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Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Democrat's Governance Problem Remains the Same

Following the 2006 election, Dick Morris pointed out that the Democrat's new majority was largely ceremonial, and that ultimately, the Democratic caucus would wind up in total disarray. That's because the Democratic Party is much less one unified organ and much more series of competing factions each with their own agenda. Among the factions, it includes: The Blue Dogs, The Congressional Black Caucus, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the group allied with Soros and the Nutroot. Each of these factions have enough members that a revolt, on its own, would cause the Democratic majority to be a minority as long as the Republicans stuck together. Morris turned out to be absolutely correct and the Democratic Congress was a total nightmare. At this point, the Democratic Congress barely polls in double digits in terms in terms of approval. Nancy Pelosi swooped into Congress with a bold agenda and ultimately only showed a modest increase to the minimum wage (something she added to an Iraq War funding bill) as her "major" accomplishment.

In this Congress, we will see a similar dynamic. We are already seeing this tension surfacing.

Blue Dog Democrats Friday called on the Democratic Caucus to support “moderate voices” in the slew of leadership decisions the party will be making this month.

The release did not name any of the races or contenders, but Blue Dog sources say it can be seen as preliminary support for Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a brewing bid for vice chairman of the caucus and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) in his fight to stave off a committee chairmanship challenge from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

“As the moderate faction of our caucus has grown and contributed to our large majority, our leadership must have more moderate voices at the table if we want to continue to be successful, strong, and effective as a caucus,” said Blue Dog leader Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.).

Leadership posts are going to be the least of the problems of this tension. The real problem will be in crafting policy that can get a majority. The Democratic Soros types in the Caucus are folks like Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank, and the House Speaker herself, Nancy Pelosi. Their agenda can best be summed up by this Frank interview.

Folks like Barney Frank make up a good quarter to one third of the caucus. They are also, CURRENTLY, most of its leadership.

Then, on the other hand, there are the Blue Dog Democrats. This is a coalition of about 40 "moderates" in the House and about 10 in the Senate. I say they are "moderate" because in reality they are usually a lot more Conservative these days than the Republicans themselves. While Barney Frank is calling massive new spending and dismisses any worries about deficits, the Blue Dogs are calling for PAYGO spending policies.

The PAYGO or pay-as-you-go rule compels new spending or tax changes to not add to the federal deficit. New proposals must either be "budget neutral" or offset with savings derived from existing funds. [1] The goal of this is to require those in control of the budget to engage in the diligence of prioritizing expenses and exercising fiscal restraint.

So, on the one hand, we have Barney Frank and his cohorts ready to spend with reckless abandon. On the other hand, we have the Blue Dogs who demand that any spending increase be offset by spending cuts somewhere else. Somewhere in the middle lies a policy that can turn into law.

It's important to understand the stakes. For someone like Barney Frank, spending is a matter of ideology. He believes in big government and he believes in big spending. Now that his ideological bent has power he intends to implement it. For the Blue Dogs, this is a matter of survival. They are not merely conservative philosophically. They also come from conservative areas. Many of them swept into victory in 2006 promising essentially to be more conservative than their Republican counterparts. Because the Republicans failed to hold the line on spending when in power, there was an opening. If Nancy Pelosi's Congress goes wild though, there WILL be a Republican opponent waiting to use the spending spree as a bludgeon.

Spending is only one area where this tension occurs. Most of these Blue Dogs are also socially conservative. Barack Obama has indicated that he wants all sorts of extreme abortion policies like federal funding for abortions, eliminating parental notifications, etc. The Blue Dogs would be taking huge risks in voting for these policies as well. The folks in their districts are as socially conservative as they are fiscally conservative. Having their Congress person rubber stamp any sort of radical abortion policy is not something they are likely to forget come 2011. Of course, without the Blue Dogs, there is no majority for any such radical measure.

On immigration, the Blue Dogs again act even more conservative than the Republicans. It was in fact Blue Dog Democrat Congressman and former Quarterback Heath Shuler that introduced the toughest border security bill, the SAVE Act. Anything that sniffs of amnesty will also be furiously opposed by the Blue Dogs. On the issue of immigration, illegal and otherwise, the Blue Dogs will face tension with not only the Soros types but the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. While President elect Obama is quite sympathetic to the open borders crowd, he will have a hard time passing things like the DREAM ACT, driver's licenses for illegals, etc. At best, what we will have is a stalled agenda.

Finally, there is the Congressional Black Caucus. For obvious reason, they will likely feel as though they should have more power. Here, the tension will likely be between the President himself and the Caucus. If it looks as though he is governing as an African American, that would be the worst thing that could happen to his Presidency. If legislation even sniffs of "Afro centricity" that would face an overwhelming rejection by the public at large. As such, whatever power they have, it will have to be tempered by the President himself.

The reality is that in such cases it is up to the leadership to bring all sides to the table and compromise. It is one thing not to be able to reach out to the other party. It is something quite different not to be able to reach out to the many factions of your own party. The fact that the last Congress was totally impotent in dealing with its many factions can be laid squarely on two people, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Their grades in their first terms were both F's. In order to govern all factions need to come together and compromises reached. There is a middle ground between Barney Frank's total lack of fiscal responsibility and the Blue Dog's rigid PAYGO ideas. It is the job of the Speaker and the Senate leader to get there. That they couldn't reflected badly on them. Whether they can or not in the next Congress remains to be seen, however the Democrat's governance problems remain the same as they were in 2006.

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