With the mid-term elections over the Monday morning quarterbacking has begun. Many within the Democratic Party are looking for answers as to why so many blue dog Democrats were swept away in the Republican tsunami of 2010.
First we must look at the rise of the blue dogs and understand how they rose in power over the past 6 years. Many of these conservative democrats hailed from the Deep South in areas typically red or at the very most leaning Republican. Toward the end of Bush’s reign when the country was starting to understand the severity of our problems many of these democrats came to power in much the same type of rebuke against the ruling administration of that time as has happened this time.
It is fair to say that a good portion of these blue dog Dems never would have been elected if there had not been a growing restlessness from the voting public. Unemployment was rising, the world stage was becoming unclear with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and many people on the home front were concerned about job outsourcing and free trade agreements.
These Dems were voted in not so much because they were Democrats or because the general public embraced their platform as democrats, but they were elected for the same reason many republicans were elected this go round. People were scared and the middle (moderate Democrats, republicans and independents) took a chance on change even if it meant ignoring their red blood.
Now that the midterm elections of 2010 are a memory it is fool hearty to lash out at these blue dogs and blame them for the losses in Congress. Many in the Democratic Party’s upper echelon have stated that the blue dogs would have won if they had more openly embraced the President’s agenda and been more appeasing to the progressive Democratic agenda. This is nonsense and quite frankly nearsighted analysis.
These hard working Democrats lost because the general electorate, most of them in districts which tend to lean conservative voted for “change” the same way they did in the past 2 congressional elections.
The majority of voters in red states like Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas voted for these blue dogs not because they embraced the Democratic Party platform, but because they embraced the notion of change and desired real change in their everyday lives, Change which many have still not seen which is why they were not reelected.
I am not trying to say that Democrats do not have a chance to win in these mostly red states, but what I am trying to say is that we as a party cannot live in a fantasy world thinking that the South has gone blue and was suddenly transformed red again because of Blue Dogs who were not progressive enough for the Democratic base. These states were always red, but they took a chance on blue dogs because they saw a common ground in them that they were willing to embrace. Many of these independent voters embraced the blue dog Dem’s not because they agreed with their social philosophies, but because they agreed with their moderate approach to policy and their free thinking style to nonpartisan politics.
My hope here is to get democrats across the south to think beyond the hurt and the blame game which will only paralyze our party and cause further hemorrhaging. We lost the south not because of the blue dogs, but because we failed to deliver the economic change fast enough that the moderates and independents voted for last go round.
To ostracize and demonize the blue dogs who served their districts and Country with pride is to exhibit the same polarizing behavior which has affected the Republican Party. We as a party must open our arms to various groups within the party. We cannot afford to point the finger of blame to the blue dogs when in reality their moderate stance is what attracted the middle to vote for and elect them in the first place. The Democratic Party had the majority numbers in the house the past couple years because of the blue dogs and for that they should be thanked.
Once again my message is one of caution. Whatever your social or political leanings within the Democratic Party we must be willing to embrace the left, right and middle of the ideological perspectives under our tent. If not we risk crumbling under our own hypocrisy and turning away many qualified and honorable leaders who may once again rise from the ashes. Like the phoenix the blue dogs can come back in the South, but it won’t happen unless the Democratic Party stops blaming them and starts learning from them.