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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why we need Blue Dogs

Blue Dogs are centrist Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. After a highly effective Republican advertising campaign that tied Blue Dogs to liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, most Blue Dogs were defeated this week. I’m astounded that so many Democrats nationwide are applauding the defeat of the Blue Dogs as though it were an ethnic cleansing.

Liberal Democrats like Pelosi believe that relentless dedication to and promotion of the liberal agenda, and only that, will bring them back to power. Hubris! They don’t remember the warning of the late Tip O’Neill – Pelosi’s distant predecessor and a pragmatist – that all politics is local.

In some congressional districts around the nation, a liberal agenda will indeed win a seat for a Democrat. But that’s not true in most of the districts that Blue Dogs represented. One can argue, based on the 2008 and 2010 elections, that Blue Dogs were the most liberal (i.e., least conservative) candidates who are electable in those districts. Candidates farther to the left have no chance of winning there, and national Democratic leaders are delusional to think otherwise.

Similarly, Democrats must remember that the Electoral College, not the people, elects the President. If the states that were fertile territory for Blue Dogs swing from Democratic in 2008 to Republican in 2012, President Obama will not be re-elected. Another way of putting it: liberal Democrats are actually a minority in those states. Promoting a liberal agenda may increase Democratic turnout in San Francisco and Brooklyn, but it won’t help in the states that the Democrats actually need as they seek to hold onto the White House.

It’s true that fewer Blue Dogs will pose an irritant to Pelosi and others who espouse left-wing ideology. However, without Blue Dogs the Democrats are destined to be a minority party in Congress indefinitely. Is that really what Democrats want? Is ideological purity worth being powerless?

In the short run, many Democrats caught in the emotion of the moment – or arguably frozen in the emotion of November 2008 – are answering yes. But in the long run, they’ll prefer a degree of internal strife to continuous domination by a Republican majority. So my advice to the Blue Dogs is this: lay low, lick your wounds, and prepare for a competitive campaign when you no longer have to defend Pelosi.