Congressional Loyalty Scorecards, Part Four: Blue Dog Democrats

Part One: Methodology and General Findings
Part Two: The DLC
Part Three: Building a Real Majority

Via Eschaton. Centrist Demcorats feel hurt that Pelosi took them out behind the shed for supporting the bankruptcy bill:

In an acknowledgement that fences within her Caucus need mending, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) scheduled private meetings Wednesday evening with leading House Democratic moderates, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.).

Pelosi was set to sit down individually with Hoyer, while a similar meeting with Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.), long a leading figure among conservative Blue Dog Democrats, was being rescheduled because of Wednesday evening's ethics vote. She also had asked for a meeting with Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.), a leader of the centrist New Democrat Coalition.(...)

Sources at last week's meeting said Pelosi didn't help repair the rift, and perhaps even inflamed it, when they said she accused moderates of selling out to special interests on the bill and betraying the party by urging the GOP leadership to bring the measure to a vote. Several of those sources said Pelosi has an obligation not only to bring Members together, but also to apologize to the moderates.

"Actions speak louder than words," said one source from the conservative wing of the party. "No meeting will undo what she did, and it will take a while for her to repair the damage with Democratic centrists."

Jeez, voting for a piece of terrible legislation isn't bad, but yelling at someone for it apparently is. Nice to know where people's priorities are these days.

In the second part of this series, I examined the voting records of the thirty-nine members of the House of Representatives who are also members of the DLC. I concluded that the DLC receives far too much share of the blame for the lack of loyalty within the Democratic caucus. Overally, DLC loyalty was close to non-DLC Democratic loyalty, and DLC members exhibited no clear voting pattern whatsoever.

However, the above passage from Roll Call, via Escahton, made me curious about another group of Democrats, the Blue Dogs. I did a quick Google search and found a list of their thirty-five members in the 109th Congress. I then added up the number of times they defected from the Democratic majority in the 109th Congress when the Democratic majority was different from the Republican majority on an actual piece of legislation. The results were staggering.

Out of the nine votes (the child interstate notification abortion act has since been added to the original eight) and the one proxy vote (I have also added Social Security to the totals via the Fainthearted Faction and Conscience Caucus collected by TPM) here are the current levels of party loyalty among different groups in the House:

  • All Democrats: 82.5%
  • All Republicans: 96.1%
  • DLC: 79.0%
  • Democrats, non-DLC: 83.3%
  • Blue Dog Democrats: 54.3%
  • Non-Blue Dog Democrats: 88.3%
Bingo. Caucus disunity has a name-o. Outside of the Blue Dogs, Democratic Party loyalty on the important, party differentiating votes in the House is comparable to Republicans: 88.3% to 96.1%. Further, Blue Dog Party loyalty, 54.3%, is massively lower than that found either in the DLC, 79.0%, or among non-Blue Dog Democrats, 88.3%. Overall, the thirty-five members of the Blue Dog coalition account for 44.9% of all Democratic Party defections over these ten votes / issues, even though they only make up 17.2% of the caucus.
Here are how the Blue Dogs breakdown:
  • Stayed with the party all ten times: Adam Schiff (CA)
  • Stayed with the party nine times: Loretta Sanchez (CA), Mike Thompson (CA)
  • Stayed with the party eight times: Jane Harman (CA), Steve Israel (NY), Dennis Moore (KS), Ellen Tauscher (CA)
  • Stayed with the party seven times: Joe Baca (CA), Ed Case (HI), Mike Michaud (ME)
  • Stayed with the party six times: John Barrow (GA), Lenord Boswell (IA), Dennis Cardoza (CA), Jim Cooper (TN), Stephanie Herseth (SD), John Salazar (CO)
  • Stayed with the party five times: Allen Boyd (FL), Jim Costa (CA), Mike McIntyre (NC), Earl Pomeroy (ND), John Tanner (TN), Gene Taylor (MS). It is worth noting that Ron Paul (R-TX) broke with Republicans five times.
  • Stayed with the party four times: Marion Berry (AR), Sanford Bishop (GA), Ben Chandler (KY), Harold Ford Jr. (TN), Tim Holden (PA), Mike Ross (AR), David Scott (GA). It is worth noting that three Republicans, Mike Castle (DE), Christopher Shays (CT), and Christopher Smith (NJ) broke with their party four times.
  • Stayed with the party three times: Dan Boren (OK), Lincoln Davis (TN), Jim Matheson (UT), Charles Melancon (LA). It is worth noting that three Republicans, Sherwood Boehlert (NY), Walter Jones (NC) and Bob Simmons (CT), borke with their party three times.
  • Stayed with the party twice: Collin Peterson (MN). It is worth noting that thirteen Republicans broke with their party twice.
  • Stayed with the party once: Bud Cramer (AL). It is worth noting that thirty-eight Republicans broke with their party once.
Overall, of the thirty Democrats who broke with the party at least half of the time (five times), nineteen of them are Blue Dog Democrats. The Blue Dogs thus have nearly two-thirds of what I would tentatively like to call the Democratic "problem children." It is also interesting not note that among the sixteen comparatively loyal Blue Dogs (those with four defections or less), the California delegation dominates with seven. Adam Schiff, who has stayed with the party ten out of ten times, and who is both a DLC member and a Blue Dog, gets the WTF? award of the 109th caucus.

Clearly, the defections and anti-progressivism that many in the blogosphere attribute to the DLC are actually the result of the Blue Dogs. DLC loyalty, 79%, is far higher than Blue Dog loyalty, 54.3%. In fact, loyalty among non-Blue Dog Democrats, 88.3%, is almost identical to loyalty among Democrats who are neither Blue Dogs nor DLC, 89.6%. Both come within inches of the desired 90% line.

Obviously, many of these Blue Dogs, and especially the Problem Children, come from pretty red districts. That, however, does not absolve them for supporting many of these heinous pieces of legislation, such as the bankruptcy bill, which are not popular in red districts either. For Problem Children not in red districts, we should seriously start thinking about mounting primary challenges. In the blogosphere, we need to embrace our role as party whips, and primary challenges against disloyal Democrats in blue districts would be the ideal place to start.

Tags: House 2006 (all tags)



regress that on the partisan index...
or i guess i mean regress the partisan index from each district on their loyalty. I bet its a really good correlation. You could then see who the outliers were. From that you would have a better measure of the most loyal/disloyal dems. For instance if a rep from a district that was +20 for Kerry on the part index, was disloyal twice that could a more egregious act of disloyalty than Lincoln Davis (TN) 5 abandonements. You would also know who is doing the most commendable job of being loyal relative to electoral pressures of the home district.

I'm gonna be doing a bunch of statistical work on my thesis next week, so i could do it, if you want me to, jsut drop me an

by srolle 2005-04-28 08:43AM | 0 recs
Re: regress that on the partisan index...
I know that represents a lot of work, but maybe a sample from a few Republican representatives from districts that went to Kerry would be helpful.  It looks like you would find Republican Party loyalty even in very blue districts.
by prince myshkin 2005-04-29 12:12AM | 0 recs email (n/t, misclick)
by srolle 2005-04-28 08:43AM | 0 recs
What, exactly, is a Blue Dog Democrat anyway?
Forgive me for not being on the up-and-up on every faction and subfaction within the Democratic party, but what are the Blue Dogs? What makes one a Blue Dog?  How was this group originally formed? What principles do they claim to be founded around? Just need more info here before I feel I am able to judge the usefulness of this faction as a part of the Dem. party.

I understand the disloyalty issue, but I would also like to understand the disloyal group in question before coming to a conclusion about them.

by AmericanJedi 2005-04-28 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: What, exactly, is a Blue Dog Democrat anyway?
Answering my own question, the Blue Dogs have a website with an "About" page here: mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

Apparently they were formed in response to the 1994 Republican takeover of congress, a congressional democrat "shift to the right" response to a rightward-moving electorate.

As the party base starts believing we have gone too far right, it is unsurprising that the blue dogs would, like the DLC, find themselves in the crosshairs.

Also, I can't help but stare in complete horror that they chose a person from this faction to be party whip. I understand why they did (to balance Pelosi at the top), but can't help but see how this could prevent unity on key issues in the House Dem caucus. A whip who only half-heartedly supports party unity on, for example, the bankruptcy bill, can hardly be relied upon to achieve that unity.

by AmericanJedi 2005-04-28 09:20AM | 0 recs
how powerful is the DLC
I always see scores of posts and diaries on how powerful the DLC is.  Rhetorical questions: if the DLC is soooo powerful how is it that non-DLC
Democrats voted with the party 83.3%? wouldn't that number be much lower if the DLC had the power some folks say it does?
by jdavidson 2005-04-28 09:15AM | 0 recs
Re: how powerful is the DLC
They are not as powerful as they used to be, and they've been on the wane since at least 2000 when they got Joe Schmoe as VP candidate. And, most, if not all, these "loyalty votes" are taken from the current congress and under the current political climate (in which the political winds are not blowing in the DLC's direction). Thus, their impact is lessened. However, considering these numbers, perhaps we should have taken on the Blue Dogs BEFORE we took on the DLC. Pelosi and the party generally, would be a lot stronger if their power and influence could be diminished.
by AmericanJedi 2005-04-28 09:26AM | 0 recs
Fascinating breakdown
Three cheers for Pelosi!

It seems that Al From, Joe Lieberman and Diane Feinstein contribute to the perception that the DLC is the problem, rather than the Blue Dogs, by so outspokenly criticizing "liberal" Dems. Have any of the Blue Dog Dems engaged in the ideological attacks on the Progressive wing of the party that From, Lieberman and Feinstein have?

It would be interesting to know if any of the "sources" in the party who think Pelosi owes the Blue Dogs an apology are DLCers. Is it possible the DLC is playing the other two wings against each other to solidify their power base?

Prior to Pelosi cracking the whip on bankruptcy, have the Blue Dogs ever been called to account? I'd like to add this trailer from Eschaton:

Call the offices of:

Steny Hoyer (202) 225-4131

John Tanner (202) 225-4714

Ron Kind at (202) 225-5506

and tell them to apologize to Pelosi for being babies and apologize to America for voting for and vocally supporting that bankruptcy bill. Remind them that they did indeed sell out to special interests, we know they did, and we will not stop pointing that out. If they make these decisions, they will be called on it.

Hoyer is minority whip. He's obviously unsuited for the job, as he seems uninterested in doing it. Ask him to resign.

Additional contact information to email the crybaby sellouts:

Steny Hoyer

John Tanner

Ron Kind

by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-28 09:21AM | 0 recs
Good Point abt Hoyer...
The "Whip's" job is to whip the party members into line. Specifically to make sure there is party loyalty and that partyline votes occur. Part of that process is the negotiation to make sure members get what they want in trade, have a party line they can live with, etc.

But the Bottom Line is that it is the Whip's job, not the leader's job, the Whip's job to make sure that members vote on the party line.

by Andrew C White 2005-04-28 01:51PM | 0 recs
"Yellow Dog" and "Blue Dog"

"Blue Dog Democrats, on the other hand, are a relatively new group. The Blue Dogs are made up of approximately thirty conservative-leaning House Democrats who came together in 1995 to contest the liberal inclinations of the Democratic party. The Blue Dogs have now become the balance of power in the closely divided House.

The term, Blue Dog Democrat, is playfully derived from the original term "Yellow Dog Democrat". It was Former Democrat Rep. Pete Geren, of Texas,  who said that the members have been "choked blue" by those extreme Democrats, from the left. Thus, he is credited for coining the term Blue Dog"Democrat.

Blue Dogs are descendants of a 1950s defunct Southern Democratic group once known as the 'Boll Weevils', who played a critical role, in the early 1980s, by supporting President Ronald Reagan's tax cut plan. Well anyway, Boll Weevil is out and Blue Dog is in. Today, the Senate has its very own version of the Blue Dogs, a.k.a. the New Democrat Coalition, which took shape in 1999.

by Stoic 2005-04-28 09:32AM | 0 recs
Damn you intellectuals
Always looking for the facts, proving your point with statistics and imperical evidence. Now how am I going to bitch about the DLC?

<attempted humor>

Great work Chris. Thanks for doing these.

by michael in chicago 2005-04-28 09:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Damn you intellectuals
"Now how am I going to bitch about the DLC?"

Quote From and Reed?

by Andrew C White 2005-04-28 01:53PM | 0 recs
Blue Dogs have it tough.
While there are some blue dogs that are not in particularly competitive districts, a lot of them are in VERY hostile territory for Democrats. In theory, therefore, they need to demonstrate bipartisanship. Some of these districts poll at 70% pro-life or higher. Lots of them have military bases that are important employment centers, way more than the run-of-the-mill Democratic district.

Personally I think the right thing to do is to have Blue Dog Dems vote 100% pro-life and for all defense spending increases, and be full-throated social justice democrats outside of those issues. But even that might be idealistic.

I am not sure how many Republicans are currently in districts that are as hostile to the GOP as the Blue Dogs are to the Dems.

by niq 2005-04-28 09:47AM | 0 recs
The only vote that ACTUALLY matters
Roll Call 2 -- the vote for Speaker.

As much as we wan't party unity, the most important goal for the Democrats right now is winning back the House, and for this to happen they will have to be able to maintain the 41 seats the currently hold that Bush won in 2004. This means allowing those who represent heavily red districts to actually represent their constituents, even if it means defecting on almost every vote other than RC 2.

Once the Democrats can win that vote, we can discuss unity all we want. But until then, maybe we shouldn't bust their chops so much...

by Jonathan Singer 2005-04-28 09:49AM | 0 recs
Re: The only vote that ACTUALLY matters
And this relates to the "bankruptcy bill" in what way? This was not a bill that pandered to a particular "conservative" constituancy but pandered to the Credit Card Industry and the $$$ they invest in contributions. There is no philosophical or even ideological purpose to this bill.
by Stoic 2005-04-28 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: The only vote that ACTUALLY matters
A couple of things.

Congressmen can feel genuinely for an issue like bankruptcy reform. Even if you don't agree with their position -- and I probably don't, either -- it's very possible that a number of these Representatives truly believed that bankruptcy was too easy.

The second thing is that it does not always make sense to malign the business community, especially when you represent a very right-leaning district. Now again, I probably wouldn't have supported a measure like the bankruptcy reform bill, but then again I don't represent a district that voted 60-40 for Bush in 2004. That factor cannot be underestimated.

You think the vote was only about money. While it might have partially been about business money, that clearly was not the only factor in these Reps' decision. So maybe cut them a little slack so they can stay in office and Nancy Pelosi can become Speaker in 2007.

by Jonathan Singer 2005-04-28 10:42AM | 0 recs
There was no political or philosophical reason to vote for bankruptcy. The only thing that vote was about was campaign contributions from MBNA and the credit card industry. We need to get a Democratic whip from the Democratic wing of the party to put some heat on the Blue Dogs and the DLC.

Bankruptcy and class action law suit restrictions should never have been allowed to pass. There was some kind of back room deal to grease the skids on both bills so they wouldn't get caught up in the filibuster battle that everyone saw coming. Both of these bills were payoffs for campaign contributions from corporate fat cats. Case closed. There ain't no rebuttal except more bullshit.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-28 11:56AM | 0 recs
Yes... we should... Chris points out in Part Three of this series... voting for Speaker, while important, incredibly important... is not enough. If they then turn around and undermine said Speaker and the Democratic Agenda then what good are they?

I don't think you chase these people out of the party but I do think you sit down with them and figure out how to find common ground and encourage party loyalty. 54% or whatever that disgustingly low number is not acceptable. It simply is not acceptable by any measure whatsoever and they need to be told that in no uncertain terms.

by Andrew C White 2005-04-28 01:58PM | 0 recs
Collin is a DINO
Stayed with the party twice: Collin Peterson (MN). It is worth noting that thirteen Republicans broke with their party twice.

He's nearly bolted to the GOP at least twice that I know of in the past five years, but his district isn't as conservative as he thinks it is.  (Furthermore, he voted the wrong way on both the B-Bill and the Estate Tax repeal, neither of which was popular in his district.)  A nice primary challenge might shake him up a bit.

It's time for us to pick someone from either Chris' list or Atrios'/Left Coaster's expanded Dirty Thirty-One.  If the idea is to pick someone in a blue or bluish area, Peterson's district is perfect.

by Phoenix Woman 2005-04-28 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Collin is a DINO
How about Coleman in Minnesota? Where is the Dirty Thirty One list?
by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-28 11:58AM | 0 recs
Another thing
That planted article in Roll Call mentions Pelosi as if she were the only person in America opposed to the B-Bill.

In fact, B-Bill opposition was/is loud and crosses party lines.  Conservative bloggers like teamed up with liberals like DailyKos to fight the B-Bill.

So the only real constituency that wanted this bill, was, in fact, the banks.

by Phoenix Woman 2005-04-28 10:57AM | 0 recs
I've wondered if the article authors actually read their comments.  I guess this comment from the DLC thread proves to me that they don't always.  (I suggested checking out the Blue Dogs at that time.)

By the way, here's some interesting info I had found in the aftermath of the bankruptcy bill:

The news of that letter signed by DLC members certainly made the rounds in the blogosphere.  But I completely missed that the Blue Dog Coalition had their own letter, and they were a lot more unified.  27 out of 35 Blue Dogs signed the letter.  32 out of the 35 Blue Dogs voted Yea.  Interestingly, Barrow was one of the 27 letter-signers, but he voted Nay.

The DLC Dems were more fractured.  20 out of 39 New Democrats signed their letter.  25 out of 39 New Democrats voted Yea.  And a few of the letter-signers actually voted Nay:  Larson, Inslee, and Smith.  Berkley signed the letter but abstained.

by tunesmith 2005-04-28 11:18AM | 0 recs
Re: heh
If Biden had needed more votes, he would have gotten them. The votes were probably strategically selected to do the least possible damage. This vote is going to hurt a lot more than the DLC and the Blue Dogs suspected. the B-Bill Bullshit is far from over.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-28 12:00PM | 0 recs
Thank you Chris for the Light!
Thank you Chris for enlightening us. As you know, there have been so much bashing of the DLC daily that you couldn't even tell who the real enemy is.

Now I see postings saying that the DLC is Not so bad after all.

it's always healthy for any political party to have intramurals on issues as long as at the end of the day, we unite as one. you never grow if you are preaching to the choir and not engaging in others who may have ideas that are different from yours but looking for the SAME results.

look at the GOP where NO ONE is allowed to voice dissent or risk being kicked out. they are so out of touch with reality.

hopefully some of the DLC bashing based
on ignorance decreases. numbers don't lie. thanks Chris.

by fightingLadyinblue 2005-04-28 01:07PM | 0 recs
I am distressed at the change of criteria part way through the analysis. I have no doubt the numbers will remain substantially the same... the blue dogs stand out of the mainstream of Democratic thought... but a nice summary piece with the previouos coalitions recalculated to include the extra two votes used here would be a good thing. The ground is uneven all of a sudden.

And you can ask whoever it was that offered to do the statistical analysis to help with going back over previous congresses to see if the patterns hold or change and under what circumstances they change.



by Andrew C White 2005-04-28 02:03PM | 0 recs
Primary the Blue Dogs?
Come on Chris,

The problem you have is that the Democratic Party will always have a moderate wing. Understand that as long as a party is majority, and able to control committee assignments...there will be more loyalty than in the minority.

It's an oversimplification to say that the only vote that counts is the one for leadership...but it is often true.

The Democrats shouldn't bother deliberately fielding challenges for people like Adam Schiff and Jane Harman. Instead, the better strategy is to run against the most vulnerable and moderate Republicans (or at least in states that are vulnerable and moderate). The GOP has no counterattack for that strategy--hence we ought to use it.

by risenmessiah 2005-04-28 02:46PM | 0 recs
I always said the DLC wasn't the problem.
As a member of the DLC, I proudly stated in several opinions that the DLC wasn't as bad as everyone thought. The Gary Boatwrights and the Michael in Chicagos of the world have told you over and over again that the DLC was the main problem Democrats had. Now that isn't the case, I wonder if the anti-DLCers will finally see that their snide comments over the past few months wasn't worth a barrel of spit. Thank you Mr. Bowers for setting the record straight. And for all you Lieberman bashers out there, take that!!!!
by liebermanlives 2005-04-29 06:43AM | 0 recs
About the Blue Dogs
About the Blue Dogs:  I'm a big advocate of pushing the Democratic Party way to the left on economic issues such as labor, wages, and trade, and on civil liberties issues such as repealing the Patriot Act.  

I'm also, conversely, one of those people who believes the Party should drop a number of unpopular social issues that it has taken on since the 1970s, particulary gun control and pandering to various pro-illegal-immigration positions.  We can and should move back to the left on issues affecting Joe Six Pack - whether it's bread and butter issues or individual freedom issues, and get back to the forefront on advocacy for small farmers and other rural issues as we were in the FDR era, while at the same time moving back to the center on those issues where the Party has alienated Joe Six Pack and made him a target for Republican recruitment and backlash narratives.

I've watched Congressional voting records for years and taken note that the Blue Dogs are the Democratic faction most likely to support the Second Amendment and serious work on rural/farm issues while still maintaining good voting records from the AFL-CIO on bread and butter issues.  This makes the Blue Dogs better than the DLC in my book.  Take an issue like "free" trade; the DLC are the strongest supporters in the Party, while Blue Dogs split on the issue depending on what district they represent.

I've even entertained the idea of an alliance among Blue Dogs, old labor/civil liberties Democrats like Russ Feingold, and Deaniac/Netroots progressives to bring down the DLC and the Democratic Party establishment.  The Blue Dogs, Dean, and Feingold all have the correct position, for example, on the gun issue, while the DLC, the entrenched party establishment, and far too many of the Progressive Caucus do not.  Most Blue Dogs seem to be good enough on labor issues to be worth keeping in Congress, and I even sent a couple of them donations in 2004 (Carson and Stenholm) to try and keep them in office.

Do the Blue Dogs have the answer?  No, but I think their main problem is that they are mavericks and free agents.  This means some of them are going to vote against the party where they shouldn't be.  Let's hold their feet to the fire on such things as Social Security and the bankruptcy bill.  But do I want a Democratic Party in Congress that all votes in lockstep?  No way, not if it means voting in lockstep with the way most Democrats have been voting in Congress the past 15 years.  For that reason I'm glad the Blue Dogs are there.  I'd be much more enthusiastic about them if they weren't so flaky and unreliable on major economic bills.  But then, I'd also be much more enthusiastic about the Progressive Caucus if they'd follow the lead of the Blue Dogs on some of the issues I mentioned above where the Blue Dogs come out ahead.

Collin Peterson a DINO?  He's a co-sponsor of the Americas Redrock Wilderness Act which puts him in the top tier of environmental champions in Congress; his labor voting record is in the 70-90% range depending on which union's scorecard you use; and he's a leader on farm and rural issues in Congress.  He also votes pro-gun and anti-abortion, a necessity in his district which borders North Dakota.  Tennessee?  We have a majority Democratic delegation from that state right now, and they are all Blue Dogs.  DINOs?  Again, that depends on whether one believes liberalism is defined by economic populism or by a postmodernist social agenda.  Those are really the two directions the Party can go.  If we lose the Blue Dogs, we will lose our entire Congressional delegation from Tennessee, Collin Peterson's seat in Minnesota, our one seat in Utah, many others.  

Somehow there has to be a way to push the Blue Dogs to the left (along with the rest of the party) on economic and labor issues, while letting Blue Dogs be Blue Dogs on social issues.  An uncompromising left-populist stance on economic issues will play well in the Blue Dogs' rural districts, and I'm convinced it won't take much to convince the Blue Dogs of this.  I can't say that about the DLC, who seem to be wholly in the pockets of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the "free" trade lobby.

by ACSR 2005-04-29 07:55PM | 0 recs
Re: About the Blue Dogs
One thing about the Blue Dogs...they need to stick with us on economic issues.  Economic populism will play well in conservative rural districts in the South, Midwest, and West.

This is one lesson from the governor elections in Montana and Wyoming.

by v2aggie2 2005-05-01 07:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Congressional Loyalty Scorecards,

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by jonnylee 2006-09-09 02:42PM | 0 recs


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