Giving Blue Dogs the Pink Slip.

Ari Berman wants fewer Blue Dogs in the Democratic coalition:

[...] Democrats would be in better shape, and would accomplish more, with a smaller and more ideologically cohesive caucus. It’s a sentiment that even Mr. Dean now echoes. “Having a big, open-tent Democratic Party is great, but not at the cost of getting nothing done,” he said. Since the passage of health care reform, few major bills have passed the Senate. Although the Democrats have a 59-vote majority, party leaders can barely find the votes for something as benign as extending unemployment benefits.

A smaller majority, minus the intraparty feuding, could benefit Democrats in two ways: first, it could enable them to devise cleaner pieces of legislation, without blatantly trading pork for votes as they did with the deals that helped sour the public on the health care bill.

This strikes me as a classic case of "the grass is greener." After a year of being frustrated by the likes of Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson, it makes sense for liberals to wish for a world where they didn't matter. But it's not actually clear that liberals would have been helped by a smaller majority. To use Berman's example of health care, a smaller majority in the House would have given more members leeway to make demands of the leadership, which may have derailed the process early on. To say nothing of the Senate, where health-care reform (or the stimulus or financial reform) was virtually impossible without 59 or 60 Democrats.

Yes, Republicans found some success with a bare majority (plus Dick Cheney) during the first years of George W. Bush's presidency, but that had more to do with the Democratic work ethic -- "we might as well do something" -- than it did with the benefits of a smaller majority. A more rejectionist Democratic Party would have either killed the Bush tax cuts or loaded them with liberal concessions, denying Bush a full victory.

After two years of impressive Democratic achievement -- near-universal health care, equal pay for equal work, stimulus-derived investments in science and infrastructure, and fairly robust financial reform -- it seems weird to me to want to move Democrats away from their inclusionist strategy. The Blue Dogs aren't great, but when push came to shove, they joined with their liberal peers to form the most productive Congress in a generation. The same can't be said for Republicans, who can thank their ideological discipline for four years of political defeat without anything other than wars and tax cuts to show for it.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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