Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blue Dog Caucus Crumbling As Fast As Qaddafi's Hold On Libya


Although the right-wing Blue Dog caucus was all but wiped out last year-- with as much as half the Democrats in their districts staying home and refusing to vote for them on election day-- the bad dogs haven't been house trained by the trauma. They're still voting with the GOP on even the most important issues before Congress.

In the 2010 midterms the Blue Dog caucus was decimated. You know all those losses you heard about that the Democrats had in the House? It was almost entirely Blue Dogs and other conservative Democrats who voted with them but never officially joined the caucus for one reason or another (like Ann Kirkpatrick, Suzanne Kosmas, Melissa Bean, Bill Foster, Ike Skelton, John Adler, and Michael McMahon).

Among the Blue Dogs who lost were caucus co-chairs Baron Hill (IN) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), as well as both longtime incumbents like Gene Taylor (MS), Jim Marshall (GA), Earl Pomeroy (ND), Allen Boyd (FL) and Lincoln Davis (TN) and most of the fresh batch of new comers who swept into office under cover in the two national Democratic waves of 2006 and 2008-- Bobby Bright (AL), Walt Minnick (ID), Chris Carney (PA), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Glenn Nye (VA), Zack Space (OH), Betsy Markey (CO), Travis Childers (MS), Frank Kratovil (MD), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA) and Scott Murphy (NY).

And although the outlook for congressional Democrats in general looks good for 2012, Blue Dogs are likely to drag the party down again. If you look at the 10 Democrats who voted most frequently against the party and with Boehner and Cantor, all of them are Blue Dogs and all have alienated Democratic and left-leaning independent voters in their districts. Several have already declared that they're leaving the House. The worst Democrat of all, ultra reactionary corporate shill Dan Boren (OK), has voted with Boehner on over 82% of the crucial roll calls this year-- more often than 14 actual Republicans! He wisely decided to retire from politics. The next most Republican-voting Democrat-- 79% of the crucial votes-- was Jason Altmire (PA) who has been gerrymandered into a primary with another conservative Democrat, Mark Critz. Corrupt Arkansas hack Mike Ross has almost the exact same putrid right-wing voting record as Altmire and, like Boren, he's decided to retire from politics. The 4th worst Democrat is Jim Matheson, who may run for another office now that his district has been gerrymandered to be less likely to reelect him, despite the fact that he was with Boehner on over 73% of the crucial votes.

The other Democrats Cantor has been able to count on when he's needed them to stab Democrats in the back on the most important issues are:
Collin Peterson (MN)- 72% with the GOP, but probably safe
John Barrow (GA)- 71% with the GOP, and likely to lose in a newly gerrymandered district
Henry Cuellar (TX)- 70% with the GOP but probably safe
Joe Donnelly (IN)- 70% with the GOP, gerrymandered and likely to make a losing run for the Senate
Jim Costa (CA)- 69% with the GOP, in a dramatic move right, facing a tough reelection in a redistricting that hasn't been friendly to him
Tim Holden (PA)- 66% with the GOP, could face a primary and, if he survives, a serious Republican challenger

Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC), one of the few energetic cheer leaders left for anti-progressive Blue Dogism faces a tough primary battle from bona fide populist Democrat Cecil Bothwell [you can help Cecil defeat Shuler here] and a tougher district. And he's still weighing either taking a job as a gym teacher back in Tennessee or switching to the GOP.
Blue Dog lawmakers say that talk of their group’s demise is overstated. When the balance of power shifts in Congress, they point out, it’s generally those in the center who take the hardest hits.

“Basically, when the Republicans take over, they beat the conservative Democrats. When the Democrats take over, they pretty much defeat moderate Republicans,” Ross said. “That’s because when you’re in a swing district, you’re going to be a conservative Democrat or a moderate Republican, or you don’t survive.”

Lawmakers have several theories about why the ranks of moderates are on the decline. Congressional districts are being drawn in a way that favors increasingly partisan representation from both parties. Also, much of the money flowing to campaigns these days comes from interest groups with a decidedly partisan edge, such as the Club for Growth on the right or labor unions on the left.

Although right-wing and corporate PACs still finance the Blue Dog caucus, often surreptitiously, unions have finally started backing away from contributing the rightists who tend to vote against the interests of their members. By the way, the Washington Post link is to a story that is pure Blue Dog hype and gets the story of why the Blue Dogs were defeated completely wrong. But it's what they believe Inside the Beltway.

On his new campaign website, Cecil Bothwell explains some of the most fundamental difference between himself and conservatives-- whether a Blue Dog like Heath Shuler or a garden variety Republican corporate shill:
We have been in an economic recession since 2008. Most economists agree that it was triggered by the Bush tax cuts for the rich, American involvement in foreign wars and the housing bubble that burst when it was discovered that highly rated, bundled subprime mortgages promoted by investment bankers were actually worthless. Interestingly, no one was ever brought to trial or held accountable for this widespread scam. The government bailed out the banks and provided a relatively small stimulus for economic growth.

But people who lost their life savings and/or homes received almost no help or consideration. As job loss continues, more and more people are suffering. The big banks and mega-corporations however are making as much money as before the 2008 crash. And obviously, they are not using these profits to create jobs; they are simply giving big bonuses to executives and sitting on their cash, most of which is held offshore to avoid taxation. Needless to say, if this corporate profit were repatriated, the money would generate tax revenue which could be used by the government to create jobs and/or reduce the deficit.

To date, the Republicans have insisted on debt reduction at the expense of job creation. The net result is that they call for draconian cuts in spending that can only shrink the economy. If the “super congress” committee composed of six Republican and six Democrats from the House and Senate cannot agree on severe cuts in government spending, measures to further shrink and eliminate government spending will automatically kick in. Programs at greatest risk include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and the Pentagon budget.

It is time for the living, breathing people of this nation to reexamine our priorities and reclaim management of our country. The United States was created to grant real people an opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What we need now includes medical care for all, education for all, retirement with dignity for all and opportunities for workers to improve life circumstances for themselves and their families. Banks and corporations are, after all, only artificial entities created by and intended to serve real, living humans.

This is a guy worth trying to help get into Congress. This morning he went on to emphasize that "The Hill suggested this week that my opponent, Heath Shuler, is the 4th most threatened Democrat in the country, due to redistricting. While that opinion is based on the idea that the new district is 'more Republican,' I see it as just one more reason why the old argument that we can only elect a conservative Democrat here is yesterday's news. If we don't offer a clear alternative, someone who represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party (in Howard Dean's memorable quip), we don't have any chance in hell of activating the progressives to get out and vote. Turnout is everything, and I'm that Democrat." You can contribute to his campaign at our Bad Dogs page, our anti-Blue Dogs campaign site.

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At 6:39 AM, Blogger John said...

The House of the 111th Congress Jan 2009-2011 had a 75 seat majority for "Democrats"

I am sincerely in awe of your seat-by-seat knowledge of the Dem caucus. But ...

Even considering the scurrilous "blue dogs," I maintain that the failure, for example, to even introduce HR676 (Medicare for All) was NOT a problem relative to said "dogs." It was rather, a lack of courage of, OR yet-to-be-fully-appreciated canine propensities of the House "leadership" responding to the high-pitched whistle emanating from the White (dog) House.

John Puma

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous flynnbw said...

I think that if Medicare for All had been the default position for the Progressive Caucus and the President, the Blue Dogs would have embraced the public option as the "moderate" choice.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger John said...

To flynnbw:

At least that.

The minimum Dem majority in the 2009 was 76 seats (at one point it was 81.) But, when I finally checked, I found there were 52-54 blue dogs, in excess of the 39 that could kill any Dem legislation.

Now we get into the analysis of "how much of a real voting bloch" were/are these dogs ... which I won't address.

John Puma

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Jolly Roger said...

Losing the "blue dick" dems is about like losing an abscessed tooth-sure, you notice when it's gone, but you're happy about it.


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