The Mythological Democrat

You may remember Dr. Matthew Manweller. He’s the Central Washington University Political Science professor who rather shamefully suggested that Republicans ought not “go after” Blue Dog Democrats in 2010. Since I wrote this post castigating Dr. Manweller for taking such a naive stance, he’s pointed me in the direction of two articles which he felt were relevant.

The first was an op-ed at The New Republic, that opens with an excerpt from Federalist Number 10 penned by James Madison.

Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice.

So far, so good. Madison and I are totally on the same page. I even agree with the authors of the article that we’ve reached a point where our political system is on dangerous ground because of unbridled factionalism. Of course, it’s all down hill after that, as The New Republic article goes on to lay the blame for this alarming state of affairs solely on the Republican Party, with the last, precipitous slide having been caused by their stubborn refusal to embrace the Baucus health care bill.

The Republican reception of Baucus’s bill doesn’t so much represent a crisis for health care reform as it does a crisis for our system. The GOP is no longer representing interest groups; rather, it has become an interest group itself–and an implacable one. So that a compromise piece of legislation that achieves a rough consensus among the various factions in the debate fails to get even one vote from one of the two major parties.

Forget that the Democrats weren’t exactly wetting themselves with excitement over this bill. Ignore its questionable credentials as an actual bipartisan effort (just because there were Republicans sitting on the committee, doesn’t mean their ideas were incorporated into the bill; a true bipartisan effort should have garnered support from the GOP committee members). Forget that; just focus on the Republican opposition and make something sinister of it.

The second was a news story detailing the defeat of the Senate Medicare bill, where we learn that 13 Democrats voted against it.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, needed 60 votes to proceed. He won only 47. And he could not blame Republicans. A dozen Democrats and one independent crossed party lines and voted with Republicans on the 53 to 47 roll call.

Indulge me while I make an unrelated point. The Democrats’ failure to pass health care reform legislation cannot be attributed to GOP opposition, as much as I’d like to think there was something they could do stop this train wreck from happening. The truth is – and I’m certainly not the first to make this point but Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn, who wrote the article apparently have yet to be clued in – Republicans hold a minority of seats in both the House and Senate. If the Democrats want to pass their health care reform, all they need to do is, you know, pass it. The GOP can’t stop them.

Getting back to Manweller’s point…getting back to the point…yeah. Actually, I’m not sure what Manweller’s point is here.

Then on Saturday, I happened across this article about North Dakota Democrat, Earl Pomeroy. Here’s the part that immediately caught my interest.

Congressman Earl Pomeroy (photo) of North Dakota, a supposed Blue Dog Democrat fiscal hawk (emphsis added) demonstrated his peculiar brand of “hawkishness” this week when he quickly announced his support of Nancy Pelosi’s health care bill.

And now my point.

With very few exceptions, the Blue Dog Democrats aren’t conservative. Amongst the House Blue Dogs, over half support the conservative position less than one third of the time. In my estimation, that disqualifies them even as moderates. In the Senate, the list of ten so-called moderate Senators who pose a threat to the passage of health care reform legislation is even more revealing; only one, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, could reasonably be called moderate. The other nine? They support the conservative position less than one quarter of the time.

This tells me that the existence of conservative and moderate Democrats in the House and Senate is largely a myth created by the Democrat Party. Why? Because by changing the public perception of what constitutes a legislative moderate, they hope to force the Republican Party to the left lest it be characterized as extreme. And Stockholm Syndrome Republicans inside the beltway and elsewhere perpetuate the myth of the moderate Democrat and participate in their own marginalization by trying to make nice with the Blue Dogs.

You can’t count on Blue Dog support because they’re not conservatives or, for the most part, even moderates. If they occasionally vote in line with conservative principles, you can’t know or understand their motivations because they surely differ from those of real conservatives. The only way to ensure a return to government based on the Constitution and conservative principles is to elect as many conservatives as possible to the House and Senate, even in districts now represented by a Blue Dog.

The GOP leadership needs to show some fighting spirit going into the mid-term elections to help rebuild their brand. Taking a soft approach with the Blue Dogs is not the path to success.