Responding to the Progressive Block strategy, which was designed to put the Progressive Caucus on equal footing with Blue Dogs, Ezra Klein seems to conclude that Progressives can never have more influence than Blue Dogs. This is because Blue Dogs only have incentives to oppose must-pass Democratic legislation, while Progressives only have incentives to support it:
What, in other words, is the endgame of this strategy? The hope seems to be that Rahm Emanuel turns his attention to beating Blue Dogs, rather than liberals, into line. Maybe. But what makes people think that's possible? What's his actual leverage against vulnerable Democrats voting for initiatives their voters don't obviously support in districts Barack Obama didn't win at a time when the president is no longer popular?
There's no successful model for blunting the power of centrists to write -- or kill -- the final compromise.(...)
The outcome of this strategy, then, seems to be that the Democratic Party pretty much collapses into infighting and fails to pass its top priorities and loses a bunch of seats in the next election. The media explains that the liberal Nancy Pelosi and her liberal House Democrats caused the electoral disaster, or that Democrats couldn't agree on an agenda.(...)
But it's hard to imagine that liberals will ever beat the Blue Dogs at their own game. The likelier outcome is that everybody loses.
Klein's central premise is that Progressives have no leverage to make Blue Dogs want to vote for good legislation, since opposing Democrats is popular in their districts. However, Blue Dogs have leverage over Progressives, since Progressives don't want Democrats to lose seats.
The reason I disagree with Klein is fairly simple: if no health care legislation passes, and Democrats lose seats as a result, Blue Dogs are the people who will lose the seats, not Progressives. Even if Klein is correct and Democrats lose a bunch of seats because Progressives blocked it, Blue Dogs are actually the ones who will bear the brunt of those losses. As such, Blue Dogs have more to lose if health care fails to pass than Progressives.
And yes, we can afford to do this. Not only do Democrats have a wide majority, but demographically the country is turning in a decidedly progressive direction. Further, most (but admittedly not all) Blue Dog approved public policy sucks. They pushed the Iraq war just as much as Republicans. They pushed for financial de-regulation that led to our financial crisis just as much as New Democrats and Republicans. They wouldn't even come to the negotiating table on cap and trade without removing EPA authority to regulate carbon, adding huge give-aways to polluters in their districts during the negotiations, and then most of them voted against the bill anyway.
If we feel that we have to protect Blue Dogs at all costs, then of course it will be impossible for Progressives to have as much leverage as Blue Dogs. However, as soon as we make it clear that we don't feel much of a need to protect Blue Dogs, then they are the ones who have a lot more reason to cave into our demands. If another Republican wave really is coming, Blue Dogs will be the first Democrats to lose.