With the pre-election brouhaha fast approaching a frenzy, here are a couple of articles that step back a little to look at the bigger picture. The first, by Robert Reich (it was reprinted in today’s S.F. Chronicle), talks about something I’ve already addressed in this blog — how the wealthy are hijacking the American political system.
The second, in today’s New York Times, by The Nation contributing editor Ari Berman, talks about what might happen after the election, and how losing some of the Democrats in Congress might not be such a bad thing.
This is an interesting article because it suggests that the Democrats might profit from something the Republicans did during the Reagan years — doing some ideological “housecleaning”. It notes that starting in 2005 [IMHO, actually well before then, going back to the Clinton years and the Democratic Leadership Conference] and led by DNC chair Howard Dean and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emmanuel, the Democrats attempted to recruit “competitive” candidates throughout the country, including the “red” states won by GW Bush. In order to make sure their candidates were competitive, they looked for people who would fit with the red state terrain they’d be campaigning in. As a result, Congress received an influx of so-called “blue dog” Democrats — Democrats who hewed to a center-right perspective and voted with the Republicans at least as often as with their fellow Democrats. It was these blue dogs who watered down Obama’s healthcare reform and financial reform packages, who stymied global warming legislation, and who have contributed to having many Obama appointments stuck waiting for Congressional approval. In short, the blue dogs have become almost as big an obstacle to the Democratic Congressional agenda as the Republicans. Further, as Democrats, they hold leadership positions, allowing them to be more effective in their opposition than most Republicans.
While the Democrats will undoubtedly lose seats in both the House and Senate this November, a lot of those seats will be blue dog seats. So, we’ll have Republicans instead of Republicans masquerading as Democrats. That may not make a lot of difference. In fact, as Berman points out, it may actually help the Democrats if it allows them to become more unified and pointed in their legislative program. So, come November 3rd, before you start shouting that the sky has fallen, it may make sense to take a deep breath, wait a few months, and see how the new Congress shakes out. Who knows, maybe it’ll be the Republicans’ turn to be saddled with some blue dogs?