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?

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Economics and Business, , , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Drew says:

    I once wrote what I thought was a nifty piece. The reviewer’s response: Just words, just a jumble of words. So, too, your post.

    I certainly share your frustration with Republicans who have abandoned core values. But by your own theory of “least worst option” one does not have an Epiphany and jump to Democrats holding statist philosophies…..unless those were in fact your core beliefs to begin with. Ahem.

    But the plot thickens: You say – “Obama’s European style social liberalism is mildly preferable…………”

    Really? The political/economic philosophy that has produced long term 9-12% unemployment rates and sluggish growth is “mildly preferable?” In this country such performance would be unthinkable.

    In fact, our own chattering class have told us for over a year that the sub 6% unemployment rate and near historical norm GDP growth rates the US has experienced are indicative of recession…..or an “economic mess.” And you describe Euronumbers as “mildly preferable?”

    This is certainly a calculus with which I am not familiar.

    Yes, I am feeling a bit cynical today. Why do you ask?

  2. Triumph says:

    Obama’s European style social liberalism

    Its inaccurate to claim Obama as a “European style social liberal”–what policy positions are you talking about from Obama? Which European countries are you claiming he emulates?

    As far as Drew’s comment, please note that economic growth in the EU has surpassed that of the US and unemployment numbers are identical.

  3. Alex Knapp says:


    But by your own theory of “least worst option” one does not have an Epiphany and jump to Democrats holding statist philosophies…..unless those were in fact your core beliefs to begin with.

    Er, both Republicans AND Democrats are statists. In 2004, I voted Libertarian except for President, in which I voted “None of the Above.” In 2000, I voted a straight Libertarian ticket.

    Really? The political/economic philosophy that has produced long term 9-12% unemployment rates and sluggish growth is “mildly preferable?” In this country such performance would be unthinkable.

    Those are hardly universal figures across Europe. And where they are accurate, the bulk of the causation have to do with policies that make it (a) harder for immigrants to get jobs and (b) harder to start new businesses. Both of these policies are pretty much non-starters in both parties.

    In fact, our own chattering class have told us for over a year that the sub 6% unemployment rate and near historical norm GDP growth rates the US has experienced are indicative of recession

    Yes–with estimates that we’re going to hit 8.5 – 10% unemployment before the recession ends. I’m sorry–which parties’ economic policies have been implemented for the past few years again?

    Please note also that what I mean by “European style social liberalism” is increased government involvement in health care and an expanded welfare state. Most of the rest of Obama’s economic policies would be considered downright reactionary in Europe. I consider the current Democratic Party the lesser evil to the current Republican Party, which favors propping up big businesses, shuts out entrepeneurship, makes public the failures of the rich while simultaneously de-incentivizing risk-taking among the middle class, and increases the burden of debt on this country enormously in the name of “tax cutting.”

  4. sam says:

    Anedote to cynicism

    WILL FERRELL AS PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: “Hello, my fellow Americans. I have chosen to schedule this impromptu address at night because quite frankly every time I speak during the day, the Stock Market goes in the crapper. So, sorry, Asian markets. You take the hit on this one. I come to you tonight in the midst of a very important election between two very qualified candidates: the hot lady and the Tiger Woods guy. Both candidates are heavily patriotized and display much characterization. And yes, I did have three Xanax and a Silver Bullet about a half-hour ago. I’m out of here in a few months, so screw it. But before I leave I wanted to help Sarah Palin and John McCain by giving them what every candidate wants most: a prime-time heavily publicized network endorsement from George W. Bush. Hey, don’t pinch yourself John, you are awake!”

    “Now I tried to do this several months ago but somehow it kept getting pushed to a written press release or a shouted sentence as I walked to the helicopter. I began to suspect that they didn’t want my endorsement to be too public. But now with the country on a big upswing and my numbers on the rise, I thought it was time to give a proper, large scale ‘much love’ to McCain and Palin…”

    (WILL FORTE, as an AIDE enters and whispers in BUSH’s ear)

    FERRELL: “What? Really? Why didn’t you tell me Jeff? I’ve just been told by my trusted aide Jeff, that the country is actually in a horrible downward spiral and that my approval numbers are lower than ever. That one’s on me. Four months ago, I declared the Oval Office a bummer-free zone. So… You know what, let’s bring on Senator McCain and Governor Palin.”

    (TINA FEY as GOV.SARAH PALIN enters smiling and waving and sits next to BUSH on the front the desk)

    TINA FEY AS PALIN: “So nice to meet you, Mr. President. I’ve seen you on TV.”

    FERRELL: “Where’s McRage?”

    FEY: “You know, John McCain and I have been so busy travelin’ around this great country of ours talkin’ about change and energy independence and William Ayers, and doin’ a little shoppin’, but unfortunately Senator McCain, upon hearing you wanted to give him a super public endorsement, cannot be found. He was last seen travelin’ on foot through the Adirondacks. But my husband and two of his drinkin’ buddies are in pursuit on snowmachines.

    FERRELL: “Well, We’ll smoke him out. George Bush always finds his man save for one huge exception.”

    FEY: “We are gonna get ‘er done.”

    FERRELL: “My God you are folksy.”

    FEY: “Why thank you Mr. President. I like to think I’m one part practiced folksy , one part sassy and a little dash of high school bitchy.”

    FERRELL: “For a little while I was trying to be folksy but after a bit, it just came off douchey. All right, let me get into my endorsement for you as Vice President. As you know America, the office of Vice President is the most important office in the land. The Vice President decides when we go to war, how we tax the citizens and how we interpret the Constitution. The President can do nothing without checking with the Vice President. That is why Sarah Palin…”

    FEY: “Actually, Mr. President, I don’t want to go all Katie Couric on you, but I think it’s actually the other way around. I think the Vice President reports to the President.”

    FERRELL: “Really? That’s not what Dick Cheney told me when he sat me down on the first day.”

    (DARRELL HAMMOND as SEN.JOHN MCCAIN is brought in, struggling with JASON SUDEIKIS as TODD PALIN in a snowsuit.)

    SUDEIKIS AS TODD PALIN: “We out-mavericked the maverick!”

    HAMMOND AS MCCAIN: “Good evening, my friends. Mr. President, always a pleasure.”

    FERRELL: “Good to see you, John. Hey let’s get a photo of this; it’ll really help your campaign out. Now let me do this: I, George W. Bush, endorse John McCain and Sarah Palin with all my heart…”

    (MCCAIN tries to drift out of frame but is pulled back by BUSH)

    FERRELL: “John was there for me ninety percent of the time over the last eight years. When you think of John McCain, think of me, George W. Bush. Think of this face. When you’re in the voting booth, before you vote — picture this face right here. A vote for John McCain is a vote for George W. Bush.

    (to MCCAIN) You’re welcome. So, I want to be there you, John for the next eight years.”

    FEY: The next sixteen years!

    FERRELL: (to an off-camera photographer) “Let’s get a safety. I think I blinked on that last shot. Thumbs up, everybody. But most of all I support them because … Live from New York … It’s Saturday Night!!!!

  5. spencer says:

    Even if Obama enact a very social agenda it will still be to the right of the big government, crony capitalism we have seen over the last seven years.

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Spencer, let us hope and pray your do not get a chance to find out. Believe it or not Ayers/Obama have changes in mind. Why not get someone capable to read Ayers Book, Prairie Fire to you? Then ask yourself why Ayers would pick Obama to chair the CAC (Chicago Annenberg Challenge) with millions at stake, or invite him into his house to begin his polical career. I’ll bet anything you wish, you cannot get a sitdown with the President of the Hells Angels. Why would someone like Ayers allow Obama into his house if they did not think the same way?

  7. Floyd says:

    People without objective principle will inevitably be lead by those without reason!
    An Obama administration will challenge the very foundations of our nation.
    25+% of the electorate are salivating at that prospect!

    The reality is…McCain is much closer to being a traditional Democrat than Obama,so the message is really to traditional Democrats. You have only two choices….

    1] Vote for McCain and spend the next few years reclaiming your party from the Stalinist extremists.

    2]Blindly follow your party leadership and be responsible for the incomprehensible, and perhaps irretrievable, damage advocated by those who have preempted your party.

  8. Floyd says:

    “”Will the Blue Dogs Stop Obama?””
    My guess is that it depends more on the “Yeller Dog Democrats”!
    Will they WAKE UP!?!?

  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Er, Zelsdorf, Ayers didn’t pick Obama to head the board of the Annenberg Challenge–Obama MET Ayers AFTER he was made head of the board.


  10. petar says:

    Perhaps it’s not up to me to give opinions in such an issue, but sometimes you have a thought and need to share it. Perhaps it’s good, perhaps it’s bad; perhaps it’s true, perhaps it isn’t. Sometimes somebody looking from outside could see better, sometimes couldn’t. My english is poor, my style rude and lacking nuances, so I don’t know if would make me understand or not — at least, I hope, something from what I am going to say would be interesting. Or not?

    So, I think there was a war in the world, which will end in the actual US elections. One side of that war was personified by the image of Mr. Bush, and the other by other images. I am refering to a strictly symbolic level — you can know it better for having better psychoanalytical tradition.

    Before continuing, I wish to specify the following:

    I consider Mr. Obama is a honourable man.

    I think changes are good.

    A black US president, sounds providential.

    They say he’s a muslim. But he say to be a cristian, and I believe he’s a cristian, as I am a cristian and anybody could be a good cristian without demostrating it too much. And anybody who would go for a president in a country with a strong cristian tradition, would be a good cristian. And if he was a muslim, no problem for a really democratic country.

    And Mr. Obama is a well prepared politician.

    And is a really honourable man.

    But the problem is other, and now we are going back to the war, without fear of misunderstanding. (I hope so.) The problem is, I think, a psychological one. And somebody knew very well how to exploit it. A part of Americans are so accustomed to see everything in only two colors. Perhaps your cinematography is to blame for this. You will know it better as it has to do with the psychoanalysis. They’ve seen too much good guys and bad boys, too much heroes and evildoers. It’s deep in the mentality of that part of your people. They even cannot see the history without dividing its figures, and peoples, into heroes and demons. And others have known very well to take advantage of this. When they see the heroes devaluing, they immediately change them by antiheroes, and everything goes on.

    At the biggining, Mr. Bush was a heroe. And he fought as a heroe. And Americans saw him as a heroe. But the things began to complicate. Apparently, obtaining the victory was going to be delayed — not as in a picture, in two hours. And the heroe fell from favor. No problem, there is an antiheroe — when you start to loathe a heroe, to punish him for failed expectations, you will choose his adversary. Osama Bin Laden o Sadam Huseyn? Perhaps, if they have reached the necessary symbolic weight.

    And now the problem really begins. And somebody knew and knows how to exploit it. It is as there would be, for example, a guy named Adolf Hifler competing as a candidate in Israeli presidential elections. I repeat I consider Mr. Obama as a honourable man and an excellent candidate for US president. But the problem is the name, and its symbolic value, and the mentality of those who….

    It was only a thought. And the war will end…

    And, I would like to remind you that Mr. Bush didn’t lose this war, because:

    There are people still dying in Iraq, but there were more people dying before, during Sadam regime, there was even genocides against diferent ethnic groups before, and no reporters ever entered Iraq in that times to relate or film it. And now they can fill up news and TV with reports. Why didn´t they enter Iraq before? And Tibet? And former Soviet Union during the communist regime? Because of fear. And now can enter, because there is better situation, more liberty. Less danger. Thanks to American military presence.

    Kurds have their autonomy, their state, and their administration for the first time after centuries and centuries. And they are more than ten million. Thanks to American military presence in Iraq.

    At least, for these two reasons Mr. Bush didn´t lose the war and will not lose it. You’ll know it better.