Sunday, December 14, 2008

Question: Does It Matter If The Senate Blue Dogs Caucus Up?

Via Matt Yglesias, Evan Bayh is trying to start a Senate 'Blue Dogs' caucus to make special interest money by blocking progressive goals. One thing I don't really understand very well: how does it affect Senate politics if the 'Blue Dogs' caucus up? Do they have more influence than they do as a bunch of disorganized individuals? I'm guessing they get harder to deal with, but I'm not sure what the mechanisms for that are.

5 comments:

Nolan said...

I think it is kind of like the "Gang of 14" - they don't control the entire process but enough to tip the balance and, in theory, they have similar policy agendas.

So, I think - in principle - they do get a little more power. However, the Senate is way different from the house and I'm not sure how that coalition would exist among the "world's greatest deliberative body"

corvus said...

It sounds to me like a last gasp that is bound to backfire. Are there even any other caucuses in the Senate? How can you have a caucuses among 100 individuals?

Bayh just sees the writing on the wall and is trying to do whatever he can to stop it. We are about to have a massively popular president who goes around proclaiming the insidious influence of "special interest" money (which in his hands really is code for corporate lobbyists and money) and has already effectively remade the DNC in that image. There is a coming massive populist upsurge in the ideology of the Democratic voter, and thus in the party itself. Bayh is trying to fortify against it by rounding up the troops, but all he and his compatriots will really end up doing is painting targets on their chests. "Primary Here."

Really, this is all about Joe Lieberman, or the same thing that lead Bayh to defend Lieberman. It's about keeping space open to the party's right to they can dart there if they want, and still be in good standing. The Connecticut primary spooked the Party's right wing, and they are trying to maintain an appearance of strength. But they are going to get steamrolled. That's where Rahm comes in...

low-tech cyclist said...

What point would there be of their talking to each other, other than to water down and slow down Obama's program? If they're looking to support their President, there's already a caucus for that; it's called the Democratic caucus. The only point in having a special group within the party is if they're planning to pull the other way.

And simply meeting and talking with each other makes them stronger in doing that. We're social animals; it's easier for them to go their own way as a group rather than as individuals.

So yes, I think it matters.

Arbitrista said...

One of the most important functions of the Blue Dogs in the House is as a signal to voters and contributors that a member is a moderate, so I expect one of the motivations is to create the possibility of distance in case Obama loses some of his popularity. The old Southern Dems were insulated in this way because they were in the South. I suspect this is an attempt to create some slightly distinct "brand" from an Obama-led Democratic party.

Jamelle said...

I think Arbitrista has it right; this is more of a preemptive political move than anything else, and I don't think it will have any significant impact on the composition of Obama's proposals; if Obama remains popular nationwide, there won't be much reason for self-proclaimed Blue Dogs to distance themselves, unless they themselves come from states which voted against Obama (and I feel like most of the probably Blue Dogs - Jim Webb, Evan Byah, Bill Nelson - come from states which gave Obama their electoral votes).