caught breaking even the almost nonexistent rules Congress has made for itself. Even Steve Israel and the DCCC can't bear to be publicly associated with him! And this video the Indiana GOP is running against Joe Donnelly, a reactionary Blue Dog who wants to be a senator, is a perfect example of why Blue Dogs and other conflicted, confused conservaDems make abysmal, ineffective candidates and always come across as inauthentic. More often then not, voters who want what politicians like Joe Donnelly are selling, are happy to vote for a Republican.

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At 12:15 AM, Blogger John said...

Once again I ask DWT: given the best possible result imaginable in November (with appropriate assumptions on remaining primaries) what will be the population of the House "progressive" caucus?

John Puma


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