Blue Dogs: Raw Fear and the Politics of Dithering
The most recent post from Standing FIRM's guest blogger, Robert Gittelson. In the wake of Tuesday’s off year elections, the results of which were decidedly mixed and thus open to wide interpretation, the so called “Blue Dog” moderates are whimpering for their mommies. On Wednesday, their cries were pathetic. They were begging their fellow democrats to “please, please, don’t make me vote for anything that can hurt me.” The only thing more pathetic than their public display of cowardice was their reasoning. They couldn’t possibly be more wrong about how to keep their jobs.
In point of fact, the independent voters that the Blue Dogs fear voted decidedly, and only 12 months ago, for change. Obama was swept into office in large measure thanks to moderate Independents, (along with Hispanic and other immigrant voters), because he promised that he would actually solve problems, not ignore them, as the Old Guard Republicans had been all too happy to do.
Some fear that the Republican message that Obama was doing too much, and moving too fast, was resonating with moderate voters. If that is so, it must be because the Republicans are doing a wonderful job of pulling the wool over the nation’s eyes, because so far, Obama hasn’t actually done much of anything, albeit not for a lack to trying – but perhaps not hard enough.
The Hill had an article titled “Democrats Feeling Angst Over 2010” that ran yesterday, that said in part:
“A group of vulnerable Democratic lawmakers see healthcare reform, climate change and immigration reform as desperation passes down the length of the political playing field. They acknowledge that healthcare reform may very well pass, but they say that climate change and immigration reform have dim prospects.
Rep. Bobby Bright, an Alabama centrist viewed as one of the most endangered Democrats in the House, said that many Americans feel alarmed by the drastic legislative changes moving through Congress. He said leaders should consider breaking up sprawling controversial bills into smaller pieces that voters would not find so daunting in size and scope.
“Maybe this healthcare bill is going drastically too far,” he said. “If we could take it in smaller steps, we could build confidence.
“We can’t come in and change the world overnight,” he said. “We’re moving forward at a pace that average people are concerned about, and my constituents very much so.”
I really think that while the Obama administration has so far talked a good game about change, we ought to review what they have actually been able to sign into law. Besides a few relatively minor pieces of legislation, all that they have really done is their initial emergency stimulus package, and even that has only dispersed less than half of its stimulus money, because it was designed to release funds over a two year period.
We should also remember that the first thing that Obama did, when he started campaigning for that bill, was to offer $300 billion out of $800 billion to the Republicans as tax cuts, in an unprecedented show of bipartisanship. All he received for his troubles was a collective Republican spit in his face. As I recall, only 3 Republicans Senators voted for that bill, and exactly zero Republican House members.
The Republicans are determined to hold ranks, and vote as a block against anything and everything that the President wants to accomplish. They won’t let him change a thing, if they can help it. In fact, they wear their obstructionism on their sleeves as if it were a badge of honor, (instead of a scarlet letter).
The Republicans were able to somehow get out the laughable message that Obama was responsible to TARP, and the huge deficits, as if it was Obama that was fiscally irresponsible. It is puzzling that the Democrats haven’t been able to simply point out the it was the Republican administration that urgently required and initiated TARP, and that it was the Republican Reagan administration that doubled our national debt, Clinton then turned that around into a yearly surplus, but then Bush doubled the national debt yet again, leaving the Obama administration with an unavoidable first year deficit of over one trillion dollars.
In terms of passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform in this legislative session, I would suggest that the Blue Dogs read an article that was published in yesterday’s Wonk Room, titled, “Four Lessons That Should Stop Vulnerable Democrats From Cowering Away From Immigration Reform that explained, (in detail the outline below), “In a Huffington Post column posted today, political strategist Robert Creamer offered Democrats four pieces of invaluable advice in preparation for next year’s midterm elections. Yellow-bellied Democrats should apply some of Creamer’s “lessons learned” to the immigration debate before passing up a golden opportunity to craft and pass progressive immigration reform in a Democratic-controlled Congress:
- “First and foremost, the results show that it is critical that the Democratic message be framed in populist terms.”
- “Independent voters will demand that Democrats deliver on our promise of change.”
- “Democrats must inspire the base.”
- “Our not-so-secret weapon in 2010 is the Republican circular firing squad.”
Finally, I would like to reference an article that I wrote earlier this year, about this very issue titled, “Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Getting Down to Brass Tacks,” in which I discuss the Blue Dogs, and their misguided apprehensions on the issue of CIR:
“I'm reminded of a famous quote from President Lincoln from 1862, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise-with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." This quote is prophetic and prescient, as it relates to the evolving issue of CIR, whose time has come. In other words, these Senate Blue Dogs must "get with the program," and "get on the bus, before it passes them by."
It is time, once and for all, to disenthrall ourselves of the notion that the status quo is acceptable. We must also disenthrall ourselves of the outdated notion that the "Enforcement Only" approach has any merit, whatsoever. The people went to the polls in record numbers and elected "change." They didn't vote for, and don't want obstructionists and old ideas. They voted for people with new ideas, and the notion to see those ideas through to fruition. These Blue Dogs just won't hunt.”