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Whence the "Blue Dogs"?

Post by Michael Allen on July 27, 2009 at 10:42 pm |
July 27, 2009 10:42 pm

Since House "Blue Dog" Democrats might actually save the nation from financial ruin —by nixing or dramatically altering Obamacare and Ecocapitalism—it behooves us to review the historic origins of this august group of conservative Democrats.


Conservative Democrats?


The context of Blue Doggism is complex; please bear with me, for politics makes strange bedfellows.


Before the Civil War, it was Democrats, not Whig/Republicans, who favored states’ right and fiscal conservatism. Moreover, in the decades immediately following the Civil War, both political parties developed "liberal" and "conservative" wings. Today’s Blue Dogs are descendants of Democrat conservatives (on the Republican side, John McCain, for example, descends from progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt, Early Warren, and Nelson Rockefeller).


After the Civil War, Democrats began a century-long effort to cleanse their party of the stain of its pro-slavery origins. In the South, "Redeemer" Democrats reluctantly accepted Emancipation while simultaneously ousting Republican African Americans and white GOP leaders; they "redeemed" the South by enacting Jim Crow segregation laws. Fiscally conservative, militant, and staunchly loyal, the "Solid South" became a key to national Democrat resurgence.



In 1928, when a few southern Democrats refused to support New Yorker Al Smith for President, the majority of States’ Rights Democrats remained loyal to their party’s nominee, saying they "would vote for a YELLOW DOG so long as he was a Democrat!" These "Yellow Dogs" soon cemented Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition; he, in turn, tolerated their racial intolerance.


In the 40s and 50s, the Yellow Dogs begat the "Boll Weevils," or Dixiecrats. Boll Weevils like Strom Thurmond combined staunch anti-Communism and fiscal conservatism with States’ rights segregationist views. Their most infamous moment came when they filibustered the Civil Right Act of 1964.


It was thus conservative Democrats who fought Civil Rights; the descendants of Redeemers and Yellow Dogs opposed the majority of their own party, and the vast majority of the GOP (excluding Barry Goldwater), to try to squash the black freedom movement.


After 1964, Boll Weevils began to gravitate towards the resurgent conservative Goldwater- (vs. Rockefeller-) wing of the Republican Party. By the late 1970s, they had at last accepted black equality while retaining their pro-military, balanced budget, pro-gun, and pro-life beliefs. Appalled by the leftward-tilt of Democrat leaders George McGovern and Ted Kennedy, they re-dubbed themselves "Reagan Democrats." For much of the next 25 years, they anchored the Republican south.


In the 1990s, a new generation of conservatives—including Midwesterners and Westerners alongside Southerners—began to rejoin the Democrat party, calling their faction "Blue Dogs." The Blue Dogs backed Arkansas’s Bill Clinton and the GOP-led Congress to help balance the budget, reform welfare, and enact free trade laws. They later criticized anti-war, eco-liberals like Al Gore (who defected from their cause) and John Kerry. In 2006, Blue Dogs helped lead the Democrat Party out of the political wilderness and return to power.


In 2008, Blue Dogs supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama; they viewed Obama as under-qualified, anti-gun, pro-choice, and weak on defense and fiscal policy….


Now, in the summer of 2009, the Blue Dogs are back. And they’re bad.



Congress may well adjourn this August without passing either health care “reform” or "cap and trade." Indeed, Congress may never pass these two bills. If they do pass, they will be much better bills as a result of Blue Dog amendments. And if they don’t pass, Blue Dogs will have saved us all from the faux populism of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama—folks they say make their faces turn "blue" with anger….

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