I've noticed a strain of defeatism around these parts recently. It's not just the neoliberalism and "just like Bush" diaries on the president, which are perhaps understandable if not terribly productive. We're also seeing diaries like this one that suggest that the decline of the Blue Dog caucus is not a good thing, because it indicates a shrinking of the Big Tent of the Democratic Party. It would be one thing if we had organizations at the fringe of the party pushing them out, but that's not how we do politics.
Proof that real live voters are, like us, working for more and better democrats below:
"We're Not Like That" is NOT a good reason to bemoan the fact that Democratic voters went to the polls in two districts in Pennsylvania and got rid of two members of the Blue Dog caucus. If you remember, the only difference between Jason Altmire and Mark Kritz is that Altmire had gone SO far over to the dark side of politically-motivated centrism that Kritz was able to run as the labor-supported candidate.
And, indeed, we really AREN'T like that. The voters in these districts weren't being driven by a Club for Growth campaign (like the one Dick Lugar is facing in Indiana) and none of the candidates signed one of Grover Norquist's pledges. Our voters went to the polls and voted for candidates whose positions they preferred. Pure and simple. Who was and wasn't happy? The political punditocracy.
Not the actual news reporters in the field. Here, for example, is the Scranton Times-Tribune on the reasons Matt Cartwright beat Tim Holden:
In the campaign, Mr. Cartwright, of the Scranton law firm Munley, Munley & Cartwright portrayed himself as more liberal than the congressman, a Blue Dog Democrat.Should Mr, Cartwright not have run? Of course not. Blue Dog the reason? Well, maybe, but consider the bolded portion of the quotation above.
Mr. Holden, who was elected in 1992, had previously won five times in his old, conservative leaning district. This time, he was running for the first time in a decade in a majority Democratic district.
And it showed.
In Lackawanna County, Mr. Cartwright captured 17,600 votes, 77.9 percent, to Mr. Holden's 5,006 votes, according to unofficial results posted on the state Department of State web site at 11:15 p.m.
The new district's boundaries are roughly 80 percent different because of redistricting.
And the Critz-Altmire race? Here's what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had to say:
Mr. Critz's win had an old-time Democratic feel, with its reliance on labor and seniors issues, and a heavy dose of the late John Murtha, whom Mr. Critz replaced in a 2010 special election after his former boss died. If he had lost to Mr. Altmire, Johnstown would have been assured of being without its own congressman for the first time in four decades.and
Mr. Critz and Mr. Altmire had conservative voting records for Democrats so they had to search for new ways to differentiate themselves. The late stages of the campaign were dominated by Critz charges that an Altmire vote in favor of a Republican-backed balanced budget amendment and against a Democratic attempt to embarrass the GOP over an ultra-conservative budget would hurt funding for Social Security and Medicare.I can't see how the big tent shrunk even one inch in this race. The litmus test? LABOR. Isn't a candidate who supports the labor movement a better democrat than one who doesn't?
So who did this upset? The Wall Street Journal, whose editorial, "The Shrinking Blue Dogs" began with this comment:
Rahm Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago, and the last vestiges of the strategy he used to help Democrats capture the House of Representatives vanished on Tuesday.Paul Gigot, behind a paywall, but if that isn't a money quote I don't know what is.
Enough. We're still a big tent, and the Progressive movement hasn't lost its soul.