Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Speaking up for the Blue Dogs
Chris Bowers, Campaign Director at the Daily Kos is venting his frustration over electoral setbacks by flooding the internet with attacks upon the "Blue Dogs" -- Democrats in Congress who, calling themselves moderates, were elected in less-than-liberal districts. Your typical Blue Dog may be (for example) a retired military officer who generally supports women's rights, the civil service, labor unions, science and the environment -- but who will also sometimes balk at parts of the core party agenda, especially over fiscal, taxation or defense-related matters.
Without question, the Blue Dog Caucus was an occasional headache for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, during the four years of a tense Democratic majority. While Republicans in Congress have shown themselves to be the most disciplined and tightly-organized party machine in U.S. history, marching obediently to their leaders' tune, Pelosi found, in sharp contrast, that democrats are no different than they were in Will Rogers' 1930s... less a "party" than a herd of disorderly cats.
(In fact, I've long urged that the Democrats make use of these distinctly-different images. The Dems' perpetual disorganization conveys a certain quality of almost-endearing harmlessness! While one has only to speak, in sardonic "envy," about the GOP's lockstep precision in order to evoke unflattering comparisons, without even mentioning certain other rigid party machines of the 20th Century. Alas, no one seems to have picked up on this clever political imagery.)
So, what was the chief effect of having a bunch of Blue Dogs, yapping and occasionally growling, as Nancy Pelosi herded together her diverse coalition? For the last four years our Congress was a deliberative body, all right. But all real negotiation had to take place within the democratic caucus.
That was where a true diversity of (sane) American political opinion was both represented and expressed. It was our House of Commons... as opposed to the GOP's House of Lords. And that happened largely because the Blue Dogs - and other quirky exceptions - were welcome inside the Democratic tent.
The only way to get negotiation... and win over new friends
Let's be clear. Because the Republicans deliberately absented themselves from any meaningful negotiation, over any issue at all, it was only through the Blue Dogs that whole swathes of genuine American political perspective wound up getting meaningfully voiced. Only because of these collegial but also critical comrades, did the liberals find themselves forced to listen, to explain, and sometimes to adjust their endeavors, taking into account the worries and concerns of decent Americans who just happen to think a little differently.
That may be tactically inconvenient, but it is strategically vital, over the long run. Heck, of all the differences between Democrats and Republicans, that diversity within their caucus should be their biggest source of pride!
But not, apparently, according to Chris Bowers or the guys at Kos:
"Democrats suffered serious losses on Tuesday, but no one was hit harder than the corporatist Blue Dogs. Over half their members are gone. Apparently, being the GOP's best friends on issue after issue wasn't the political winner they claimed it was. ... But getting drubbed hasn't made the Blue Dogs humble. Now, they have Nancy Pelosi in their sights, demanding she step down as Democratic leader in the House. The Blue Dogs want to replace her with one of their own, so they can deliver our entire party to Wall Street."
What can I say? This could not conceivably be more wrong-headed.
First, Should the dems strive to imitate the disciplined partisanship of the Republicans? Even if that were a good idea (it isn't), tell me how you expect to achieve it? Democrats differ from Republicans over more than policy. Far more, it is a matter of personality.
Second, there is no sign whatsoever that Blue Dogs were less in favor of renewed regulatory oversight of the gamblers and thieves who ran wild, under neocon rule. Sure, they seem more inclined than I would like, to restore some of the expiring Bushite tax cuts for the rich. So? That is a policy position worth arguing over! Negotiating. Listening, counter-arguing, yelling, then listening some more and trying out compromises... it is the old American way. Just because the GOP has gone crazy with purist dogmatism, does that mean Democrats have to?
But there is another problem with Bowers's contemptuous dismissal of this contingent of (mildly) "conservative democrats." Sure, the Blue Dogs suffered badly in the 2010 elections. There is a reason for that.
Blue dogs are the ones on the front lines! They are the democrats fighting it out in the districts that can be contested. They were the men and women who forged ahead and took back the House in 2006. Above all, they they are the ones who go from door to door, in heartland constituencies, prying one voter after another away from the GOP.
They haven't been sitting around, spouting sanctimony from gerrymandered safe seats. They are the best fighters the democrats have got.
Let me make this plain. I do not agree with everything the Blue Dogs do, say or believe. I want those Bushite tax breaks for the rich to simply end. Period. And there's much more.
But I have a stronger agenda... to once again have a Congress where negotiating and deliberation takes place. One can dream that might happen by the Republican Party awakening from its Fox-Pox fever and returning to the gentility and reason of Barry Goldwater. Or it can happen by the Democratic Party truly opening a big tent, for all who want to argue and negotiate like grownups.
We need more Blue Dogs. A lot more.
My own district in California has been gerrymandered into being "safe" for a GOP congressman who is a decidedly unproductive, unhelpful and dogmatic person, uninterested in repairing the damage of neocon misrule, only in playing Rupert Murdoch's tune.
Living next to a military base, I have to wonder -- why does our local democratic party keep nominating Santa Monica-style liberals, in a gerried-conservative district, instead of recruiting some decent (if crewcut) ex-Marine colonel, with fire in his belly and an appreciation for science, trees, logic, accountability and strong-willed women? If he believes in these things, and can (unlike some purist liberal) actually win here, must we exclude him with some litmus test or partisan purity on other matters?
Look, we have one hope to save America from the Murdochians. And it is not to copy their fierce partisanship. The goppers can be weakened but only by shattering their coalition. By convincing a few million fairly-decent, old-fashioned conservatives that it just isn't Barry Goldwater's Republican Party anymore. (Goldwater himself disowned the neocon-dominated GOP as having "gone mad," just before he died.)
Sure, Blue Dogs won't always vote the way all liberals want. So? Dig it, the people who live in "swing" districts really ARE different than voters in Santa Monica or San Francisco, and hence they deserve to have their better views represented. If they can be persuaded to send a Blue Dog -- say, a decent and pragmatic ex-military officer who believes in womens' rights, and in science, and in *negotiation*... then I say terrific. We can work with men and women like that.
You may find them irksome, at times, but they are the silver bullets that can nail Murdoch and his oligarchs, getting their fangs out of our necks.