Beyond the Blue Dog Model

Yesterday WaPo’s Greg Sargent wrote a much-earned tribute to KY Gov. Steve Beshear, who not only successfully implemented state exchange administration and a Medicaid expansion as part of his responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act, but has also staunchly defended the law in a red state represented in the Senate by Mitch McConnell.

You should read Greg’s piece in its entirety, and pay special attention to how Beshear talks about Obmacare. But there’s a broader lesson here: Beshear is showing there’s an alternative to the old Blue Dog model for Democrats in dixified red states.

It’s an over-generalization to describe that model as picking one or two popular progressive policy stances and then getting as far to the right as possible on everything else. But not much of one. Yes, southern and non-southern red state Democrats are always going to be on average more “centrist” than their blue state colleagues, and that’s natural. They’ll be friendlier to business interests, less cozy with unions, less generous with public funds, and more likely to embrace conservative cultural values. But going forward, the growing “base” for Democrats in many of these states (especially in the Deep South with its large minority and transplant populations) is going to be less tolerant of more-or-less conservative Democrats than they use to be, and the conservative white donkey vote is basically gone with the wind. Southern Democrats need a new model, and while Kentucky’s not what you’d call a typical southern state by any means, Steve Beshear’s as good a role model as any.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.