My Congressman is the Nation's Most Conservative Blue Dog

Update: A friend called me and said the town hall meeting was getting pretty crowded and crazy an hour beforehand when I was planning to show up 30 minutes early, so I didn't go. End update.

Of all the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, Walt Minnick of Idaho might be the most conservative. And he's my Congressman.

If you've heard me call Paul Hodes my Congressman before, it's because I spent four years going to college in New Hampshire, but I'm back in my old high school stomping grounds of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho now, where Minnick narrowly beat one-term Republican Bill Sali last November. Minnick is certainly conservative: He voted against Obama's budget, a vote little ole budget hawk me agreed with. He voted against the stimulus, a vote I disagreed with but understood. He voted against cap-and-trade, and I was outraged. Now he's promising to vote against a public option and thus threatening to vote against health care reform.

No matter what you think of Minnick specifically or of the Blue Dogs in general, let me tell you something about the Congressman he beat, Bill Sali: I would rather be represented by Michelle Bachmann or Heaven-help-me Tom Tancredo than I would that fool. This was a man whose first bill was one to repeal the effects of gravity, who repeatedly insisted that abortions cause breast cancer, and who was opposed by the state's previous two Republican state speakers and both of his main primary opponents. And yet, if our second Democrat in five decades votes against both cap-and-trade AND health care reform, I will no longer be able to support him.

You may be asking, why am I bringing up Minnick now? Two reasons. One, I am going to try and attend a town hall meeting with him tonight, and two, he was profiled on the PBS NewsHour last night. Here's that clip, and I'll tuck a four-minute CNN piece from earlier this month after the jump as well.

The rodeo scenes are a fair enough depiction of this district, although the pictures of the lakes, forests, and timber trucks in the shorter CNN clip (after the jump) are a bit closer to home. Overall, these two pieces do a pretty good job of representing a Blue Dog's dilemma: On the one hand, if Minnick supports a liberal president's agenda, he will almost certainly lose re-election in one of the most conservative districts in the country. On the other hand, when health care reform failed in 1993-4, it was the conservative and moderate Democrats who paid the price, not the liberals. All politics used to be local, but that's changed with the 24-news-hour cycle. Perhaps Minnick's opposition to cap-and-trade and the public option is based on personal convictions, and if so, I probably won't support him but at least I'll respect him. If, however, it's political, he has to ask himself two questions: What's worse, a national wave or local backlash? And in his move to the right, will he alienate more Democrats than he picks up Republicans? It is the libertarian politics of this forested gem of a district far more than the opinions of New York, DC, or Los Angeles PACs and 527s that will be on Walt's mind next November. If you can understand that, then you understand a Blue Dog's dilemma.

I'll let you know how the town hall meeting goes, if I'm able to get in.

Tags: Bill Sali, CNN, Health care, Idaho, PBS, Walt Minnick (all tags)

Comments

10 Comments

Holy. Cow.

10% Reduction in gravity. Wow. I'm stunned beyond that tidbit. I watched SwingStateProject regularly the last year and a half and can profess no knowledge of this. Just when you think the novelty of the nutters has faded...

by McGahee220 2009-08-24 11:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Holy. Cow.

To be fair, he wasn't serious. It was a sarcastic reply to the minimum wage hike - he claimed his bill made just as much sense. Still, a real a**hole.

by Nathan Empsall 2009-08-24 11:20PM | 0 recs
It's really a simple trade-off

He got elected because people believed he would buck the system. Well, with all the lobbyist money that flowed into the Republican party - and the huge increase in government during their watch, its easy to see how an independent perspective won election in his past election cycle.

Now, his district can figure two things out. One, that cowboys could use good health coverage, and two, that the big corporate interests that are paying out so much lobbyist money to try to kill off healthcare , are going to be very upset if someone overturns their apple cart.

And what will happen is there will be very slick advertisting campaigns that will end up being an albatross around the neck of his opponent.

Healthcare will pass, it already has the votes to get out of congress.  Last poll showed 83% support among the american electorate for it, we know for a fact that a real healthcare reform package is going to make it out of the House of Representatives.

However, support like the kind you can get from your old blue dog here is pretty damn interesting to the endgame because the most money has been spent on the senators and its there that the bill will hit the wall.

Is he going to take on the system? If he's for healthcare, then yes. Its just not a free market industry right now - there's just too much corruption - secret, tricky accounting and insurance industry profits on the rise 300 percent over the last decade - but health coverage declining in real terms - and American life expectancy dropping to 50th in the world?

Does he stand with the HMO guy. Or does he stand with his district?

The real election swing that got him there in office came from the net, not the television and when healthcare reform passes and you end up with people getting happy about it  - it will swing just as hard and fast for the people who delivered on their promise.

Britain's National Health Service was started as a way of saying "thank you" to the returning veterans of World War II , for their service to their country.

Our Health Service could start off in the same spirit.

by Trey Rentz 2009-08-25 05:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Stop making post titles too long to re!!

Frankly I think he should be realistic. He was never going to get re-elected. It's like Lampson down in DeLay's seat, he lost the special election but won the general so he held it by trickery and got beaten by 7 points in 2008.

Minnick should just accept that he's going to be booted out of office (or I guess he could switch but caucus and vote with Dems, heh) and just go loud and proud for the 2 years he's got.

by MNPundit 2009-08-25 07:02AM | 0 recs
my sentiments exactly

He's like the reverse of Joseph Cao in LA-02. He's on borrowed time and might as well do good for two years instead of voting with Republicans in the hope that he can somehow get re-elected in an R+19 district.

by desmoinesdem 2009-08-25 07:15AM | 0 recs
by Obamaphile 2009-08-25 07:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Nation's Most Conservative Blue Dog

he will almost certainly lose re-election in one of the most conservative districts in the country.

ID-01 is a very, very conservative district, with a partisan ranking of R+18, but it's not nearly as bad the most conservative Congressional Districts in the country: TX-13 and AL-06, which both rank at R+29.

Texas alone has 7 Congressional Districts with higher Republican PVI rankings than ID-01.

All that said, it does appear that Minnick is probably in the most conservative district currently held by a Democratic Congressman.

by Obamaphile 2009-08-25 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Walt Minnick

I live in Grangeville, which may be the most liberal town between Boise and Coeur D'alene, so maybe I'm a little skewed, but ID-01 may not be quite as wing-nutty as it appears.  Lately, Democrats have been getting some victories at the county and city level.  You see the wing-nut letters to the editor, but you also see rebuttals from citizens.  I think this area has a little more of a clue than some think.

At least Walt voted for the House leadership (Nancy Pelosi), and I congratulated him on that, but gave him hell on the climate bill.

Nathan, you make sure to let Walt know that there are some progressives around, and we are in his party too!

Mark

by viperlmw 2009-08-25 08:24AM | 1 recs
Re: Walt Minnick

That you are praising him for voting for House Leadership says a ton about how "progressive" ID-01 actually is.

I understand, I live in a R+ district but not one that is verging on 20 points of crazy.

by MNPundit 2009-08-25 05:30PM | 1 recs
Could Minnick run for Senate in 2010?

I know Crapo is considered to be safe. But if he's in as much peril for re-election as suggested, then he might as well roll the dice for the Senate in 2010, and continue to do his best Ben Nelson imitation.

by tietack 2009-08-25 11:15AM | 0 recs

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