Progressive Revolution to Purify Democratic Party

Matt Stoler is leading the charge for the Netroots to root out the “Bush Dogs” from the Democratic Party, purging it of the impure traitors who do not buy into every jot and tittle of the Progressive Agenda.

Bush Dog Purge Logo We’ve been working to identify the group of conservative Democrats in the House who are holding back progressives from being able to effectively govern. These are concentrated in two main caucuses, the Blue Dog Caucus and the New Democrat caucuses. Blue Dogs consider themselves heirs to the Southern conservative wing of the party, and tend to vote for socially restrictive policies and a hawkish foreign policy. The New Democrats tend to be more partisan, but often are key to passing important pieces of right-wing legislation, such as the Bankruptcy Bill. In the last few years, these two caucuses have expanded their numbers, and the Blue Dogs have become the swing vote in the House allowing for effective conservative control of the Congress. We want to put a stop to the embrace of conservative values among House Democrats, and make sure that when Democrats are elected, they act like Democrats.

[…]

The first step in stopping this behavior is to identify the people engaging in it and offer up criticism. There are a few reasons for this. One, many of these members feel no pressure to vote correctly or uphold progressive values. Criticism is the signal they are relying on to let them know when they err. Two, some of these members may need to face a primary challenge, and it’s useful for potential primary challengers to know that there is criticism of these members. Three, other members considering joining the Bush Dog caucus may be dissuaded if they know there will be criticism. Four, candidates running for office will finally have a signal on how they should talk about being good Democrats that are willing to take tough votes.

He has identified 38 House Democrats who must conform to the Netroots Agenda . . . or else: Jason Altmire, PA-04; Brian Baird, WA-03 (he didn’t vote for FISA, but he just switched his position and now supports the surge); John Barrow, GA-12; Melissa Bean, IL-08; Dan Boren, OK-02; Leonard Boswell, IA-03; Alan Boyd, FL-02; Chris Carney, PA-10; Ben Chandler, KY-06; Jim Cooper, TN-05; Jim Costa, CA-20; Bud Cramer, AL-05; Henry Cuellar, TX-28; Lamar Davis, TN-04; Joe Donnelly, IN-02; Chet Edwards, TX-17; Brad Ellsworth, IN-08; Bob Etheridge, NC-02; Bart Gordon, TN-06; Stephanie Herseth, SD-AL; Baron Hill, IN-09; Nick Lampson, TX-22; Dan Lipinski, IL-03; Jim Marshall, GA-08; Jim Matheson, UT-02; Mike McIntyre, NC-07; Charlie Melancon, LA-03; Colin Peterson, MN-07; Earl Pomeroy, ND-AL
Ciro Rodriguez, TX-23; Mike Ross, AR-04; John Salazar, CO-03; Heath Shuler, NC-11; Vic Snyder, AR-02
Zack Space, OH-18; John Tanner, TN-08; Gene Taylor, MS-04; Tim Walz, MN-01; and Charlie Wilson, OH-06.


FireDogLake
, DailyKos, Glenn Greenwald, and MyDD have joined this fine movement. I’m sure, before long, the list of Traitors to the Cause will expand well beyond this original 38. [Glenn Greenwald, writing before Stoler’s post, agrees with the idea that the Democrats’ problem is that they are not cleaving closely enough to the Progressive line.]

This “scares the hell” out of some moderate[s]-left folks like Michael van der Galien, who worry about chilling effects on free speech and free thought.

And some on the Right are giddy about this idea, too. For example, Michael Goldfarb is crowing at the Weekly Standard about how the Netroots are “doing the work of the NRCC” (National Republican Congressional Committee) for them.

While the numbers are constantly in flux because of deaths, retirements, prison sentences and whatnot, the Democrats won 233 seats last November, to 202 for the Republicans. That means the Republicans need to hold all their current seats plus gain 16 of the Democratic seats to retake the majority next year. That’s an uphill fight, given the party’s current popularity, but not inconceivable.

It would sure help, though, if the 38 most moderate Members were replaced by True Blue, Netroots Approved Progressives. What better way to stem to tide than have Al Franken-style liberals running in places like Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Utah, North Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana?

So, sure, Republicans love this idea. But getting distracted by that sort of thing is short-sighted thinking.

Look, what’s the point of winning a majority if your party’s most ideological members aren’t one hundred percent happy, one hundred percent of the time? It’s far better to lose the majority by insisting on ideological purity and then building from there with Pure Progressives. It’s worked nicely for the Libertarians, why not the Democrats?

So, march on brave Netroots soldiers. March on in your quest for the Holy Grail.

UPDATE: Errors in classifying Michael van der Galien’s ideology and Glenn Greenwald’s position on this issue corrected above, with originals struck out and modifications in brackets.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Melissa Bean, for example, represents an extremely conservative district. It’s Phil Crane’s old district and his constituents finally threw him out after one too many drunk driving incidents. Melissa was returned to Washington because she’s pragmatic and a good egg. But the IL-08 is not a safe district for Democrats and anybody who thinks that somebody more “progressive” than Congresswoman Bean is can get elected there needs to exhale.

  2. Glenn Greenwald says:

    I’m always amazed by people who think there is something oppressive or even — more hilariously — undemocratic about opposing political officials whose views one finds unacceptable. Doing so happens to be the defining attribute of the democratic process. Nobody is entitled to hold office and the suggestion that there is something untoward about targeting office-holders for defeat where they cast votes or express views that one finds acceptable is truly inane.

    As for “some on the Right” being giddy, this is the standard claptrap that they always spew. I’m sure you will recall how “giddy” those on the Right were when the netroots defeated Joe Lieberman in that primary. That, you see, was going to doom Democrats, because it showed how radical and leftist the party has become. What rational person would listen to the same people spewing the same trite claims in light of the results of the midterm election?

    Moreoever, conservatives frequently target GOP incumbents who stray from the conservative line. Ask Arlen Specter, or Congressman Walter Jones, and several other 2006 GOP incumbents, including some who were successfully defeated in primaries for being insufficiently conservative. Again, it takes towering irrationality to suggest that there is anything wrong with that, and even less flattering characteristics to express concerns over “free speech and free thought.”

    Nonetheless, contrary to what you wrote, I haven’t “joined” this movement. Your claim in that regard is just wrong. The post to which you linked did not even mention or allude to this movement. I doubt I even knew about it at the time I wrote that post. My post was an analysis of the polling data regarding the causes of Congress’ unpopularity and nothing more.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    BTW Michale van der Galien is Dutch. By Dutch standards he’s not moderate left. His libertarian sentiments render him rather hard to classify. He’s not far right (that means something else there). Center right, maybe?

    Kind of hard to classify political positions across national borders.

  4. Michael van der Galiën says:

    This is problably the first (ever) that someone calls me a “moderate lefty” indeed. I oppose the use of Gitmo, etc. but that does not necessarily make one a ‘lefty,’ does it?

    I’m actually considered a conservative in the Netherlands and am right-of-center in America as well. Albeit not far right-of-center, but r.o.c. nonetheless.

  5. James Joyner says:

    I’m actually considered a conservative in the Netherlands and am right-of-center in America as well.

    My apologies. I somehow got a different impression reading your posts in isolation.

    Nonetheless, contrary to what you wrote, I haven’t “joined” this movement. . . . My post was an analysis of the polling data regarding the causes of Congress’ unpopularity and nothing more.

    Fair enough. Your post was cited in Tailrank as part of the thread and your ideas are in sync with the movement. You’re right, though, that you don’t actually take a position on it in the post.

    I don’t argue that it’s undemocratic to eat one’s own, just ill advised in a complex, diverse polity. I made similar arguments during the 2006 cycle about attempts by Republicans to purge the RINOs in the primaries.

    While I understand the impulse, one needs to be practical as well. In Alabama, Democrats can’t elect a Progressive; a moderate conservative is as far left as you’re going to get. Similarly, Rhode Island and Maine are going to elect either liberal Democrats or slightly-less-liberal Republicans. If you’re a Republican, the latter is preferable since that’s another vote for Republican Leadership, committee chairs, and so forth.

    Politics is, after all, the art of the possible.

  6. Bithead says:

    The Democrats are already perceived as being too far to the left for most voters. Indeed, the very reason that Stoller thinks there’s a problem, is because most people, even Democrats, are electing pols who are not far to the left as Mr. Stoller would seem to prefer. There just isn’t the popular support for it.

    Therefore, he may very well succeed in pushing his party to the left… But in doing so, he will be pushing his party even further out of the mainstream, and further away from being electable, thereby.

    On that basis I say, more power to him. It’ll be the best thing the Republican party has had happen to it in a while.

  7. just me says:

    I think this kind of movement idea is mostly pipe dreams.

    Somebody well left of center just isn’t going to win in conservative leaning districts, especially in the South.

    I think targeting certain congress members isn’t always a bad idea, but I think the candidate chosen to unseat them in the primary needs to be carefully chosen, because unseating a member that gives your party majority control of the agenda, but doesn’t always vote your way, may in the end backfire by handing the other party control.

    Better, perhaps to target the worst offenders, recruit carefully, and try to encourage the others with letter writing campaigns and the like.

  8. anonymous says:

    forget about the democratic party. it’s hopeless. switch to a real progressive political party. join the green party. unlike the democratic party, the green party is growing and part of an international movement with parties and elected officials in more than 70 countries worldwide! i don’t want to hear anything about spoiling elections either. democrats have the solution to the so-called spoiler problem but they refuse to use it. that solution is instant runoff voting. its been 7 years since the 2000 election; and just as with so many other important issue, the democrats have failed to act.

  9. Mithras says:

    Stoller says:

    The first step in stopping this behavior is to identify the people engaging in it and offer up criticism. There are a few reasons for this. One, many of these members feel no pressure to vote correctly or uphold progressive values. Criticism is the signal they are relying on to let them know when they err. Two, some of these members may need to face a primary challenge, and it’s useful for potential primary challengers to know that there is criticism of these members. Three, other members considering joining the Bush Dog caucus may be dissuaded if they know there will be criticism. Four, candidates running for office will finally have a signal on how they should talk about being good Democrats that are willing to take tough votes.

    I see nothing in that paragraph that says, “My way or the highway.” In fact, it leaves considerable room for conservative Democrats to make the case that they can’t vote with leadership and still win their districts. But at least they will have to make the case. This is called politics, not a purge. Joyner’s just wrong.

  10. Matthew Stinson says:

    I wonder if the netroots will get, ahem, frustrated when some of the money they give to the DNC is used to support Blue Dogs in tight races next year.

  11. Mithras says:

    Btw, anyone else seeing this message:

    [Table ‘./drjjoyne_wp/wp_bdprss_items_v3’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired]

    Followed by a huge amount of text and broken html?

  12. anjin-san says:

    The kos crowd tends to be a bit strident for me, but there is certainly nothing wrong with people organizing to promote their agenda. I am pretty sure that’s a part of democracy.

    Certainly the general wimpyness of the Democratic response to Bush’s continued assault on the rule of law since taking power on the hill is a grave disappointment that needs to be addressed.

  13. Dale says:

    I’m glad that you’ve made me aware of this campaign. I was unsure of how Leonard Boswell (IA-3) was doing. He is my congressman though I didn’t vote for him. I figure if he has made the liberals mad at him then he must be doing something right.

    Iowa is probably the wrong place to go to complain about not advancing the liberal agenda. I suspect that the liberals won’t make much headway there. Especially since Boswell has been in office for 11 years now and has handily defeated all comers. Its probably because he pretty well represents how his constituents think. The only thing that some west coast or northeast liberal group is going to do in Iowa is piss us off.

  14. libhomo says:

    One has to remember that the war in Iraq is a war of aggression, and wars of aggression are war crimes under international law. One also has to remember that the Iraq war is an act of genocide, which is a heinous war crime, according to international law.

    Any politician that voted to get us into the Iraq war and any politician that votes to continue it is factually a war criminal and is subject to criminal prosecution for war crimes in any country for the rest of his or her life.

    These are facts, not expressions of ideology.

    The notion that opposing literal war criminals in primaries is imposing a “purity test” is absurd. It also speaks volumes about the anti-democratic nature of the “Democratic Party” establishment. In a genuine, representative democracy, all political primaries would be contested. Yet, wanting to have the worst of the so-called Democrats subject to contested primaries is ridiculed as ideological extremism by party hacks. Moneyed interests have way too much power in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

  15. Mithras says:

    There’s a serious case of groupthink going on in these comments. Did anyone else bother to read the linked post?

  16. Dale says:

    Libhomo: Who says the “blue dog” democrats are the worst of the so called Democrats?

    War criminals? Are you completely off your rocker?

  17. bains says:

    So, march on brave Netroots soldiers. March on in your quest for the Holy Grail.

    I cant wait to see how well Representative John Salazar is going to be received here were he to toe the nutroot’s line.

  18. Sheri Herman says:

    Matt:

    I was the person who took on Zack Space the day you posted your diary about writing up profile on the blue dogs.

    I have researched him heavily and as a result I do not believe he belongs on the list. Yes, he has made some calls in this his FRESHMAN year I do not agree with. FISA, and votes for tax breaks for the wealthy are his big follies. BUT, 80% of the time his votes have gone according to party lines. According to Progressive Punch, merely removing 2 of his votes (the tax reform votes) gives him a Progressive score close to 90%.

    More importantly, OHIO IS A SWING STATE. This is the first time a DEM has held a seat in the 18Th for 12 years running. The GOP is throwing everything they can to unseat him. I think this would be a tragic turn of events for the Dem party. He may not be perfect. but as far as I can see. he is decent and honest and deserves our support. Lastly, if for no other reason, challenging him is political suicide.