The Coming Blue Dog Wars

>> Friday, October 31, 2008

As dems and the media have been focused on the circular firing squad that is the gop the congressional implications of wiping out the republicans has been to a certain extent ignored. To be fair the election is not over yet and it is somewhat premature to treat it as if it is. Still, it is worth looking into the future just a little to examine the next moves of the dems as they consolidate power on the hill.

While the gop bloodbath occurs out in the wilderness there is going to be an internal struggle in the democratic party for control of the agenda. One one side will be the liberal activist wing led by people such as Kos and on the other side will be the Blue Dogs and the corporate interests.

While the democratic party expands into more and more conservative districts the dems elected there are going to reflect a more conservative view point. This is not to say that they are going to be DINO's but that it is still not possible to elect a pro-choice democrat in every part of this country. These members are important because they are better than having a republican in that seat but for the most part they are not progressives and many of them are simply corporate place holders under the guise of conservatism. As their numbers grow they will be the ones most likely to scuttle the reform agenda of a President Obama and the liberal base of the party. Unchecked the Blue Dog Coalition is only going to grow in power.

To understand how the blue dogs operate read this oped by former Sen. Bob Kerry,

My worry is not with increased threats from abroad. I am convinced those threats will be reduced with Obama's election and the beginning of a much more sensible and trustworthy American foreign policy.

By my lights, the primary threat to the success of a President Obama will come from some Democrats who, emboldened by the size of their congressional majority, may try to kill trade agreements, raise taxes in ways that will destroy jobs, repeal the Patriot Act and spend and regulate to high heaven.

This is where Obama's persona is invaluable. He can withstand the arguments and pressure of the liberal wing in the Democratic caucus if, once elected, he is guided by the best instincts he has displayed on the campaign trail.
Last, I believe this is likely because Obama understands that to succeed, he must make peace with John McCain just as he has done with Hillary Clinton. When this historic election concludes, I expect the two to sit down, without precondition, and negotiate an agenda of reform.

But that will only be the beginning. To build up the political capital for the kinds of changes needed in these difficult times, Obama will need to communicate the following to Congress, in no uncertain terms: The Democrats have not won a mandate for all their policies. Rather, the American people have resoundingly registered their frustration with a failed status quo, and the next President must chart a new, less partisan course.

This is just too much nonsense. Say Obama wins the election by 5 points. His policies have been out there the entire time. After that he is supposed to just discard them and throw the base of the party under the bus to side with the people the country just rejected? What would it take for kerry to understand that the people have approved obama's stated agenda? When the party took the advice of people like Kerry we lost and lost hard. Only when people like Kos and Dean, the liberals, started getting a voice did the dems make a comeback. The centrists and corporate backers were unable to make a case against Bush because they had been "bi partisan" in their attitude.Glen Greenwald runs down what happens if we let the Blue Dogs play their game,

Unlimited and unconditional funding for the Iraq war. Vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and retroactive amnesty for their telecom donors -- measures the administration tried, but failed, to obtain from the GOP Congress. The ability to ignore congressional subpoenas with utter impunity. A resolution formally decreeing parts of the Iranian government to be a "terrorist organization." A failure to outlaw waterboarding, to apply the torture ban to the CIA, to restore the habeas corpus rights abolished by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, to impose the requirement of congressional approval before President Bush can attack Iran. Confirmation of highly controversial Bush nominees, including Michael Mukasey as attorney general even after he embraced the most radical Bush theories of executive power and repeatedly refused to say that waterboarding was torture

Pelossi and Reid definitely bear a great deal of responsibility for this stuff. They are the ones accommodating the Blue Dogs and the corporate interests at the expense of what the people really want. As congressional leaders focused on gaining larger and larger majorities in congress they have failed to take any advantage of those majorities because they cannot get the blue dogs to heal. there is no point in pursuing greater margins if those margins are filled in by people who do not advance the people's interest. At the same time the dogs are more than willing to cross party lines and scuttle the base's policy desires, most notably on fisa. This cannot continue.

In order to prevent the Dogs from undercutting things like health care reform they need to know that there are consequences for taking the corporate side with the republicans against the base. The means for removing the dead rot and keeping the more corporate elements in the democratic party in line is the primary challenge.

Primary challenges are excellent weapons because they allow a progressive force to fight on a battle field within their own party where the challengers have the chance to not only win but force the corporatcrat to spend resources and weaken himself to the point where he might lose. Now in an environment where every seat is essential the loss of the bad dog might carry some negatives but when the dems have an overwhelming majority as they will after the election the 2010 the loss of one or two seats is not a death blow. We trade one house seat for better policy and better representation. That is the goal, best representation possible as Kos noted in an interview with Glenn Greenwald,

...there are so many, right now, in the House, and even some in the Senate, who have lost touch with the fact that they serve the people, that they're supposed to represent their constituents, and that they're not there for their own ego, for their own aggrandizement, or to serve corporate interests, who have seen the law, many of those people. So, what we wanted to do is, is we want to teach these people who is really their boss, and that's their local constituents, not the K Street lobbyists.
You have a - obviously, every district is different; some of them are more conservative than others, and you have situations where, say in Alabama or Louisiana, where you cannot be a pro-choice Democrat and win. And it's just the reality of those districts. But, there is nowhere in the United States where voting for bankruptcy bill that benefits the credit card companies is going to cost you an election. It may cost you some lobbyists money, but it ain't going to cost you votes. There's nowhere in this country where voting for retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies is going to cost an election. It may cost you money from the AT&T and Verizon lobbyist, but it's not going to cost you votes. So, there's a difference between representing your district because of its conservative/liberal leanings, and then there are issues that really transcend partisanship or ideology and are really corporate issues. And this is where we, at least that's where I put a lot of my attention, is congressmen and senators who have lost touch with the fact that they represent their constituents, and are actually working to represent corporate interests that have absolutely nothing to do with the well-being of their district.

So, we're not going to go after representatives, congressmen, that are conservative just because they are quote "conservative." We're going to look at those districts, with representatives that elected officials that have lost touch with their constituents, and not providing their constituents service, are not voting in a way that helps the well-being and the welfare of the people who are in those districts. So, it's not a left versus right sort of thing; it's really more of a corporatist versus populist approach to governance. We think that elected officials should represent their constituents and not corporate interests.

You can get the full transcript and listen to the interview here. Kos goes on to make a really important point about this fight. It is not an ideological purity quest. Those simply dont work. You want to have as big a tent as possible. Generally modern political parties are so perfectly sorted that the most least liberal dem is still more liberal than the most liberal conservative. It is on the issues where broad swaths of the country agree that the dogs do the most damage. This point about backing corporate interests is not widely understood.Ed Kilgore deals with why we should just ignore the blue dogs,

There are three big problems with such a campaign: defining the targets amid wildly varying estimates of the necessary degrees of Democratic unity and progressivism; mustering the means to carry out primary challenges in territory not always hospitable to the net-roots point of view; and most of all, dealing with a post-Bush political environment in which many of the long-heard complaints about Democratic "timidity" may be far less relevant.
And aside from continuing public ambivalence about how, exactly, to end the war in Iraq, there's simply not much evidence that issues like FISA or habeas corpus, much as they should matter to voters, actually do, even in the ranks of the Democratic "base."

Kilgore either misunderstands or proves Kos's points. I have already talked about the ideological purity nonsense and the district makeup corollary. Politicians like Bill Foster proved that you dont have to run away from fisa or other non ideological issues. On many issues its a clear choice between the people and the corporate interests and too often congress has backed the corporate with no consequences. The people must come first and if kilgore and the other villagers paid attention they would see that the primary efforts of kos and others do work. greenwald conducted a second interview on the same day as kos's with jane hamsher

Well, dial back to 2006, when the Democrats first got their congressional majority. We saw people like Ellen Tauscher running as, this is a chance for a conservative Democrat to be corporate-friendly and take all kinds of K Street money, and we have to get rid of these liberal committee chairmen. And, the blog went nuts, and she was very much targeted as people started looking at her district to see who could run against her, and she changed her tune really fast. She signed on to the letter saying that timelines needed to be in any budget for getting out of Iraq, and she really backed off the hard core - at least publicly - George Bush love, and the same thing happened with Al Wynn. Al Wynn was running against Donna Edwards in Maryland as we all know, and whereas before he had been Mr. Bankruptcy - very corporate-friendly, basically saw himself in his seat as what can you do for Al Wynn; he really back-pedaled, and so we were kind of surprised that the threat of having a primary, just the fact that we were talking about it, really made a change in behavior right then, instantly, in 2006. We didn't have to wait 'til 2008 to see a change in behavior.

So the plan is ready. Run primary challengers against select targets in order to incentivise good behavior on the part of congress critters. Make them responsible to their voters and the people as opposed to corporate masters. The key is how to do it. The tool that has been formed to carry out the plan is called Accountability Now. The Pac's members include, SCIU and the Steelworkers' Union, and Daily Kos, and Color of Change. These groups have banded together so that they may pool resources to take out the worst offenders in congress.

Now these groups all have varying interests and agenda's but what it evident from recent legislative battles is that the worst cp are rarely beholden to one interest group or corporate sector. These people will take money and deliver legislation from whoever has the cash to donate. The group currently has a war chest in excess of $500,000 and has until 2010 to build further. Not only will they need funds but challengers willing to run as progressives against the rotten members.

To bring everything back full circle Accountability Now will work hard to ensure that President Obama has the opportunity to govern like a progressive without being dragged back to the corporate side by people like Kerry. This means keeping those Corporate Congress Critters and Blue Dogs honest and afraid for their careers. To accomplish this will take a great deal of time and effort.

As Hamsher explains in her interview with greewald,

If we can find that person early on, and help them get the resources they need, a year in, a year and a half in, we'll be able to see who's really got the right stuff, who has the capacity to be a Donna Edwards. And at that point, these groups can come back and say, yes, I want to target this person, no, I don't want to target this person, yes I believe in this candidate, let's get behind them. And we run what is known in Washington DC speak as a Steve Rosenthal special, where everybody comes together and supports alternative candidate.

This stuff will be very important to the future of the democratic party and to the country. if the net roots and other progressive orgs can band together and successfully alter the behavior of the chronically corporate then not only Obama be able to govern and pass the policies he was elected to but we have shot at undoing the horrendous damage bush and the corrupt gop have done to our country.

At this point i expect that all of the focus is going to be on electing obama, defeating prop 8 and 4 and winning the other pivotal battles of the election. I wont include a fund raising link for AN because the funds, if you have any left, would be more valuable if given at the kos act blue page. After tuesday, be prepared for the next stage of the battle. The election is only an opportunity for change and it remains up to us, the people, to fight and insure that it happens. Dont lose sight of the goal.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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