I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What the Right Knows and the Left Should Learn

My attention was drawn to a recent article at Open Left by Matt Stoller today. (Hat tip, Memeorandum) Matt is the former proprietor of MyDD and a long established voice on the left side of the blogosphere. In this piece, we see Matt planning out a strategy to "go after" some members of Congress. But rather than the usual list of suspects, Matt is setting his sights on Democrats.
I've been kicking around the idea with Chris that we should raise the costs of bad decision-making on things like FISA, or when they fold to Republicans on the supplemental or (insert fight here).

Matt is talking about "Going After Blue Dogs." The Democrats swept into power in Congress in 2006, but it came at a cost. They had to field a number of Blue Dog Democrats to win seats in primarily Red states. I get a sense that Matt is letting idealism cloud his judgement a bit here. The blue dogs are in a tenuous position themselves, assuming they have any intention of retaining those seats (and a Democratic majority) into the future.

The Republicans have some experience in this area. They would never have taken and held the majority they enjoyed in both houses for as long as they did without accepting some decidedly "non-traditional" Republicans in their ranks, such as Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. While you'll never see the hard Right wing bloggers gushing over these ladies with enthusiasm, for the most part the major pundits remain largely quiet about them and forgive them a lot of transgressions.

There are very quiet, back room and cloak room deals which get cut in the halls of Congress. The Republicans have held those seats in Maine for a while now and they have no desire to lose them. In order to keep order in the house, their leadership knows that they must sometimes allow the moderate sheep to "stray from the fold" and make votes against the wishes of the Red State Republicans in order to stay in the good graces of those who elect them. Whenever there was a vote where the GOP knew they had a comfortable margin of victory, there was no problem with letting the moderates "go against them" to keep face at home. And on the rare occasions when they needed to call them in from the bench, the voters always forgave them one or two votes along party lines so long as they talked the talk afterward.

It seems to me that some Democratic supporters are unaccustomed to being the role of endorsing a party holding a slim majority which had to be stitched together through compromise and accommodation. I'm not saying I personally approve or disapprove of the votes some of these members made. I'm simply pointing out the political realities of the political war on the ground which they will need to win if they want to carry this thing forward in the long term.

Some commenters on the prominent Left wing blogs are already carping that the blue dogs are "not doing their jobs" and perhaps they would be just as well off with a Republican in those seats. Sorry to say, but that is one of the most politically tone deaf things I've ever heard. Without them, you probably don't have a majority. And whether you do or not, when it comes down to all the tight votes that really matter, the blue dogs will likely be able to be swayed to vote with you. If you hand those seats back to a Republican of any stripe, the opposite will be true.

It's time to remember an old adage: A close mouth gathers no foot. Things on the political battlefield are never as simple as they appear. Get some perspective or resign yourself to, yet again, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in 2008.

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