Sunday, August 03, 2008

Greenwald: Let's give the Blue Dogs the boot

A reminder to all the Republicans who relish the carping of the 9% Congress: they score that low because Democrats are pissed at them. Because Pelosi took impeachment off the table, because they continue to fund Bush's Wars, because they have cheerily joined in the evisceration of constitutional rights, because they refuse to do anything about Karl Rove's sneering contempt, and because too many of their members vote like Republicans. Not because they oppose offshore drilling or undocumented immigration or any of that other conservative bullshit ...

Perhaps most remarkable, some polls -- such as one from Fox News last month -- reveal that the Democratic-led Congress is actually more unpopular among Democrats than among Republicans, with 23 percent of Republicans approving of Congress compared with only 18 percent of Democrats. One would be hard-pressed to find a time in modern American history, if such a time exists at all, when a Congress was more unpopular among the party that controls it than among voters from the opposition party.

This week even Nick Lampson and Barack Obama announced that they would be open to drilling for oil in the nation's most fragile ecosystems, and they did so not to satisfy America's insatiable consumption but to appease the knee-jerk polls that suggest Americans want it.

Just in Texas, we have Lampson and Ciro Rodriguez and Chet Edwards (odiously mentioned again this morning by Pelosi on George Snufflelufagus' This Weak as vice-presidential material) and even Silvestre Reyes, the head of the House Intelligence committee, who barely managed a decent whine about the White House's restructuring of the nation's intelligence apparatus this past week. Of course there's all the Texas House representatives who keep electing Tom Craddick speaker, but even I'm tired of complaining about that.

(T)he only question worth asking among those who are so dissatisfied with congressional Democrats is this: What can be done to change this conduct? As proved by the 2006 midterm elections -- which the Democrats dominated in a historically lopsided manner -- mindlessly electing more Democrats to Congress will not improve anything. Such uncritical support for the party is actually likely to have the opposite effect. It's axiomatic that rewarding politicians -- which is what will happen if congressional Democrats end up with more seats and greater control after 2008 than they had after 2006 -- only ensures that they will continue the same behavior. If, after spending two years accommodating one extremist policy after the next favored by the right, congressional Democrats become further entrenched in their power by winning even more seats, what would one expect them to do other than conclude that this approach works and therefore continue to pursue it?

If simply voting for more Democrats will achieve nothing in the way of meaningful change, what, if anything, will? At minimum, two steps are required to begin to influence Democratic leaders to change course: 1) Impose a real political price that they must pay when they capitulate to -- or actively embrace -- the right's agenda and ignore the political values of their base, and 2) decrease the power and influence of the conservative "Blue Dog" contingent within the Democratic caucus, who have proved excessively willing to accommodate the excesses of the Bush administration, by selecting their members for defeat and removing them from office. And that means running progressive challengers against them in primaries, or targeting them with critical ads, even if doing so, in isolated cases, risks the loss of a Democratic seat in Congress.

I am pretty close to fed up with voting for Democrats who once elected vote like Republicans. And I appear to be far from alone in that regard. I likewise refuse to continue to enable this bad behavior by supporting them simply because of their label.

If they lose, I consider it to be their fault, not mine.

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