Running To The Right Won’t Work
by Nathan Empsall, Tue Mar 09, 2010 at 11:48:17 PM EST
Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics might just have the most absurd headline I’ve seen all month: “It's Time for Moderate House Democrats to Stand Up to Obama.”
I’m more conservative than most in the progressive blogosphere, and yet even I think this story is ridiculous. Cost writes:
If their constituents ultimately disapprove, moderate House Democrats shouldn't expect Barack Obama to give a damn. That's not his style. He likes to give lip service to consensus - but when you read the fine print, he inevitably defines any divergent viewpoints as out-of-bounds. He did it on the stimulus. He's doing it on health care. If moderate House Democrats don't stand up to him now, he'll do it on cap-and-trade, immigration reform, and who knows what else. Sooner or later, their constituents will elect representatives who will stand up to the President.
And those new representatives will probably be Republicans.
There are at least two things wrong with this argument. First, moderate House Democrats are ALREADY standing up to Obama: 24 House Democrats voted against both health insurance reform and cap-and-trade. Another 15 more voted against just health insurance reform, and Bart Stupak is threatening to stop the whole thing again because even Ben Nelson isn’t pro-life enough for him. In the Senate, Max Baucus almost destroyed health insurance reform’s chances by spending too much time pointlessly negotiating with Grassley and Enzi. Nelson joined with Mary Landrieu to even further slow the bill, this after working with Arlen Specter to drastically pare down the stimulus. How is this NOT standing up to Obama?
Second, despite Cost’s claim that this behavior is key to their re-election, none of this obstructionism has helped or will help the Blue Dogs politically. In fact, they’re in more danger than are liberals who supported every bill. Of the six Democratic Senators with disapproval ratings above 50%, two are scandal-plagued and four are moderate-to-conservative (Lieberman, Lincoln, Begich, and the rudderless, pro-life Reid). We saw this in 1994, too - of the 34 incumbent House Democrats beaten by Republicans, only 1 was in a district where Bill Clinton won at least 50% of the vote in 1992, and only 7 were from districts where he ran ahead of his 43% national average.
The fact is, neither moderate nor conservative voters will say, “Hurrah, my Democratic Congressman opposed Obama!” They will say either a) “My Congressman is a Democrat, so’s Obama, how dare he!” or b) “I like my Congressman, but I just can’t support another Pelosi majority.”
If Obama’s agenda goes down in flames, Democrats go down in flames. Let’s think about this: House Republicans are united, and they’re doing a great job spinning in the media and surging in the polls. They are in their best generic ballot position during a Democratic administration since 1946. Democrats, on the other hand, are splintered, and can’t gain much traction in the polls or correct the media’s record on either science or health care details.
Voters don’t hate progressivism; they hate the political process that encapsulates both parties. This election isn’t over, but if Democrats follow Mr. Cost’s advice, it will be.