Wednesday, September 29, 2010

They did it again

History repeats itself, and conservative Democrats have postponed a vote on the Bush tax cuts until after the election. I've heard several plausible explanations for this entire baffling episode: that the Blue Dogs are simply sticking up for the people who bought and paid for them, that they really think this is the better policy, or that they're simply so paralyzed by fear of Republican attacks that they don't want to vote. Undoubtedly elements of all three are at play, though I strongly suspect that what motivates most (though not all!) Blue Dogs is a deep desire to avoid sharp partisan contrasts. After all, it is unlikely that someone like Dan Boren, who represents an R+14 district, really wants to draw attention to how he differs from the Republican Party, even if he actually opposes the policy (which I don't even know is correct or not). Of course, the politics of this are stupid, and these Blue Dogs have to know that the simple argument "I voted to cut taxes for the middle class" will be more resonant to voters than their opponents saying "Well, sure, they voted for middle class tax cuts, but in doing so they didn't force a vote to cut taxes on high-income producers, which is the same as hiking taxes." That spin is so convoluted and strained that it sounds like the conservative argument against the minimum wage that nobody ever buys. I find it hard to believe that people with enough political skill to be sent to Congress actually think that argument would do anything, but these people exemplify the out of touch politician type.

A lot of conversation has gone into whether or not the Democrats will hold the House, but what interests me is the potential aftermath. According to Nate Silver, the Democrats are going to lose 45 seats in November, which I think is pessimistic but let's make the assumption. According to his projections, half of those casualties will be Blue Dogs, reducing their number from 54 to 32, and dropping their numbers inside the Democratic caucus from about 20% to 15%. By my accounting, only about half of the Blue Dogs sticking around even bothered to sign the letter to Nancy Pelosi to extend all the Bush tax cuts, which means they're perhaps clustered in the less conservative part of that group. All of which is to say that it's looking likely that, while the Democratic coalition in Congress is going to be smaller, it will also be more liberal proportionally speaking, and perhaps more likely to keep on Nancy Pelosi as leader and stick together more on key issues than is happening currently. In the long term, of course, a number of Blue Dogs represent substantially Democratic areas (many hail from safe districts in California, oddly), and will eventually be replaced by mainstream Democrats, while constant waves of attrition will clear out the rest of the legacy Democrats from the South. In the end, we'll wind up with a party split between mainstream and progressive Democrats, which strikes me as a desirable outcome.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.