“Kiss me. When I’m being fucked, I like to get kissed a lot.”
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
The Blue Dogs in the Senate are howling.
Actually, if we’re to be literal, I’m misusing the term: The Blue Dog Coalition is a group of fiscally conservative House members, with nary a senator among them. But the term has taken on a broader cultural meaning, at least among annoying liberal blogger types like me, who tend to call any Democrat who regularly gives aid and comfort to the GOP a Blue Dog.
And now comes word that “moderate” Democratic senators are starting their own, as yet unnamed, blue doggish organization. Their goal appears to be nothing less than to save America from everything it voted for in 2008. And they might just have the mojo to get the job done. Rank and file Democrats may think they’re twits, but the Beltway loves ‘em.
Anyway, here’s the skinny on these now semi-official Senate Blue Dogs:
Led by Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), members said early press reports of their meetings were mischaracterized as an opposition group to President Barack Obama’s agenda and budget. But they acknowledge that they are seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill. […]
[Nebraska Sen. Ben] Nelson said the moderate bloc is modeled after the Blue Dogs, but that the realities of the Senate prevent them from being as organized or unified as the House group, which regularly wins concessions from House Democratic leaders.
So here we go again. Blue Dog Democrats parroting GOP talking points, forcing compromises that damage progressive causes and generally undercutting “real” Democrats. Jesus, haven’t we seen this movie before.
(Spoiler warning: the movie ends with crappy policies being adopted, a fuming rank and file and GOP electoral victories, as in 2002 when moderate Democrats who knuckled under to Bush on everything were still slaughtered on Election Day. Who knew that such a bad movie could get a sequel?)
But as infuriating as the Blue Dogs can be in general, what’s downright scary now is their determination to mess with the president’s economic recovery programs: scary because they just may have the power to force enough spending reductions (as they may have done with the earlier stimulus package) to neuter the stimulus effect.
And if that happens, both the country and the Democratic Party are screwed.
What’s particularly frustrating about the Blue Dogs, of course, is that as much as we liberals may want to make them the bad guys, it isn’t that clear cut. Most, though by no means all, of these wayward Democrats come from at least fairly conservative states. You can hate Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln as much as you want, but don’t delude yourself into thinking either Nebraska or Arkansas is going to send Ted Kennedy to the Senate. (A different issue is presented, of course, by those Blue Dogs who represent blue states and districts. As to them, I’m with Kos, not just more but also “better Democrats”).
And if you think we’d be better off with Republicans, you’re not paying attention to the sort of Republicans states like these have been sending to the capital.
So this involves some nuance, never an emotionally satisfying thing: Evan Bayh? Swallow hard. Another Zell Miller? Tell him to fu*k off.
It’s also about drawing the right lines in the right places. Being a member of the Democratic caucus carries some duty of loyalty, Joe Lieberman notwithstanding. Sometimes, even if you’re from Nebraska, you have to be willing to take one for the team. But the key, in dealing with the Blue Dogs, is not to demand such tributes too often or at the wrong times.
When it comes to President Obama’s budget, however, that time is now. It’s fine for the Blue Dogs to nibble around the edges a bit: knock off a few bucks here and there and then claim glorious victory. But if they try to cut into the meat, or if they go overboard in spouting off Republican talking points about governmental waste and the like, they’ll have crossed the invisible line. They’ll be part of the problem.
And you can’t be part of the problem and part of the team at the same time.