‘New Democrats’ and ‘Blue Dogs’ may tilt national party to center

“Progressives” vow to “replace” centrist Democrats who won’t tow the far left line

Shaila Dewan and Anne E. Kornblut of the New York Times explains this morning that New Democrats and Blue Dogs will control the House should the party gain control of it next week:

In their push to win back control of the House, Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party.

“My guess is that if Democrats are in the majority, it’s going to be because of these New Democrat, Blue Dog candidates out there winning in these competitive swing districts,” Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, co-chairman of a caucus of centrist House Democrats, said in an interview.

Collectively, the group could tilt the balance of power within the party, which has been struggling to define itself in recent elections. The candidates cover the spectrum on political issues; some are fiscally conservative and moderate or liberal on social issues, some are the reverse. They could influence negotiations with Republicans on a variety of issues, including Social Security and stem cell research.

There are two main groups of moderate Democrats in the House: the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of socially conservative and moderate members formed in 1994; and the New Democrat Coalition, a caucus of centrists formed in 1997. While there are differences between the two — the Blue Dogs tend to be more rural and Southern, with occasional alliances with Republicans, while the New Democrats are more suburban and wealthy and place a premium on party loyalty — there are members who belong to both. Both, of course, have a stake in helping the centrist candidates succeed.

Representative Ellen O. Tauscher of California, a co-chairwoman of the 47-member New Democrat Coalition, said that 27 of the top 40 contested House seats were being pursued by Democrats who have pledged to become members of the group, which says its chief issues are national security and fiscal responsibility.

“I think there’s tremendous agreement and awareness that getting the majority and running over the left cliff is what our Republican opponents would dearly love,” Ms. Tauscher said, adding that this was something “we’ve got to fight.”

The centrist movement was embodied by former President Bill Clinton, who rose to prominence through the Democratic Leadership Council, which embraced a so-called third way of politics and eschewed what it saw as outdated liberalism.

Yet since Mr. Clinton left office, Democrats have seemed to drift back in the direction of their liberal identity, nominating two presidential contenders who were seen as less committed to the moderate cause.

“The Democrats as a whole have begun to understand and recognize, as I did, that we have the extreme left and the extreme right, and 80 percent of America is in the middle,” (NC Congressional candidate) Heath Shuler said on a campaign stop last week at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. “People need to start working together.”

In this election cycle, the Democrats’ desire for a victory in Congress has overridden concerns that candidates like Mr. Shuler are too far right for the party base. But there are questions about what will happen down the line.

“I don’t think people like Shuler will be the core of the Democratic Party,” said Mark Bloom, a writer who is a volunteer for MoveOn.org, the liberal advocacy group, at its storefront office in downtown Asheville. “If people like Shuler turn out to not be progressive enough for my tastes, I’ll work to replace him.”

Fat chance, Bloom. One of the many things the narrow-minded fringes of both the left and right can’s seem to understand is that there are some areas of the country where their strict ideology just won’t play. In regards to Shuler, a “MoveOn” leftwinger hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of winning in a red state. To think otherwise is mere vanity on the part of MoveOn.

Great piece this morning by Joe Klein called The Year the Democrats Punched Back, about how the party of the Donkey was ready and waiting for the GOP attack ads this year, and struck back decisively.

Dana R. Fisher at the CSMonitor discusses how so-called “progressive” grassroots activism is little more than well funded astro-turf and how it may actually be hurting Democratic candidates.

Jonathan Chait reveals (again) for all to see that the Democratic party DOES have ideas (and good ones), but no one is reporting them. Thus, people tend to believe the GOP when they say Democrats have no ideas.

Democrats running for the House of Representatives actually have an agenda. Republicans aren’t saying why the Democratic agenda is wrong, or why their own is better. They’re just ignoring it.

If you’re like most people, you probably have no idea what that agenda is. Let me list it:

• Put new rules in place to break the link between lobbyists and legislation.

• Enact all the recommendations made by the 9/11 commission.

• Raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

• Cut the interest rate on federally supported student loans in half.

• Allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

• Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds.

• Impose pay-as-you-go budget rules, requiring that new entitlement spending or tax cuts be offset with entitlement spending cuts or tax hikes.

Republicans disagree with all these items. Indeed, the reason these items are on the Democratic agenda is that Republicans in Congress have blocked them from coming up for a vote. So where’s the Republican rebuttal?

Now, I’m not saying that the GOP needs to hold some Oxford-style intellectual debate. But shouldn’t the party offer some rebuttal?

You know, “Raising the minimum wage would kill millions of jobs,” or, “Pay-as-you-go budget rules will require tax hikes or cuts in your Medicare benefits,” or, “Why should we waste billions of dollars preventing terrorist attacks that haven’t even happened yet?” These are just some off-the-cuff suggestions. I’m sure Republican political consultants could do better.

My point is, we’re not even getting a debate about a caricature of the Democratic position, let alone the actual one. Instead, we’re getting things like this: GOP Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana is running an ad warning that if Democrats take power and California Democrat Nancy Pelosi becomes House speaker, she “will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank’s home.”

What is the homosexual agenda? The ad does not say. (Apparently it involves raising the minimum wage and cutting the interest rate on government-backed student loans. I can just see it if the Democrats win — all those gay Wal-Mart employees, cackling with glee as they use their fat $7.25-an-hour salaries to pay off their suddenly puny college debts.)

Which is my point. Republicans don’t want an actual choice election, they want to run against a mythological Democratic Party so frightening that the voters overlook all the GOP’s failures.

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