Towards Understanding Blue Dog Democrats

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?

0 responses to “Towards Understanding Blue Dog Democrats

  1. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Mitchell was voting to maximize his re-election chances. I would also give at least even odds that he may be voting his principles. Nobody can know what principles elected officials really believe other than by what they vote for.

  2. Rex, my belief is that these people don’t really stand for anything but being in power and making lots of money, and have made the cold financial calculation that voting as vassals and cronies of big business will earn them more in campaign donations than it will lose them votes from an underinformed electorate.
    The best example would be someone like Senate Bush Dog leader Evan Bayh. He voted against Obama’s budget because he whined it cost too much, and on the same day he voted for the Jon Kyle’s Paris Hilton Tax cut that costs half a trillion dollars over the next five years.
    Does that make any sense?
    And Bayh knows that the donations (and the posh million dollar lobbying gig post-Senate) will come in at a greater pace than news will go out about how full of crap he is.
    Somebody like Giffords or Kirkpatrick is just a wannabe Bayh and it is disgusting.

  3. Right Rex,

    I believe it was Gabby that stated that she would vote to end the conflict in Iraq, but any means, and have the troops home by the end of 2007 during the 06 campaign. She then was a stanch voter to support the Bush Iraq policies, about a trillion worth, once in office. You’re right, it is insulting.

    Giffords is very manipulative and evasive on just about any subject matter. Can you tell me how she feels about the current TURF? My guess this is just too controversial for her since she most likely gets a pile of $$ from the banking execs. I’ll wager she’ll keep her mouth shut for now, it’s her mantra. Gabby maybe a Blue Dog and a New Dem, but all this does is to give her the jelly she thinks is backbone.

    Which way will the wind blow her today, Rex? Think she’ll cut some bloated defense spending or just keep marching this county into unsustainable debt to keep a vote or two? Not very Democratic and not even Blue Dog.

  4. By the way, DO click on the link AzBlueMeanie has provided above. The list of members of the New Democrat Coalition includes representatives from every area of the country. They are men and women, white, black, Hispanic and Asian. As an affirmed political junkie, I can attest to the fact that they would not be an easy group to typecast ideologically either.

  5. Is it possible for you litmus-testers to concede the fact that membership in these groups is also indicative of the member’s own beliefs and values? I don’t know much about Kirkpatrick, but both Giffords and Mitchell have been very honest and forthcoming about their views since they both served in the Arizona Legislature. It’s insulting to them (and intellectually shallow on your part) to assert that their votes are solely based on politically expedient strategies designed to keep them in good standing with the voters in their districts.

    Honestly, the writers on this blog sometimes remind me of the right-wingers at Sonoran Alliance who are always so quick to scream “RINO!” when some Republican dares to depart from their rigid orthodoxy. Carolyn Allen is the last remaining GOP moderate in the Legislature due to their “efforts” to purge anyone from the GOP who is not a hard-right ideologue. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party can point with pride to the fact that our elected officials at the state and federal level in Arizona are a diverse group truly representative of the diversity of our party.

  6. AzBlueMeanie

    Here is the link for the New Democrat Coalition

    And its membership page

    Which includes Rep. Gabriel Giffords and Rep. Harry Mtchell. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is not currently listed as a member.

  7. I have read some places that my Representative Ann Kirkpatrick is a member of a “bush Dog” wannabe group called the New Democrat [sic] Coalition.
    The people who invented this group are so stupid that they call themselves the Democrat [sic] Party, which as we all know is a Limbaugh-style slur of the Democratic Party.
    I can’t get Ann Kirkpatrick to actually verify if she is hanging out with these losers or not.
    Take that as you will.

  8. Are you listening, GABBY!