Posts Tagged ‘Blue Dogs’

Two Party Systems and Party Discipline

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I think Evan Bayh’s “Senate Blue Dog” caucus is as laughable as the next guy, but I don’t really understand this complaint from Yglesias:

 The hilarious catch, however, is that when Bayh was asked to name the members of his new Obstruction Caucus he couldn’t name them all.

One bizarre feature of our political system is that, where other systems have coalitions, we instead have single parties. That’s not a fundamental weakness, per se, but it does lead to a rather odd dichotomy in which observers and commentators just sort of assume that everyone in the majority will agree with each other on various issues, and imagine that our “parties” should have the sort of discipline parties in other countries have. But if our system actually worked like, say, Israel’s system, the Democratic Party wouldn’t exist. Instead, you’d have a Labor Party, and Women’s Party, a Blue Dog party, a Populist Party, a left-wing party or two, etc. all competing for votes. And after the election, these parties would probably come together in a governing coalition. But no one would be shocked if the elements of that coalition had disagreements from time to time.

Instead, what we have is a situation where this coalition exists under the banner of one specific party, and disagreements and competing interests within the party are looked at as a bizarre thing. But I’m not so sure that’s an unusual thing, or something you shouldn’t expect to have happening at any given time, so much as it’s a misunderstanding of the unique way the party system in the United States works as a rule.

Blue Dogs Request EFCA Delay

Friday, February 27th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I meant to post about this last week, but put it off and forgot about it in the interim. Anyway, Greg Sargent reports that House Blue Dogs asked the House leadership to delay action on the Employee Free Chocie Act, at least until after the Senate has acted on it:

Blue Dog Democrats in the House have asked House Dem leaders to postpone a vote on the Employee Free Choice Act until after the Senate votes on it, and the Democratic leadership has agreed, a senior House Dem aide tells me.

The discussions are likely to disappoint some in the labor movement, who see Employee Free Choice as their top priority and had hoped the House would act quickly and pass a strong bill before the Senate passes a weaker version. Proponents and foes of the measure alike say the Senate is expected to be the major battleground over the bill because of the tight Dem majority.

Now I think the knee-jerk impulse even for me is to criticize the Blue Dogs here, but this really makes some sense. It was always the Senate that was going to be a problem anyway, so in a way it would just be bad caucus management to ask your members in districts where EFCA is likely to be politically dicey to go out on a limb on the package with no guarantee it will be worth anything. By agreeing to wait for the Senate, House leadership also let labor activists focus on holding marginal Senators and getting the proposal through the Senate to be ratified, so to speak, after the fact by the House.

What’s more, this may actually be beneficial to EFCA’s chances. Sargent’s source goes on to say that the Blue Dogs are worried about having to vote “for 2 different versions of the bill,” suggesting that, to the extent they’re willing to support the proposal, they’re likely to take whatever the Senate gives them. If there aren’t any troubling riders in the Senate bill, then, letting the Senate go first could produce a unified bill without a conference report, and could get the bill through Congress that much faster, something that I think would increase its chances of passing.

Understand your Congress

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Following up on my last post, I think one thing that’s going to be critical to progressive political success is how well progressives understand Congress, and how it works. As I opined there, there’s not really anything that stand outs in the section Bowers finds awkward, if you understand that Senators tend to have gigantic egos and an inflated sense of their own importance. And so the fact that Tom Harkin is really relevant to the debate on tax cuts at this point, meaning there’s no reason for Obama to be listening to him  particularly, gets overlooked by Harkin who undoubtedly thinks there’s reason to listen to him on every issue. And maybe he does have something to add, but the administration can’t possibly listen to every member of Congress on every bill, and so they generally seek out members on the relevant committees for input. There’s nothing really unusual or even necessarily bad about that, but some members are going to chafe when that leaves them outside of the inner circle on a major bill.

Similarly, I think this sentiment is a very bad one to have:

I am so sick of [Allen] Boyd. His name seems to crop up in every list like this, from Social Security, to SChip, to Iraq, to FISA, and more. That is a primary challenge I would support in a heartbeat. As for the freshman, why did we even bother spending money on them, if they can’t even support this? There really needs to be DCCC related penalties for voting behavior like this.[…]

Generally speaking, the reason Democrats and Republicans vote differently is not out of spite or a lack of communication, but because they have different values and beliefs. There is nothing wrong with this, especially since, right now, we don’t need Republican support to pass legislation. So, why not just pass legislation that will make people’s lives better, while Republicans vote against it en masse? The only end result I can see to that course of action will be a generational Democratic majority.

I support the Ledbetter act as much as anyone, and I’m thrilled that it passed. But by the same token, I’m not really sure Bowers has really thought through this idea, and there seems to be a real knee-jerk, emotional response working here. To wit, yes all of those votes are bad votes, and it would be better had they, especially as Democrats, voted for womens’ rights in the workplace, but at the same time it’s worth looking at those districts. They’re all heavily Republican and, like it or not, Democrats are going to have to run conservatives in those districts to win. And then those members are going to turn around and vote like conservatives.

Sounds pointless, right? Well, not so much. Because even if those members are a vote against universal healthcare, cap and trade, abortion rights, or whatever, they’re also a vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, Henry Waxman as Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Ed Markey as chair of the energy subcommittee, John Dingell heading up healthcare in the House, and so on. And even more so than that, they’re very important in regards to the makeup of committees. To put it in simplistic terms, the bigger your majority in the chamber the more seats you get on committees, where most of the legislative heavy lifting gets done.

Now obviously there’s a certain tipping point here, you wouldn’t want the number of Democrats voting like wingnuts to cancel out the benefits of the expanded majority, but I see no evidence that you have that in this House, and indeed we’re only talking about 5 of them here. So, as annoying as they can be, the Blue Dogs are a net positive for progressives at this point.