American Political Math
When Republicans controlled the presidency and had strong majorities in the House and Senate, I often read calls from bloggers on my side of the aisle for purging the RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) from the ranks. After all, the likes of Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chaffee were a giant pain in the butt and always seemed to be in cohoots with the Democrats to craft a “compromise” bill that we weren’t going to like. Why not get rid of these clowns and just work with the True Believers?
Well, by and by, it happened. Most of the Republicans in the Northeast lost. A couple of them became Democrats.
And now the Democrats control the presidency and have strong majorities in the House and Senate. And, lo and behold, bloggers on their side of the aisle are saying the same thing. Digby, responding to Charlie Cook’s claim that the Dems could lose 20 seats in the House in 2010, mostly among the so-called Blue Dogs:
I would love to hear anyone tell me why I shouldn’t be cheering for that outcome.
Cook said it would “reflect on” the president, but from my perspective it would reflect well on him. And if it happens because he rammed through meaningful health care reform instead of some watered down bucket of warm spit and the administration managed to get unemployment down, I think he will very likely have Morning in America in 2012.
To hell with Rahm and his appease the Blue Dogs at all costs strategy. What good is it if the president fails in 2012? If Cook is right and the Dems maintain their majority while losing a bunch of these reactionary wingnuts, I couldn’t be happier. And the Democrat should be happy too because it means they can pass successful legislation for a change.
Now, I encourage the Democrats to pursue this strategy. I really do. But instead of “winning by losing” they would simply be “losing by losing.”
Blue Dog Democrats are mostly Southern Democrats. They’re moderate on the social issues and moderately hawkish on fiscal issues, making them liberals back home, conservatives in the Democratic Caucus, and “wingnuts” to the Netroots. If they lose, they’ll be replaced by Southern Republicans who will naturally be to their right.
The Blue Dogs disagree with Obama on some issues but they wish him well and will vote with him when they can. Almost all of them will campaign for him back home in places like North Carolina and Virginia and Florida, where he won narrowly last time even though Republicans have generally carried them. Their replacements would disagree with Obama on more issues and hope he fails politically so that their party can take back the White House in 2012.
The only way that addition by subtraction works for a party is in the leadership. A key committee chairman who opposes the party’s agenda can be more trouble than he’s worth. For example, I opposed having Arlen Specter chair the judiciary committee, given how important the courts are to both party’s agenda. (I would have given him a chairmanship of similar prestige where his views were more in line with the GOP’s mainstream.) But taking away occasional supporters and replacing them with dedicated opponents is not a winning strategy.