2009, Blue Dogs and 218

The National Journal reports the demise of the Blue Dogs as Rep Mathesion (D-UT) is retiring:

Matheson’s retirement continues the decline of two overlapping Democratic groups: Blue Dogs and Democrats who opposed Nancy Pelosi’s bid to continue leading their caucus after the electoral shellacking of 2010. There are just 15 Blue Dog Democrats in the House now, down from 26 in the previous Congress and 54 in the Congress before that. Meanwhile, 19 Democrats publicly opposed Pelosi for speaker on the House floor in January 2011, and Matheson will become the 11th to leave the House at the end of his term.

During the 111th Congress, the Democrats had a maximum of 40 spare votes to lose before legislation would fail if we assume that there would be no Republican votes for anything more adventurous than renaming post offices.  Most days due to vacancies, illness, and random things happening, the margin before failure was thirty-five to thirty-eight votes.

The Blue Dog caucus was always larger than the margin of failure.  Blue Dogs tend to represent districts that were significantly more Republican leaning then the rest of the nation.   Their political survival depended on being seen as hippy punching assholes.  There were exceptions like Lipinski who voted like a R-7 rep instead of a representative from a solid Dem district.

Anything that could come out of Congress had to get a third of the Blue Dogs to defect.  On any issue, there were a few easy gets, but after the first half dozen, significant policy concessions from liberals would be needed to the next dozen or more yes votes. And that is why I think there were marginal improvements that were possible but not wholesale improvements from what we’ve actually got in PPACA.  The Blue Dogs had an effective veto on anything that would make liberals too happy.

39 replies
  1. 1
    Napoleon says:

    God I hate Dem Representatives like Lipinski. Mathesion I get, but Lipinski is simply a Republican who knew he could not run as one in that district (yeah and I know his dad was a Dem Rep as well).

  2. 2
    aimai says:

    Good riddance to bad rubbish. Here’s hoping we can retake the house, someday, without having more blue dogs. I see why they are important–without Nancy at the helm in the first place I don’t think we could have gotten anything done. But, damn, considering the money she put into those races what a backstabbing bunch of time serving assholes they were.

  3. 3
    satby says:

    Lipinski is a scourge on my district, but every time there’s a good candidate in the primary, another 2 or 3 people turn up to run and split the opposition, leaving Lipinski free to crush the R in the general election. It helps that most people don’t really realize what a neo-R he votes like.

  4. 4
    Richard Mayhew says:

    @aimai: Unfortunately, districted systems are systemically tilted against urban parties, so as long as we have single member district elections, Democrats most likely will need a majority where their 218th member is from a R+4 or redder district. The GOP has a majority where their marginal majority member is R+3 or R+4 which makes for a much more homogenous party as the incentives to defect are significantly weaker.

  5. 5
    geg6 says:

    @aimai:

    I echo your sentiments. I’m almost glad that my old Bluedog rep, Jason Altmire, got trounced by Keith “Teabagger” Rothfus. At least I’m no longer fighting, tooth and nail, a guy who is supposed to be on my side and for whom I was forced to vote no matter how much it made me wretch.

    Beaver County is never gonna elect a liberal Dem, though. Not for a long while anyway. We have too many olds (and I mean really, really old) who were Nixon’s Silent Majority and Reagan Dems. They need to die first. Hopefully, soon and in large numbers.

  6. 6
    Schlemizel says:

    poor doggies, who is going to service them now that those who blew dogs are a disappearing breed?

  7. 7
    Schlemizel says:

    poor doggies, who is going to service them now that those who blew dogs are a disappearing breed?

  8. 8
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    The Blue Dogs had an effective veto on anything that would make liberals too happy.

    I blame Obama.

  9. 9
    negative 1 says:

    @Ivan Ivanovich Renko: He didn’t use the bully pulpit enough.

  10. 10
    Corner Stone says:

    @Ivan Ivanovich Renko:

    I blame Obama.

    In a post about how Blue Dogs did all the damage to the party’s efforts, you’ve got to try and find some way to blame Obama?
    Damn man, why do you always have to be hating on the President?
    It’s not enough for you that we have the ACA, DADT and an economy that’s improving? Even after rock solid obstruction from his own party Blue Dogs and ALL the Republicans?
    Really…really…Lord I can’t even with some people.

  11. 11

    The real problem with Blue Dogs is that for all intents and purposes they acted like the corporate owned tools they are. I remember seeing a YouTube of Gene Taylor(one of the worst Blue Dogs) not correcting his constituents on the lies they were spewing about ObamaCare. Yet he was supported by the party, why? I get the point, how ever weak, of having guys like Taylor in our caucus but being too dumbstruck to educate your constituents?

  12. 12

    @Corner Stone: I think you need an adjustment on your snark detector.

  13. 13
    slippy says:

    @geg6:

    As much as wishing the elders would just get on with it and croak already sounds cruel, the sad fact is these old people, largely, have been holding their foot to this nation’s neck for the unmitigated gall of growing beyond their time, and they’ve been doing it viciously, hatefully, and spitefully.

    When a bunch of Teabag fuckwads tottered out to the curbside in October to scream hysterically about the impending doom of Obamacare, I stopped and rolled down my window, and just about tore my larynx out screaming right back at them that we could start with their fucking social security and Medicare first, and work our way down to the quick from there.

    Traffic compelled me to move on, but I hadn’t finished telling them to start picking what ice floe to die on, so I circled back and they were picking up and leaving not 20 minutes later. I don’t think they’re getting the enthusiastic response from the public that they once hoped for.

    I can’t think of a more useless and in-the-way segment of our population right now than these out of touch Teabaggers, and their pathetic, childish clinging to a dead past. And increasingly I stay off the internets because it seems like everywhere I go one of these fucking morons is trying to pimp their dead-end philosophy, and I can’t contain my contempt for them. I think they are the worst of what humanity has to offer, all wrapped up in a like sickening little spoiled-rotten diaper that’s been left to fester too long.

  14. 14
    slippy says:

    @geg6:

    As much as wishing the elders would just get on with it and croak already sounds cruel, the sad fact is these old people, largely, have been holding their foot to this nation’s neck for the unmitigated gall of growing beyond their time, and they’ve been doing it viciously, hatefully, and spitefully.

    When a bunch of Teabag fuckwads tottered out to the curbside in October to scream hysterically about the impending doom of Obamacare, I stopped and rolled down my window, and just about tore my larynx out screaming right back at them that we could start with their fucking social security and Medicare first, and work our way down to the quick from there.

    Traffic compelled me to move on, but I hadn’t finished telling them to start picking what ice floe to die on, so I circled back and they were picking up and leaving not 20 minutes later. I don’t think they’re getting the enthusiastic response from the public that they once hoped for.

    I can’t think of a more useless and in-the-way segment of our population right now than these out of touch Teabaggers, and their pathetic, childish clinging to a dead past. And increasingly I stay off the internets because it seems like everywhere I go one of these fucking morons is trying to pimp their dead-end philosophy, and I can’t contain my contempt for them. I think they are the worst of what humanity has to offer, all wrapped up in a like sickening little spoiled-rotten diaper that’s been left to fester too long.

  15. 15
    PeakVT says:

    This retirement proves that America is a center-right nation and that the DemocRats are out of touch elitists because Obummercare argle bargle.

    QED and stuff, libtards.

  16. 16
    geg6 says:

    @slippy:

    That’s exactly how I feel about them. Fuck ’em. I’m tired of being nice about shit just because I’m a liberal and, apparently, never speak up for my own beliefs. I call it out all the time. It does not make me well-liked but my blood pressure is very, very good.

  17. 17
    kindness says:

    I used to be represented by a Blue Dog. My district is now represented by a Teahaddist Repub. I honestly find almost no difference other than the Blue Dog voted for Nancy Pelosi for speaker and then shit on her and the party for every other vote (other than fat farm subsidies). I don’t miss the Blue Dog at all.

  18. 18

    Don’t forget the other part of the equation: House members who left the Blue Dogs over healthcare reform. My rep, Adam Schiff, was one of them.

  19. 19
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Phil Perspective: that’s CS’s characteristic meta-snark.

  20. 20
    FlipYrWhig says:

    It would be nice if conservative Democratic politicians would be content to say publicly that they shape and support the party’s agenda. They can squawk about various sins and heresies behind closed doors. It’s got to be easier to run a campaign where you say “I’m not a liberal, but I am a Democrat, and it’s thanks to people like me that the party’s objectives are restrained, efficient, and effective,” rather than one where you say “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry, I’m really not like those people, you’re right, we suck.” I get WHY they do it, but I doubt it’s the best strategy to pursue.

  21. 21
    Chris says:

    @Phil Perspective:

    The real problem with Blue Dogs is that for all intents and purposes they acted like the corporate owned tools they are.

    If Lieberman is any example, Blue Dogs seem to be the flip side of East Coast Republicans (e.g. the Chris Christie fans) – the people who aren’t “socially liberal” so much as they just don’t care one way or the other about any issues other than shoveling as much nice corporate cash into the vaults of their overlords.

  22. 22
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    It would be nice if conservative Democratic politicians would be content to say publicly that they shape and support the party’s agenda.

    Like it or not, the Dems have national figures that are used in negative campaign ads to epitomise the party: Nancy Smash, Hillary, the president. They’d even use Ted Kennedy if they felt enough of the locals didn’t know he was dead. “Vote for BlueDog, get Woman or BlackityBlack Guy” is apparently a good messaging tool.

    The GOP has a bunch of pasty old white guys in charge, so you can’t say “voting for this pasty old white guy means voting for these pasty old white guys” in the same way. Perhaps Tailgunner Ted changes that a little, but there’s no real elected exemplar of awfulness. It’s a cunning strategy: all wingnuts are indistinguishably horrible.

  23. 23
    dyspeptic says:

    @satby:

    I go to bed each night thinking about ways to make enough money to either run against or fund a real liberal to run against Lipinski. Our district would elect a real Democrat easily but we there are stuck with this adjunct of the Daley machine. His Father was no better

  24. 24
    Gene108 says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    As long as a Republican can effectively run ads against a Democrat demonizing him for not punching Nancy Pelosi in the face, it will be hard for them to embrace the Democratic Party as you describe.

    The Democratic Party is associated with the “super liberal” Pelosi and Chicago-thug Obama, who are loathed by their constituents, therefore anything they support – like building a light rail system in your district that would employ thousands – is suspect.

    How to distance yourself from such self destructive hate is not as simple as you suggest. I think it was pre-Tea Party, where “bringing home the bacon” counted for a lot, but not anymore.

  25. 25
    James E Powell says:

    I prefer the term Corporate Democrat

  26. 26
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Gene108: @pseudonymous in nc: yeah, I know that — I live in Virginia. But I have to think that there’s another way to play it: continuing to demonstrate non-liberal credibility without running scared. The fact of the matter is not that Democrats are flaming liberals running roughshod over all that is traditional and decent (would that it were so!), but that everything put forward by Democrats as a party has gotten the input of a whole spectrum of legislators already. In other words, I’d think it’d be at least as easy for a conservative Democrat to say “people like me ensure that the Democrats continue to represent people like you and your values,” rather than “I’m not really a Democrat, so don’t worry so much.” Slim but IMHO significant tactical difference.

  27. 27
    Talentless Hack says:

    IIRC, the final House PPACA bill included the public option. The Senate, not the House, killed it. Because Senate Republicans were willing to “filibuster” everything and anything, including the naming of post offices, any health care bill coming from that body needed the approval of Joe Lieberman and four or five like-minded members. Since Harry Reid was at a loss as to what to do about paper filibusters, his margin for error was even tighter than Nancy Pelosi’s was.

    FWIW, if I were the Majority Leader, I would have put the House bill on the floor and dared Joementum and the other five or six bozos to vote with the Republicans. This way, I would have put a face on the failure of the public option. That’s our guys’ fault; nobody ever put Joe on the spot even on a signature – dare I say defining, as in you knew the subject would come up again when you voted for us – Democratic issue because he was supposedly on our side.

  28. 28
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @geg6:

    Beaver County is never gonna elect a liberal Dem, though. Not for a long while anyway. We have too many olds (and I mean really, really old) who were Nixon’s Silent Majority and Reagan Dems. They need to die first. Hopefully, soon and in large numbers.

    I soooo wish we had a “like” button right now.

  29. 29
    negative 1 says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Or, conversely, they could just run as a Democrat. I realize that doing this is basically political suicide for a couple of cycles but no one can fight the perception that Democrats are somehow ‘unamerican’ if they are basically shitting on the brand while they are running. For frame of reference, here in the most Democratic state in the union, the Republicans still run as Republicans. Some are the very moderate so-called ‘New England Republicans’ and wouldn’t fit in with the party at large, but they still don’t denigrate the idea of being a Republican. It makes a huge difference.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Talentless Hack: I don’t get what that would have proved. The benefit is that people know why there isn’t a public option. The detriment is that the bill fails, there’s a tidal wave of terrible publicity, Democrats in disarray stories aplenty, and no one touches the now-poisoned issue of health care reform for 20 years. I don’t think that balances out particularly well.

  32. 32
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @negative 1: I think that’s what I was trying to say: run as a Democrat while claiming as a strength that Democrats aren’t universally liberals. I freely concede that a lot of Democratic candidates need ways to differentiate themselves from the bad reputation the party might have among their constituents. What I’m trying to get at, and I think you are too, is that it should be possible to run as a Democrat and still take potshots at liberals (if you must), while avoiding running as a not-quite Democrat and taking potshots at _Democrats_.

  33. 33
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Talentless Hack: Also, I suspect opposition to the public option was probably more widespread than your estimate. The most recalcitrant were Lieberman, Landrieu, Lincoln, and Nelson, but let’s not forget the other skeptics like Conrad, Carper, Bayh, Baucus, Pryor, and Webb.

  34. 34
    Bart says:

    For f*ck’s sake, you lot are native English speakers — learn the f*cking difference between THEN and THAN. http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling This is yet another blog post featuring that annoying mistake.

  35. 35
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Bart: Don’t even get me started on site and sight.

  36. 36
    Corner Stone says:

    It’s amusing, at least to me, that the commenter who is struggling so mightily with the concept that a D may not choose to run as a competent D, is then blithely posting about how elected D’s shouldn’t be asked to declare if they believe in the D Party Platform or not.
    Talentless Hack used the word “defining” for a reason, IMO. And it’s exactly what all the concern trolling in this thread has been about.

  37. 37
    A Humble Lurker says:

    @Corner Stone:
    Amen, brother.

  38. 38
    David in NY says:

    Kristin Gillibrand was a “Blue Dog.”

  39. 39
    Bruce Webb says:

    Well I disagree, at least as to PPACA

    The three House Committees with jurisdiction passed out a pretty damn fine united bill (informally called with great imagination the Tri-Committee Bill) early in July. I think the Bill number was HR 3876 but it was a very nice match for the Senate HELP Kennedy-Dodd Bill and a huge advance over what ended up coming out of the totally screwed up Senate process and then forced on the House on a take it or leave it basis.

    The key to the Tri-Committee Bill was that the negotiations between the Pelosi Dems and the Blue Dogs mostly happened within regular order within the confines of House Energy and Commerce (the most conservative of the three Committees and with the most Blue Dog representation) and there is every reason to believe that Pelosi would have been able to keep at least a third of them on board for final.

    The fundamental problem with PPACA is that Obama and Reid for reasons beyond my comprehension then or now chose to let Baucus use his Chairmanship of Senate Finance to hijack the whole process and start from scratch by throwing out almost all of Senate HELP and the House Tri-Committee version and going right to end stage negotiations with the Gang of Seven turned Six in Senate Finance. I blogged a lot about it at the time at Angry Bear but the reality is that the final bill was fatally shaped by a series of compromises between Conservadems on Senate Finance and three R counterparts that ended up yielding nothing. And none of that had anything to do with House Blue Dogs as such.

    There was a path to victory in July 2009. Obama could have insisted on using the Tri-Committee Bill as a basis and insisted that Senate Finance stick to matters actually under their jurisdiction, which is to say taxes and Medicare and leave the basic structure of the Exhanges and the Public Option to the relevant folk from the Tri-Committees on the one hand and Senate HELP on the other. Leaving Baucus to bring up any proposed changes to Conference or to the Floor.

    In any event if you followed the process day by day like I did that summer and fall you can see that the Blue Dogs as such, whatever else their faults (which were legion), had already gotten all they were going to get and were not the barrier to a more progressive deal than what the Senate ultimately forced on Pelosi.

    As the kids say: “You could look it up”.

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