Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Hidden Story About Dixie Blue Dems

Politico's going through a whole song and dance about how Dixie Dems are extinct. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. I've heard that sort of thing before.

But I wanted to highlight a somewhat buried point here.

Most people in north Alabama cannot identify with Nancy Pelosi” is how incoming Alabama House Speaker and state GOP Chairman Mike Hubbard put it.

But it also has to do with the narrative Republicans have ceaselessly driven.

“Democrats are the party of entitlement and of more government intrusion,” said Hubbard, calling health care reform “socialistic.”

And while Southern Democrats once could’ve avoided being painted with that brush thanks to personal relationships and influential newspapers in their region, the explosion of new media has made it more difficult for them to differentiate themselves from the national brand. How people get news about politics, and much else, has fundamentally changed.

Melancon, a Blue Dog Democrat, recalled how people would approach him in the final weeks of his Senate campaign to ask why he voted for health care reform. He hadn’t.

“I’d ask folks, ‘Where did you hear that?’ and they’d say, ‘I don’t know,’” he recalled.

Often, they would cite a forwarded e-mail.

“I have to tell my own friends to not forward me that gobbledygook unless they’ve fact-checked it,” Melancon lamented. “If you’re going to forward it without taking the time to figure out if it’s true, then you’re as bad as the person who sent it.”
I'm sure you noticed the key point there: it doesn't matter how you voted. Melancon voted against the Health Care Reform bill, and guess what? People blamed him for it anyway. They were convinced that he voted for it, because his party voted for it. The "D" beside his name meant "health care" no matter what he did. His actual vote didn't make a lick of difference.

ConservaDems and supporters of ConservaDems should pay very, very close attention to that. Taking a stand against a bill that your state or district won't like won't make a bit of difference.  You're going to get blamed regardless. The only hope you have is that the bill in question gets out-and-out killed, and even then you might get punished for your party having proposed it in the first place. You can't win by opposing.

So what CAN you do? Something that may be almost bizarre: you can try to make the best legislation you know how. ObamaCare is so controversial not because people think it went too far, but because of the concessions made to to try and get votes from recalcitrant conservative Senators. Those concessions were what made it such a pretzel of industry handouts and half-hearted regulation; without them, it would have almost certainly been a cleaner, more focused, more effective piece of legislation. With a public option, no less. If everybody involved had been focused on the quality of the legislation, instead of optics of "conservative" v. "liberal", they would have produced a reform bill that would stand up all on its own. Sure, the Republicans and the conservative movement would have taken shots at it, but what would have mattered would be how it improved people's lives.

Yes, this isn't necessarily going to help House ConservaDems that much, since the problem is primarily in the Senate, not the House. Senators will have to learn this lesson as well. But at least said CDs will realize that they can't run against their party like they used to. Dems, like the Founders, need to  "hang together, or hang separately". Useful lesson, that.

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