Blue Dogs, beware

ADVERTISEMENT
Now, it’s true that many “conservative” Blue Dog Democrats were elected not because of ideology or party label, but because of political legacies, scandal or remarkably bad Republican opponents. And on certain issues, the constituencies of many of the Blue Dogs are certainly to the right of the mainstream. But the ugly truth is that the Blue Dogs have mastered the lucrative art of political obstructionism for the sake of fundraising. The smaller the GOP minority becomes, the more important it is to corporatist interests to have reliable allies willing to stymie reform inside the Democratic Party.

On the rare occasion that they’re called to task for their corporatist agenda, Blue Dogs feign outrage, acting shocked that their motives are deemed less than pure. It’s just coincidence that their interests line up with those of Big Business! The political establishment nods along, taking this nonsense at face value, never asking the Blue Dogs’ constituents what they believe.

That changed this past week.

A poll by Democratic pollsters Garin Hart Yang tested cap-and-trade in three conservative districts held by Democrats, including two Blue Dog districts. In Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler’s North Carolina district, 55 percent supported cap-and-trade. Only 29 percent were opposed. In Blue Dog Rep. Baron Hill’s Indiana, cap-and-trade support clocked in at 45-30. And in Rep. Tom Perriello’s Virginia district, a top pickup target for the GOP in 2010, it was 42-25 in support. Contrary to CW, this environmental measure isn’t exactly electoral poison in these “red” districts.

Similarly, we’re told that Blue Dogs have no choice but to fight healthcare reform, that their constituents don’t want affordable and accessible healthcare, and that their opposition to reform has nothing to do with the millions they collect from the insurance industry. To test this CW, Daily Kos commissioned nonpartisan pollster Research 2000 to poll the districts of Blue Dogs Mike Ross in Arkansas, John Barrow in Georgia, Bart Stupak in Michigan, Henry Cuellar in Texas and Jim Cooper in Tennessee. Each district showed considerable support for the public option — for example, 61 percent support in Cooper’s district.

Cooper responded to the poll by dismissing it, “Private polls are inherently inaccurate,” he claimed, and then he attacked me personally: “He who pays the piper calls the tune, and the Daily Kos got what it wanted.”

The polling shows that both Democrats and independents are less likely to vote for Blue Dogs if they join Republicans in opposing a public option. Conservative intensity is high, but nothing will force Democrats and independents to vote in 2010. If they are disillusioned by the inability of large Democratic majorities to accomplish much of note, they could stay home. And that, more than anything else, is the biggest danger for Blue Dogs.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).

This story was updated at 10:44 a.m.