Will the Blue Dogs Stop Obama?
On OTB Radio this past Wednesday, my colleague Dave Schuler noted that most of the expected gains in the House for the Democrats will be coming from more conservative districts, leading to a larger “Blue Dog” coalition which might block more liberal portions of Obama’s agenda. Matthew Yglesias points out that it’s not quite that simple.
Beyond that, at the moment the 219th most liberal member of congress — the one who, generically, would be the last vote for progressive legislation — is Rep. Tanner of Tennessee. Tanner is a Blue Dog. And Tanner is also quite conservative. But “more Blue Dogs” and “More Tanners” are not equivalent. At the moment, only 16 Democratic Representatives (of which twelve are Blue Dogs) are to the right of Tanner. By contrast, there are 29 members of the Blue Dog caucus to the left of Tanner. And every new House member, whether Blue Dog or otherwise, who’s to the left of Tanner is pushing the median member to the left.
I think that this is mostly right. Now more than ever, the two major parties are really drawing themselves along ideological lines, primarily on social issues. Additionally, the Republican party has largely abandoned its free-market principles, with some members embracing the economic liberalism of left-wing Democrats (see Huckabee, Mike) and the rest embracing what is best snarkily described as a corporate feudalism which bears little to no relation to an actual free market.
As a consequence, I’m not sure that most of Obama’s economic policies won’t make it through. I’m not exactly thrilled about this, mind you, but you go to governance with the Congress that you have, right? And frankly, Obama’s European style social liberalism is mildly preferable to the “private reward and public risk (if you’re in the upper 1% bracket); higher taxes and nothing else for the other 99%” policies that define today’s GOP. Not by a lot, mind you, but by enough to make Democrats the least worst option.
Don’t worry, though. I’m sure that over the next 2-4 years Republicans will remember that they’re supposed to be about free markets when they campaign, only to once again conveniently forget those principles when they’re actually in office in favor of policies that make it harder for entrepreneurs to compete and easier for big businesses to maintain their market share.
Yes, I am feeling a bit cynical today. Why do you ask?