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Friday, July 21, 2017


Better deals. Bluer dogs.

by Tom Sullivan

The bang-beat, bell-ringing, big-haul, great-go, neck-or-nothing, rip-roarin', every-time-a bull's-eye salesmen at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have themselves a 2018 campaign slogan:

"Congratulations to those of you who reflexively whispered '...Papa John's' before burying your head in your arms and sobbing quietly," Jay Willis writes for GQ.

Actually, the slogan has been out there a while, but the mockery took off last night on Twitter.

Paul Waldman thinks "Better Deal" is not so bad as vapid slogans go. After all, Republicans swept the 1994 mid-terms with "Contract With America." Except they didn't. Waldman writes that, slogans aside, Democrats are about as well positioned as they might be for 2018:

The left is experiencing an unprecedented wave of activism, with groups like Indivisible creating thousands of chapters and local Democratic party organizations inundated with volunteers. In cities and towns, Democrats are running on aggressively progressive platforms and winning. Democrats lead the "generic ballot" test (where poll respondents are asked whether they intend to vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress) by an average of 6.5 points, which according to one statistical model would translate to a net gain of 27 House seats in next year's election (they need 24 to take control). One after another, potentially strong Republican candidates are choosing to sit out the next election or stay in their current seats, while Democrats are lining up to run for the first time or try for a higher office.
Then again, one poll showed Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead over Donald Trump just two weeks ahead of the November election.

But before we leave the slogan, the staff at Paste provides another non-pundit hot-take, "[T]his is a classic move by the Democrats—antiseptic, cautious, and not at all compelling."

That reflexive caution is a fatal flaw. And as loathe as I am to deploy sports analogies ....

Democrats are four points down, deep in their own territory. They have no time left on the clock and no time-outs. Their only prayer for pulling out a win is to throw a Hail Mary pass. Go big or go home. Their first instinct? Fall on the ball at the snap, because what if the other team runs back an interception and they lose by 10?

In that vein, Bloomberg reports Democrats are again courting Blue Dogs:
“The DCCC has seen the light,” said Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon, a Blue Dog coalition member.

Representative Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico Democrat and chairman of the Democrats’ campaign committee, said in a statement that the Blue Dogs have "been incredible partners,” helping develop a list of 79 Republican-held seats to target in the 2018 election.

At least 20 of those seats were previously held by Blue Dogs, according to the caucus.
As Howie Klein chronicles, that's because most Blue Dogs won't hunt but for one or two elections. "Of those 15 Blue Dogs [elected in 2006], not one is still in the House." As for the 2008 election:
Of the 14 Blue Dogs elected that year, just one -- Schrader-- is still in Congress. The following year, 2010-- Democratic voters just stayed away from the polls in droves-- millions of them. All those crap Blue Dogs and most of the New Dems were defeated because Democratic voters realized they had been tricked by the DCCC and by their own leaders into backing Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Democrats lost 63 seats and virtually the whole Blue Dog caucus.
But Democrats being "tricked" is not the only factor in Blue Dogs winning, then losing. Believe it or don't, under the right circumstances some Republican voters in conservative districts can be persuaded to vote for a Blue Dog until they get a chance to vote again for a full-throated conservative.

I worked for the state party on Heath Shuler's NC-11 campaign in 2006. Republican voters there had had enough of their corrupt, Russian bank-connected congressman, "Chainsaw Charlie" Taylor, that they were prepared to back a local football hero even if he was a Democrat. I can't describe the satisfaction in watching Taylor defeated that November. But Shuler didn't lose the seat he won for a third time in 2010. Washington-obsessed Democrats and progressives were asleep at the switch as Republicans took over state legislature after state legislature ahead of the 2010 census. Shuler retired after NCGOP-led redistricting in 2011 made the reddish NC-11 one of the most Republican districts in the country. Now we have Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows.

Shuler became a Duke Energy lobbyist. What can you say? He was a Blue Dog.

Nonetheless, the new slogan, the reflexive caution, and the short-term thinking behind recruiting Blue Dogs again reflects a deep lack of imagination among the party elite. As another GQ writer put it, "If the past year wasn’t an obvious sign that the DNC needs to change how it does business, then what would be? Do we all have to die first?"

Senate Republicans are still working on that.