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.