In the Arena

Blue Dogs Dumped

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Bill Galston has an elegant statistical analysis of what happened on Tuesday: it wasn’t so much that Republican enthusiasm was up or Democratic fervor was down–there was a near symmetrical shift from blue to red among independents. This stands to reason: almost all the action in the electorate takes place in the middle of the field, between the 45-yard lines, which is why the extremist bleating on both sides about the depredations of moderates is so misguided (as the Teasters should have learned from the Senate results on Tuesday).

Normally, I don’t have much patience for the whining on the left about the Blue Dog democrats–who were sliced in half on Tuesday, losing at least 28 of their 54 seats. When they lose, the Democrats lose control of the Congress. This year, however, I do feel that there is an argument that, to an extent, the Dogs brought this on themselves by being penny-wise, dogpound-foolish. The argument goes like this: a larger stimulus package might have helped the economy recover at a faster clip, but the Dogs opposed it on fiscal responsibility grounds. A second argument: the public really has had it with Wall Street, but the Dogs helped water down the financial regulatory bill, gutting the too-big-to-fail provisions. There is real merit to both points. If the stimulus had been bigger and the financial reform package clearer and stronger, the public would have had a different–and, I believe, more positive–sense of the President’s agenda. (As I write in my print column this week, there is some blame to be shouldered by the Pelosi wing as well, diluting the focus of the stimulus package with a standard Democratic wish list and making the health care reform less market-oriented than it should have been, by moving 16 million people into medicaid.)

The point is, ideological myopia is counter-productive whether it’s found on the left, the right…or the center.