IL-14: The Losing Strategy

What happens in Podunk shouldn't stay there.  Or at least if it does, the Democratic Party Establishment, the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, the Blue Dogs among us, will have won one more unrecorded battle against those of us who want real change.

What's happening most immediately in the IL-14 corner of Podunk (a term I use here to describe anything not directly inside the DC Beltway) is a primary and a special primary on Tuesday, between the DC insider "pick" for our district, an attorney who is a relative newcomer to both politics and our area, and John Laesch, the nominee against Denny Hastert last time out, and the only progressive in the race.

At this point, I'd call it a significant bellwether for the upcoming Congressional elections that virtually no one outside of IL-14 is paying much attention to in the glare of the presidential race, as well as a bellwether event in the battle for control of the party.  So while I don't expect this diary to get much attention, I want to leave a record of what has happened in this primary.  Bellwethers, however unobserved at the time, sometimes have a way of becoming useful history for those who follow.  

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Nancy and cutting off Iraq funding

Jonathan's shmooze with Nancy drew suggestions that she should have cut off Iraq funding, countered by a suggestion that she didn't have 218 votes to swing it.

It's counterfactual - grotesquely so, one might say - but I can't resist:

Suppose Nancy had said, No FY07 Iraq supplemental. Could a coalition of Blue Dogs and GOP have forced her hand?

The discharge petition would have been available: if 218 reps had signed up, they could have got a funding bill to the floor (strictly speaking, they'd have been discharging the rule related to the funding bill which, we assume, Pelosi has had deep-sixed in committee).

What if the rule discharged had been a closed rule - the doer done! - that would mean that Pelosi and her henchmen couldn't introduce any sneaky poison pills or the like into it.

If the bill had passed, I'm thinking, it would (politically speaking) have been over Pelosi's dead body: how could she possibly have carried on as Speaker if thus thwarted? (Step forward Speaker Steny!)

Point is, if the Dem House leadership had had the cojones to tell Bush no more Iraq funding, it would probably have been up to holding the party together against a funding bill rebellion.

Since said leadership is - not exactly caponized, but certainly careful - neither course of action was ever on the cards.

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Conservative Democrats: Myths and Facts

I've looked at tthe voting records in Congress (taken from Progressive Punch), the voting nature of the congressional district (from the 2008 race tracker wiki) and the results of the 2006 congressional elections for the fifty most conservative Democratic House members.  The results revealed a number of facts about this group as well as a number of myths.  So, here we go.

Fact.  Conservative Democrats represent Republican leaning districts (at least on the national level).  An amazing 24 of the 25 most conservative House members represented districts carried by George W. Bush in 2004, with the lone exception being John Murtha's district (carried by Kerry, 51.4% to 48.5%).

Myth.  Democrats from these districts are in a precarious electoral position.  Only three of the top 25 districts and six of the top 50 were tight elections in 2006.  That would be GA-8 (Jim Marshall with 50.5%), GA-12 (John Barrow with 50.3%), IA-3 (Leonard Boswell with 51.8%), IN-9 (Baron Hill with 50.01% vs. 41% for the Republican), IL-8 (Melissa Bean with 51.18%), and TX-22 (Nick Lampson with 51.79%).  Boswell has health problems and is hardly dynamic on the stump and Lampson and Bean barely make the list at 47 and 48.

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How Marginal are the Blue Dog Districts?

The reason often given for why the Democratic leadership is so reluctant to try to whip more aggressive Iraq war withdrawal legislation is a concern over hurting Democrats in "Marginal" districts. The logic is that a vote for such legislation could be used against a those representatives, resulting in lost seats, a lost majority, and another generation of meaningless debates over gay marriage and flag burning. While the majority of the American population wants to end the war, gerrymandering causes these"marginal" districts to be more conservative and less opposed to the war than the nation in general.

The natural assumption is that many of the 43 members of the Blue Dog Coalition would be from these "marginal" districts and constantly legislating in fear of whisker-close elections. However, most of these legislators had large margins of victory in 2006 (including three that ran unopposed) and many have been members of the house for significant periods of time (allowing them the almost insurmountable advantage of incumbency).

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On Sestak, Again

Ok, I'm going to concede that I was probably not as charitable as I should have been with Joe Sestak. He has a withdrawal plan, he has strongly advocated against the war and he speaks against Bush on prominent platforms (like Meet the Press).  Based on this quote from a Washington Post article, along with a source telling me what was going on, I thought that he stepped on Murtha's plan when it was launched.

Freshman Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired Navy admiral who was propelled into politics by the Iraq war, said Murtha could still salvage elements of his strategy, but Sestak, an outspoken war opponent, is "a bit wary" of a proposal that would influence military operations.

"I was recently in the military, and I have to speak from that experience," Sestak said.

This article is not clear enough, and I'm no longer convinced that this is anything but a slip-up on Sestak's part.  Sestak is considering voting on the Iraq supplemental, but if he opposes it his opposition is coming from the progressive side.  That is, the bill might not go far enough to satisfy him, and though I disagree with it I can live with that explanation.  Still, I think he's going to vote for the bill.  This is from Congress Daily.

Democratic sources who are keeping track of votes said all but two or three conservative Blue Dog Democrats appear likely to vote for the measure, despite initial opposition to language aimed at getting U.S. troops out of Iraq next year. The sources also said about a dozen anti-war progressives were likely to vote against the package because it leaves too many potential escape routes for President Bush to avoid the limits on his handling of the war. Aides said the support of anti-war groups and increased pressure from leaders on lawmakers on the fence have limited liberal defections and have converted some former opponents, particularly anti-war freshmen.

I don't know if Sestak came around or if he was always going to go for the bill, but the situation seemed very different a few weeks ago.  Now that the bill is branded as an antiwar bill, Sestak seems to be on board.  And so I should not have included him on that list of supplemental saboteurs who didn't want a withdrawal date.

As for the supplemental, the votes aren't there yet, but it's looking better.  And there's a lot of great organizing being done all over the country with military vets and generals standing out as particularly important and effective.

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