Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The House Democrats Blue Dog Coalition purports to "appeal to mainstream values of the American public," and they are "dedicated to a core set of beliefs that transcend partisan politics, including a deep commitment to the financial stability and national security of the United States." There are presently 47 Members of the Blue Dog Coalition, including our own Rep. Gabriel Giffords (AZ-8). Rep. Harry Mitchell (AZ-5) oddly enough is not an official member, but a Blue Dog wannabe (he has applied but has not been accepted).
Giffords frequently votes with the party leadership and will defend her votes, while Mitchell frequently opposes Democratic spending, tax and budget proposals and sends out press releases trumpeting his opposition vote to his own party. Mitchell is like the kid in school who wants to be the teacher's pet: "Pick me! Pick me!" He wants that Blue Dog label as if it is some kind of magical talisman to ward off any evil Republican challenger. It has no magic, Harry.
I receive complaints all the time about Mitchell's press releases dissing his own party's proposals. I find it infuriating at times myself. But you have to keep in mind what is really going on here from the broader perspective.
Many Blue Dogs and Blue Dog wannabes come from traditionally conservative leaning districts, whether it be the old Dixiecrat regions of the South, or the libertarian Republican regions of the Great Plains or Mountain West. Many of these congressional districts were recently represented by Republicans, and there is still a Republican voter registration edge in many districts (including AZ-5 and AZ-8). Newly minted Democratic Congress critters from swing districts or even Republican leaning districts are not about "to boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before." They play it safe by being cautious and taking positions that do not stray too far from their constituencies.
More importantly, these Blue Dog Democrats in the Congress make it possible for the Democratic Party to actually be the majority party in the Congress, which gives the Progressive Democratic Caucus the opportunity to pursue its agenda. It's a ying and yang kinda thing. Progressive Democrats should be grateful and just learn to live with it.
If you analyze the votes cast by these Blue Dogs and Blue Dog wannabes (like Harry Mitchell), you will discover that they are mostly casting what is sometimes referred to as a "safety vote" – the bill is going to pass by a safe margin so they are free to vote against the bill so they can tell their conservative constituencies back home that they voted against the bill, but in fact they did not actively try to impede the legislation from moving forward. I am not currently aware of any bill in the current Congress when the vote of Blue Dogs and Blue Dog wannabes joined forces with the Republicans to defeat a bill on a final roll call vote. (If you know of one, post it in the comments.)
Blue Dogs are like that old tired dog who sits on the front porch and occasionally barks at people passing by just to let them know that he is there. They are relatively harmless – just so long as they stay on the porch and occasionally just bark, and not try to bite the hand that feeds them.
My biggest disappointment with the Blue Dogs is that they take their districts as they find them and tend to play to their constituencies' preexisting biases, as Mitchell does. For the most part, Blue Dogs do not actively try to educate voters or to use the power of persuasion (the bully pulpit) to move their conservative leaning constituencies towards a better understanding of and support for the center-left positions of the Democratic Party, or to reject the wild-eyed ravings of far-right conservative Republicans. If Blue Dogs were to make this effort, they would be of far greater value to the Democratic Party.
Are you listening, Harry?