The tattered remants of the Democratic majority of 2008 can be seen running for the hills from a certain individual. The individual in question does not need to be named but the announcement from the Blue Dog Coalition sends a clear signal to party leadership, “We are fed up with your leadership.”
Today the Blue Dog Coalition announced they were breaking with their party and supporting the House GOP’s Balanced Budget Amendment. The vote is expected to be on Friday and while even it if passes the GOP House it will be sat on in the Senate it sends a clear signal to voters what GOP control would mean in 2012. For Democrats who spoke of unity after their 2010 shellacking the Blue Dog Coalition’s announcement just pours salt on an open wound.
Consider what has transpired since 2008. Democrats came into office with massive majorities and as diverse a caucus in the House they would ever have. Their members represented suburban, urban, minority-majority as well as rural districts. Their members had diverse backgrounds of all races and ethnicities. But that seems a thing of the past. In 2009 Democratic freshman were pushed out of key committee positions and forced to cross their party on divisive issue after divisive issue. In the House, in June 2009 Democratic freshmen were forced to vote on Cap and Trade. Then in September they had to vote for or against Obamacare.
Things soon got worse. The tough votes did not let up. Leadership than forced Democrats to vote again to pass HC Reform, and pass it did, just barely in late March. All these high-profile votes took a toll on the new Democratic majority. Individual members ran away from their party (in the case of one Congressman in Alabama, literally). Others ran against their own party and yet more openly complained about leadership and the WH. None was more vocal then the 50+ member strong Blue Dog Coalition. Called by some liberals as the “Yellow Dog Coalition,” these Democrats hailed from conservative to moderate districts across the country. And they saw the train wreck that was coming with the 2010 election. Yet for all this they stuck with their party and defended Democratic values.
The Blue Dog Coalition was made up of more than just freshmen, but the Coalition largely represented their interests. By mid-September of that year many of their members (and many more conservative non Coalition members) had publicly broken with their party on a whole host of issues. For many of them it did not matter. The Blue Dog Coalition, 50+ strong before November 2010 is now a former shell of itself. When the 112th Congress was sworn in the group had 26 members. Since then 3 members (CA,AR and OK) have resigned and yet another (IN) is running for Senate.
The situation has not improved for this Coalition. Their members do not have senior positions on committees and they continue to be shunned by party leadership. The Democratic leadership and WH’s plan of mobilizing the base with plans to forgive student debt and spend billions and billions on a new “Jobs Plan” has not made them any happier. And with redistricting giving GOP state legislators a chance to eliminate more of them even more Blue Dogs are moving to the right. Yet for all this they continued to stick with their party.
But this move represents an inevitable split on a key fiscal issue for the party. Once Blue Dogs championed HC Reform, before they were forced to vote, and now they are turning to the GOP’s idea of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Blue Dog Co-Chair Jim Matheson (UT) even said, “If any Blue Dog does not vote for it, I’d have to question how much they’re a Blue Dog.” And with that the divisions between conservative Democrats and their party leadership has officially blown up.
2008 was supposed to hail the beginning of a permanent Democratic majority in Congress. But yet 2 1/2 years later their party is shattered and divided. Blue Dogs are returning to their fiscal roots for a whole host of reasons. And as they do so, they incraesingly anger their liberal leadership. The future of the Blue Dog Coalition is unclear, but there is nothing unclear about there action here means.