It is frightening to me how many “progressives” are patting themselves on the back for some of the results of the 2014 election. Perhaps they’re simply looking for the diamond in a huge pile of horse manure, but let me assure you, there is no diamond. None. There are no bright spots. I know some of you think you accomplished something by getting rid of Landrieu (okay, not yet, but soon), Pryor, Manchin, etc., but let me assure you, you did not.
See, this is the problem… we focus like a laser on specific individual Democrats who are less than perfect, and we lose sight of what’s actually important; which is the majority. See, Landrieu, Pryor and Manchin (oh my!) can each do exactly diddly squat on their own. For that matter, Warren, Sanders, and (formerly) Feingold also can do nothing on their own, without a majority. They need votes from 59 other Senators and a House majority and a Democratic president to get anything done.
Add 2014’s Blue Dog casualties to the Blue Dog casualties from the last disastrous midterms in 2010, and we will have replaced a near-supermajority Senate with a majority GOP Senate and replaced a Democratic House majority with a GOP House majority. All we have left to save us from complete disaster is President Obama, and these same people are trying their best to lose the presidential race in 2016 for Democrats by attacking the leading candidate and promoting a third party run by Bernie Sanders.
More to the point, in 2010, we had a chance to give Democrats a supermajority in 2010 by gaining about 2-3 Senate seats, and we could have increased the Democratic majority, as well. Yet, in two midterms, we did the exact opposite. That would be okay if we had replaced Blue Dogs with progressives, but we didn’t. We replaced them with Tea Party stalwarts.
Yeah, I know what some of you are going to say. If a Democrat is going to “act like a Republican,” they deserve whatever happens to them. Right? Well, no. First of all, have you seen the Republican Party these days? The level of crazy in that party is off the charts. And no one in the Democratic Party even comes close to the level of crazy in the GOP these days. Not even close. In other words, when you claim a “Democrat is acting like a Republican,” you are lying. Perhaps, if you were to compare some red-state Democrats to some Republicans from 1948, you might have a point. But now? You have to be joking.
While Blue Dogs do tend to be rather conservative, it is in the classical sense. There are few actual classical conservatives left in the Republican Party, and the few who remain are constantly bullied by the right wing contingent who now dominate the party into bending to their will. There is a reason why I wish we would stop referring to teabaggers and people like them as “conservative.” They are not conservative, they are right wing. There is a huge difference. In 1995, when actual conservative Republicans shut down the government, the party cried “uncle” when it was clear there was no way to win with that strategy. Last year, when they shut down the government again, about three-quarters of the Republican caucus voted to keep the government closed, even when it was clear they would take a political hit for doing so. Consider; 144 Republicans voted to default on the national debt. That is something no actual conservative would ever vote for. The actual conservatives in the GOP risked their political fortunes when they decided to vote with Democrats to open the government and raise the debt ceiling, and a few of them only won this year because Democrats and Independents failed to turn out at the polls. And why was that? Because most voters know the GOP is crazy, and the people they should be able to trust – PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade) and the professional left – were telling them Democrats weren’t any better.
If you think Blue Dogs being replaced by teabaggers is somehow a positive development, it makes me wonder where your head is. I know many of you think Blue Dogs tend to be “spineless,” but the vast majority of Blue Dogs represent(ed) red districts or states, and their affiliation with the Democratic Party is itself a sign of significant political courage. In politics, there is often a fine line between political courage and political stupidity, and they are experts at toeing it.
For example, for Mary Landrieu or Joe Manchin to come out against the oil or coal industries in their states may seem politically “courageous” to some, but it would have been politically stupid, because they would have lost, no matter how many voters showed up. If you expect someone like Mark Pryor of Arkansas or Joe Manchin of West Virginia to have the same progressive political views as someone like Maxine Waters of deep blue Los Angeles or Charlie Rangel of Harlem, you don’t get how this whole “politics” thing works. If Manchin or Allison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky were to spend political capital decrying the coal industry, they could never be elected/reelected. Why? Because coal is a major industry in their states, and the people living there would feel threatened by them. Like I said, one person’s “political courage” is another’s “political stupidity.” If you’re going to run for office and not try to win, you’re Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich. You would think Kucinich would serve as a cautionary tale. As long as his district was solidly progressive, he won every time. As soon as they changed the district to only a Democratic district, he lost. You can only be boldly progressive when you have the support to be “boldly progressive.”
The fact of the matter is, Blue Dogs, while not ideal, aren’t all that bad. Yes, their rhetoric sometimes makes me cringe, but so what? Everyone’s rhetoric makes me cringe at some point or another. It’s just rhetoric. Rhetoric is meaningless; that you focus on it to an extreme degree does not mean it has greater importance than it actually does.
And focusing on individual votes on individual bills is a sign of political naiveté, not savvy. You actually have to dig deeper. Blue Dogs votes on bills that you like should only matter if they made the difference between winning or losing. If 235 Republicans voted for or against a bill and 5 Blue Dogs joined them, they could have been giving themselves political cover at home, so they could go to their constituents and get their vote next time. Their votes didn’t matter, really; the bill would have passed/failed without them. You would be much more effective politically if you focused on the 235 Republicans, because if there were only 200 of them, the horrendous bill probably wouldn’t exist in the first place. Got it?
Remember the 111th Congress? That was the last time Democrats had a majority in both the House and the Senate. In that Congressional session, the Democratically-controlled House passed 375 bills that were blocked by a Republican minority in Congress. Because of changes in filibuster rules that the GOP put in place when they were in charge, just about every bill needed 60 Senate votes to pass. Unfortunately, for most of the 111th Congress, Democrats had 59 votes in the Senate. Technically, they had 60 votes for about 30 or so session days, but it was a technicality, since Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were mostly in the hospital at the time, and too sick to attend more than a few special votes. Because of the litigation-happy Republican Norm Coleman, Democrat Al Franken couldn’t take his seat until July 2009. Then, when the special election was held in early 2010, progressives decided to trash Martha Coakley, and handed Ted Kennedy’s seat to a Republican for the rest of his term.
Now, I’m not going to claim that all 375 bills the House passed and the Senate rejected were progressive gems, but many were. (Here are some of them.) And Democrats were still only 2-3 seats away from having the 60+ seats they needed to break the logjam. Yet, when it came time for the 2010 midterms to come along, PUBs and professional lefties spent the entire campaign calling Obama a “disappointment” and calling Democrats “spineless.” Not only that, but they attacked Blue Dogs incessantly. Not surprisingly, after 2008 saw the highest voter turnout since 1968, turnout dropped back to the usual 37 percent in 2010. Instead of gaining 2-3 more seats and creating a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, we lost Blue Dogs (and some progressives) in the Senate, and Democrats lost their majority in the House, as well.
All because of PUB and professional left political stupidity and dishonesty.
Well, start with the fact that most voters don’t know, nor do they care, what a “Blue Dog” is. Therefore, when they said “Blue Dogs,” voters heard “Democrats.” That’s why Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson lost, along with half the Blue Dog caucus. And NOT ONE of the Blue Dogs who lost, lost to someone more progressive than they were. NOT ONE! Every single Blue Dog who lost, lost to a teabagger. Every single one of them. Overnight, a House Tea Party caucus that did not exist in 2010 had more members than the Blue Dog caucus. And this was not an improvement.
Well, start with the fact that only ONE member of the Blue Dog Caucus voted with Democrats less than 80 percent of the time in 2009-2010, and he voted with them 68 percent of the time. If you can find a Republican who voted with Democrats even five percent of the time, good luck.
Add to that the fact that no Blue Dog ever cast a deciding vote against a Democratic bill, including the Affordable Care Act, which was opposed by a majority in many Blue Dog districts and states. No Blue Dog ever blocked a Democratic bill in the Senate. No Blue Dog ever voted against a cloture motion. Compare that to the fact that only 2-3 Republicans voted for cloture, ever, during the 111th Congressional session, and you can see why comparisons of the two are dishonest. A number of Blue Dogs actually put their reelection on the line by casting deciding votes for Democratic bills. On the other hand, you would be hard pressed to find five Republican who ever voted for a major Democratic-sponsored bill.
Lumping all Blue Dogs together and implying they were “as bad as Republicans” was a lie. You would be hard-pressed to find a single Blue Dog who agreed with the GOP on much of anything, and that would include the ACA/Obamacare. In fact, many of the PUBs and professional lefties who called out Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman on their opposition to some aspects of “Obamacare” themselves called for the bill to die, because they opposed some aspects of it. In other words, they were not only dishonest, but ironic.
Do not ever pat yourself on the back for any aspect of the results of the last two midterm elections. There were no silver linings in these results. Individual congresscritters are not important, unless they are part of the majority. Majorities matter in politics. Oh, I know, some PUBs and pro lefties will have you believe that they can tilt at windmills and make magical things happen, but as I’ve noted, they’re not very knowledgeable. If you’re one of those who thinks getting rid of all the Blue Dogs is something of a positive, you need to get a clue. Getting rid of them took the majority away from Democrats, and it gave the Tea Party an “in.” It’s made the government more radically right, and it’s made it more difficult for the progressives who are serving in Congress to have any effect whatsoever.
Yes, that’s right; you pat yourself on the back for getting Elizabeth Warren elected, and then take away what little power she had in the next election. That is not politically smart under any scenario whatsoever. In fact, I wonder how many of you who are fans of Warren and Bernie Sanders even realize that eliminating all of the Blue Dogs and putting Democrats in the minority actually did more to marginalize both of them, and destroyed any chance they might have had of being elected president. What the hell are they supposed to point to as accomplishments worthy of a president, if they can’t even propose a bill that will see the light of day?
Face it; if you think there’s a silver lining in the election results in either of the last two midterms, you’re not being very progressive. We can’t make progress now, and we won’t be able to for at least 4-6 more years.
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