Blue Dogs and ‘ideological myopia’

BLUE DOGS AND ‘IDEOLOGICAL MYOPIA’…. It was tough to keep track of all of the center-right Blue Dog Democrats who lost re-election this week. By one count the other day, the 54-member caucus was cut in half.

As a few months ago, Blue Dogs expected to be the key power brokers in a closely divided House in 2011 and 2012. Instead, they’ve been decimated and left largely irrelevant.

Joe Klein noted the other day that the conservative Dems contributed to their own defeats through “counter-productive” “ideological myopia.”

Normally, I don’t have much patience for the whining on the left about the Blue Dog democrats…. When they lose, the Democrats lose control of the Congress. This year, however, I do feel that there is an argument that, to an extent, the Dogs brought this on themselves by being penny-wise, dogpound-foolish.

The argument goes like this: a larger stimulus package might have helped the economy recover at a faster clip, but the Dogs opposed it on fiscal responsibility grounds. A second argument: the public really has had it with Wall Street, but the Dogs helped water down the financial regulatory bill, gutting the too-big-to-fail provisions. There is real merit to both points. If the stimulus had been bigger and the financial reform package clearer and stronger, the public would have had a different — and, I believe, more positive — sense of the President’s agenda.

Klein regrettably went on to add some false equivalencies about the left, but this point about the conservative Democrats has real merit.

In fact, we can even keep going with the list of policies. Blue Dogs balked at cramdown legislation, which would have helped with the foreclosure crisis, and which their constituents would have benefited from. They also didn’t care for a little something called the “public option” during the debate over health care reform.

The point is, the Blue Dogs’ operated under a series of assumptions that were badly flawed. For purely ideological/philosophical reasons, conservative Dems opposed good ideas, fearing a voter backlash. As a result, policies voters would have liked either didn’t happen or were watered down, generating less success.

And less success meant weaker support meant more losses.

I’m well aware of the response from conservative Dems: if we’d been more supportive of ambitious progressive legislation, we were more likely to lose.

But they lost anyway. How’d that strategy work out?