Go Glenn Go (Part II)

Glenn Greenwald continues his jihad crusade war (gosh it's hard to be politically correct these days) against Democrats who buck the party line.  Today, in a charming little piece, Glenn Greenwald advocates a purge of the Blue Dogs from the Democratic party.  Lest you think that Greenwald is being hyperbolic, note that the html title for the file he published is "Blue Dogs Die."


The reasoning for Greenwald's concern is, of course, that the "progressive" wing of the party has not exactly gotten what it wants out of this Congress.  In particular, this Congress has fully funded the war, reformed FISA (without caving to trial lawyers), decreed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be a terrorist organization, and sundry other problems.

Because of this, Greenwald advocates primary challenges against conservative-to-moderate Democrats, similar to the primary challenge that recently crashed-and-burned by a 3-1 margin against conservative Democrat John Barrow.

Now Greenwald understands that Barrow won by less than a point last cycle -- in the best Democratic year since 1974 -- and he understands that "a Barrow defeat in the primary might make a Republican win more likely in November."  The reason for still pressing forward?  "[E]ven if Barrow prevailed in his primary (as he ultimately did), the ad campaign against him would undermine his reputation in his district and could thus force Barrow, the Blue Dog caucus and the Democratic leadership to devote far more resources to defending his seat for November."  The goal, really, was to "attach a price" to a failure to advance left-wing policies.

It is easy to understand Greenwald's (and the Left's) frustration.  Of the forty most conservative Democrats in the House, sixteen replaced Republicans last cycle.  Of the thirty-some-odd pickups from the 2006 elections, only three have found their way into the left-most half of the party.  All three of those (Yarmuth, Hodes, and Loebsack) represent districts that have Democratic PVI's (PVI is simply how a district voted for President in 2004, compared to the nation.  In other words, if a district voted 51-48 for Bush, its PVI is 0).  In other words, although the Democrats won control of Congress with a healthy margin in 2006, they did so by growing more conservative as a caucus.

And therein lies the rub.  The problem for the Democrats is that they have a majority in Congress, but it lies on the backs of the sixty-to-seventy Democrats who represent districts that Bush carried.  These Democrats have to compile relatively conservative voting records, or the seats will quickly revert back to Republicans.

Greenwald's rejoinder to this is simple:

As foolish as it is, this intense aversion to jeopardizing any Democratic incumbents might be considered rational if doing so carried the risk of restoring Republican control of Congress. But there is no such risk, and there will be none for the foreseeable future. No matter what happens, the Democrats, by all accounts, are going to control both houses of Congress after the 2008 election. Their margin in the House, which is currently 31 seats, will, by even the most conservative estimates, increase to at least 50 seats. No advertising campaign or activist group could possibly swing control of Congress to the Republicans this year, and -- given the Brezhnev-era-like reelection rates for incumbents in America -- it is extremely unlikely that the House will be controlled by anyone other than Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi for years to come.

It is also simplistic.  Remember, in 1994, Democrats suggested (though they did not) removing the ban on gays in the military, raised income tax rates by 4 points on high wage earners, and banned a few types of guns.  They lost 52 seats, at a time no one thought it was possible.  This would have wiped out a 104-seat Democratic margin.

It is true that Democrats' current margin is 31 seats.  That means that losing sixteen incumbents swings control to the Republicans.  It will also likely increase to about a 50-seat margin (not a conservative projection, btw), which means losing 25 seats will swing the House to Republicans.

Check out Chris Bower's list of "Bush Dog" Democrats, who dared fund the war and pass the FISA bill, and are hence the objects of the netroots' collective ire.  To analyze this properly, consider that from 2004 to 2006, the Democrats' share of the vote increased from about 46.5% to 52%.  The current Democratic spread is about 11 points, and while that inevitably closes in the final days of an election, let's assume this is real (we'll ignore that, in 2006, Democrats were routinely scoring generic victories in the popular vote in the high teens-to-mid-twenties).  Let's assume accordingly that every district in the country has increased its Democratic proclivities by about seven points.  Let's also assume that to truly be a "safe" seat, a district must have a PVI of at least 2 points to the left of the center.

Using this, any Democratic district with a current PVI of R+5 or more is to the right of the center.  Mind you, this assumes that any district that went for Bush with 56% of the vote --  a 12-point margin -- is at the center.

Using this metric, we see immediately twenty-six Democrats who would likely find themselves seriously jeopardized if they began voting the Democratic party line.  If these Democrats were knocked out and openly "progressive" members of Congress ran in their place, these districts would almost certainly flip to Republicans (assuming Republicans ran a halfway compentant candidate, e.g. not Jim Oberweis). 

To drive this further home, take a look at the standing of some of the Democrats who haven't deviated from the party line.  Carol Shea-Porter has trailed her likely Republican challenger in the last two polls.  Steve Kagen is locked in a tight race.  And these are in districts that supposedly lean to the Democrats now. 

Now it might make sense to target Reps in very liberal districts, like Emanuel or Lipinski, but targetting Leonard Boswell, who won by five points in the Best Democratic Year In Recent Memory, is insanity.

The bottom line is that this "permanent majority" mentality is exactly the mentality that led Republican defeat in 2006.  The Democrats' majority is more precarious than the netroots thinks, and if Obama wins in 2008, they could easily lose these majorities in 2010.  The quicker the Democrats adopt this mentality, the quicker they will find themselves on the receiving end of 1994 once again.  Which is why I say, once again, "Go Glenn, Go!"

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Maybe the Left underestimates the strength of their majorities..

Maybe not.  The same machine that propped-up the Tom Delay K-Street majority will now be working for the Dems.  Now, the GOP never on-purpose  worked against its own members, so that could make a difference.  Still, you won't find Pelosi or any of the officeholders working against the Blue-Dogs.

The redistricting and campaign finance advantages of incumbency should protect the Dems for awhile.  But you guys never take THIS form of corruption into account, because it doesn't bother you until it works against you.  There is probably one chance in the next decade for the GOP to reclaim control of the House and that's in 2012 when redistricting could make a difference.  Outside of this, the Presidency could go Republican and the House will stay Democratic.  The Senate is a different story, but Greenwald is probably right about the duration of the House Democratic majority.

Of course, you could always reform redistricting?!?!?!

Maybe not

I'm fine with reforming redistricting.  And I'd increase the size of the House as well.  But that's a story for another post.

The GOP never worked against its own members, and it rarely held districts with unfriendly PVI's like the Democrats have right now.  That's the real danger for the Democrats. 

We need to crack the nut of winning back the Bush districts

it rarely held districts with unfriendly PVI's like the Democrats have right now.

How is it that the Republicans couldnt get away with it, but the Democrats can? A case in point is liberal Democrat Chet Edwards of Texas, TX-17, who got Pelosi money, supports Obama, is in a Bush 60% disctrict. Yet he get $2 million for re-election. Nobody expects him to lose.

The Democrat majority is actually built on the Blue Dog Dems. Take away 30 Blue Dogs and make them center-right GOP Reps you have a GOP majority as big as the current Dem majority. That's pretty much what happened in 1994 - the marginal districts got wiped out for the Dems. 2006 was different: We didnt lose our marginal districts, we lose everywhere we had a marginal/flawed candidate or congressman. Some deeply conservative districts were flipped to Dem. We can and we should get them back.

So I agree with the 'Go Glenn Go', this is as stupid as the 'run conservative Dems in marginal districts' was brilliant. As was noted, the majority gives you the perks, the committees, the power ... which gives you K-street and the advantages of incumbency. It's like hysteresis effect, it flips once and it takes a lot more to unflip it. If Glenn can unstick these blue dog pests that are enablers of the Pelosi regime, he is our best pal.

It seems to me the way to crack the nut of winning back the Bush districts is to nationalize the elections.  Chet Edwards survives because 30,000-50,000 voters in his district vote Republican for President and Senator and flip to him for Congress. So long as these are 'who can bring home bacon' we will never flip these. But if we can tie these folks to the Pelosi/Reid/Obama left-liberal Democratic leadership, they have much less wiggle room. To make that the issue, you have to nationalize the election. That's where the Contract with America came in handy, and why Boehner is pulling a boner by going away from nationalizing elections.

I think the Dem generic Congressional leads are going to melt away in the fall, like they have in other years, like 2002 and 1996. People are starting to stare directly at the possibility of Obamessiah and a filibuster-proof left-liberal Democrat Congress, and its waking people up. Some of the conservative voters may get "scared straight" (ticket).


One wonders if they'd be toting this line had...

Lieberman joined the GOP caucus following the Democratic efforts against him in 2006.

Excuse me

But why should we care about this? 

Unless some of us plan to vote for Democrat candidates.  Do we?

There are plenty of reasons

There are plenty of reasons to care and I think those reasons to care are self-explanatory.

The only way to get "Brezhnev-like re-election rates"

is to outdo the DeLay era Republicans in glomming up PAC money, lobbyist support, and ladeling out pork barrel. (I'll leave out the analogies to totalitarianism Mr. Greenwald seems to imply he supports)  .

In 2006 the Democrats promised "the most ethical Congress in history" and complained about the budget deficit. Zero for two, mes freres  They will be hoisted upon their own petard soon enough.