Are Democrats Better Off Without the 'Blue Dogs'?

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Managing (already low) expectations, some liberal pundits are arguing the Democrats would be better off if they purged conservative-leaning Blue Dogs and became more "ideologically cohesive." That may be the new reality for the president's party, as these legislators have the most to lose from potential GOP gains this November. According to a Wall Street Journal report, a significant number of these Democrats (including Blue Dog leaders Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Rep. Baron Hill) are facing perilously close races, with many expected to be swept from Congress on election day. For all the fits that these Blue Dogs have given the White House over differences on major legislation, skeptics find it hard to believe that Democrats will be any better off as an "immaculately pure" minority.

  • Blue Dog Coalition Could Be Cut 'In Half'  The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib notes that of the 54 Blue Dogs in the House,"39 are in competitive races, according to the Cook Political Report, and 22 of those are in pure toss-ups." The reason for this may be that the relatively conservative swing districts that elected these congressmen have moved even further right as "national winds push strongly in that direction." It's ironic, Seib writes, that "a national conservative wave will hit hardest not at the most liberal Democrats, but at the most conservative Democrats. The Democratic caucus left behind will be, on balance, more liberal than it was before the election."

  • The Blue Dogs Should Be 'Booted'  In a New York Times op-ed, Ari Berman argues that Democrats could accomplish more if they had a "smaller and more ideologically cohesive" caucus. The Blue Dogs, some of which were swept to power in 2008, haven't helped the party pass major legislation. "Although the Democrats have a 59-vote majority, party leaders can barely find the votes for something as benign as extending unemployment benefits," Berman writes. "Far from hastening the dawn of a post-partisan utopia, President Obama’s election has led to near-absolute polarization. If Democrats alter their political strategy accordingly, they’ll be more united and more productive."
  • Of Course Democrats Wish They Didn't Have to Deal With Them   "After a year of being frustrated by the likes of Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson, it makes sense for liberals to wish for a world where they didn't matter," writes The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie. But, even though the GOP found limited success with a bare majority in the Bush years, "it's not actually clear that liberals would have been helped by a smaller majority....the Blue Dogs aren't great, but when push came to shove, they joined with their liberal peers to form the most productive Congress in a generation."
  • Don't Give Up Just Yet   Michael Tomasky, blogging at The Guardian, understands Ari Berman's point but cautions that "it's kind of hard to imagine this yielding more progressive outcomes in Congress, especially if the GOP takes the majority next week." The Democrats should instead focus on changing their leadership: starting with Nancy Pelosi. "I hate bowing to this kind of reality, but the fact is, a woman from San Francisco in this day and age and climate etc. is just probably not the best choice for a House Democratic leader," Tomasky hedges. "The Democrats need someone who can speak to voters in [a greater variety of] districts."
  • 'I'm Still Not Sure How This Would Work in Practice' says Hot Air's Allahpundit of Democrats discarding Blue Dogs in favor of creating a "pure" caucus: "I'm at a loss as to how having fewer Senate seats will increase pressure on Democrats to 'confront' the Republicans on the filibuster. I would think it’s just the opposite: The closer Democrats are to 60, as they are now, the more vehemently opposed to filibusters they should be. As their majority shrinks and they get closer to minority status, the more self-interest should soften their antipathy to the procedure, especially when they have many more Senate seats in play in the 2012 cycle than Republicans do."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.