What is a Bush Dog Democrat? A FAQ...

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Aug 30, 2007 at 15:47


I wrote this FAQ for easy reference on Bush Dog Democrats.

What is a Bush Dog, in one sentence?

Bush Dog Democrats are Democratic members of Congress who enable the right-wing through their support of Bush's policies on core progressive values at key moments.

What are these core progressive values and these key moments?

Currently, we're using the capitulation vote on Iraq back in May, 2007, and the disgraceful vote to give Bush warrantless wiretapping powers as proxies for Bush Doggedness.  We think that if you voted for both of these, you are an enabler of Bush's policies.

We've made an exception for Brian Baird (WA-03), who voted correctly on FISA.  Upon getting back from Iraq, Baird, in the face of all the evidence, touted the surge's success and explained that opposition to the continuation of the surge was borne of partisanship and a lack of concern for American moral authority.  Using the right-wing media to attack core progressive values is a quick route to becoming a Bush Dog.

Ok, so who are these 'Bush Dog Democrats'?

Matt Stoller :: What is a Bush Dog Democrat? A FAQ...
Here's a list.

AL-05: Bud Cramer
AR-02: Vic Snyder
AR-04: Mike Ross
CA-20: Jim Costa
CO-03: John Salazar
FL-02: Alan Boyd
GA-08: Jim Marshall
GA-12: John Barrow
IA-03: Leonard Boswell
IL-03: Dan Lipinski
IL-08: Melissa Bean
IN-02: Joe Donnelly
IN-08: Brad Ellsworth
IN-09: Baron Hill
KY-06: Ben Chandler
LA-03: Charlie Melancon
MS-04: Gene Taylor
MN-01: Tim Walz
MN-07: Colin Peterson
NC-07: Mike McIntyre
NC-02: Bob Etheridge
NC-11: Heath Shuler
ND-AL: Earl Pomeroy
OH-06: Charlie Wilson
OH-18: Zack Space
OK-02: Dan Boren
PA-04: Jason Altmire
PA-10: Chris Carney
SD-AL: Stephanie Herseth
TN-04: Lamar Davis
TN-05: Jim Cooper
TN-06: Bart Gordon
TN-08: John Tanner
TX-17: Chet Edwards
TX-22: Nick Lampson
TX-23: Ciro Rodriguez
TX-28: Henry Cuellar
UT-02: Jim Matheson
WA-03: Brian Baird

You can find more detailed stats, including PVI for their districts, here.

Gee, there's a lot of white people on there, aren't there?

Yes.

Gee, there's a lot of dudes on there, aren't there?

Yes.

Gee, there's a lot of Southerners on there, aren't it?

Yup.

Southern white dudes.  What a surprise.  Political scientist Tom Schaller can explain why Bush Dogs concentrate in this demographic.

Why are you doing this?  Why are you criticizing Democrats from conservative districts?!?  You're a bad Democrat!

First of all, the 'I've voting my district' argument doesn't hold.  There are basically no districts where the war is popular, and warrantless wiretapping as an electoral issue moved numbers against Republicans last cycle.  These members are not voting their districts, they are just conservatives.  There are also a number of districts represented by a Bush Dog Democrat, such as Dan Lipinski's in Illinois and Leonard Boswell's in Iowa, which lean Democratic.

Second of all, Bush Dog Democrats are dragging down the rest of the party.  According to Zogby, 80% of Democrats disapproval of the job that Congress is doing.  This is a remarkable statistic.  Historically, Congress gets low marks from the opposite party, but the party in power tends to think their leaders are doing a pretty good job.  Yet, currently, four fifths of Democrats do not approve of the job their leaders are doing, which is amazingly high for a partisan Democratic group.  In other words, the term 'Bush Dog' is just giving a name to the frustration of many Democrats.

As for why we're doing this, well, despite the 2006 election, George W. Bush is still able to govern along right-wing lines and has formed an effective conservative working majority in Congress, with this block of members as the pivotal swing block. 

Without challenging these members, we will never be able to get progressive legislation through Congress.  Or, to put it another way, we think expanded warrantless wiretapping authority is awful for any President to have because we don't want to be spied on.  We think the Iraq war is really bad and that troops should be withdrawn.  We don't agree with Bush Dog Democrats on the substance of their policy ideas, nor do we think it's a good thing that they are helping George W. Bush govern in an effective working conservative majority.

So what are you trying to do to these Bush Dogs?

We want to get local activists to profile their districts, who they are, and their voting record.  Here's who we have done so far.

Ok, I want to help you, even though I think you're a bunch of Stalinists.

Great!  Sign up here, so we know who you are.

But I want to do more than just give you my email address!

Cool.  Then go here for more detailed instructions on how to profile a member.

What we need is a brief profile of the member, their voting record, their personality, and the district and its politics.  Is there a primary challenge?  Is the member well-suited for his or her district?  Did the member do something to mitigate this criticism?  Remember, this is not an attack, it's a profile so we can get to know these people and eventually persuade them to do the right thing.  It doesn't have to be comprehensive or long, just enough to get a sense of who this person is and how they do their politics.

When you're done, email stoller at gmail.com with a link.  You can do a profile on your own blog (ideal), or on one of many sites with diaries such as OpenLeft, Dailykos, MyDD, etc.

Will you do more?

Yes.  Already, there are several primaries in the making, including one in Illinois's third district against Dan Lipinski by a challenger named Mark Pera.  Activists have already pledged a primary challenge against Brian Baird unless he changes his position on Iraq. 

We may also do Google ad campaigns targeting specific districts, and we will try to support local activism. 

What is your track record?

Last cycle, the swirling networks of people known as 'the progressive movement' specifically challenged Joe Lieberman, Al Wynn, and Jane Harman in primaries.  Ellen Tauscher also received a substantial amount of criticism, including threats of primary challenges.  Lieberman lost in the primary, so he's no longer a Democrat, and Al Wynn, Jane Harman, and Ellen Tauscher have changed their positions on Iraq.  Wynn is facing a primary challenge today from progressive hero Donna Edwards.

We also elected a good number of freshmen, and with the exception of Tim Walz and Chris Carney, none of them are Bush Dog Democrats.

Will you do the Senate at some point?

Sure.  If you want to profile a Bush Dog Senator, go for it.

What are the long-term goals here?

We want to elect more and better Democrats, strengthen the hand of progressives in Congress, and reduce the branding and power of the Blue Dog and New Democrat caucuses.  All of this is in service to passing progressive policies and crafting a progressive governing majority.

What's happened since you started blogging about 'Bush Dog Democrats'?

Today, there are just under nine hundred results when you search for "Bush Dog Democrats"Left in Alabama, CaliticsBooman, Howie Klein, MN Campaign Report, Archpundit, and the Side Track have all profiled or helped to profile members.  We've had positive profiles of Tim Walz, aggressive criticisms of Collin Peterson, and an analysis of the geographical distribution of the Bush Dogs from noted political scientist Tom Schaller.

The campaign has been covered in USA Today, on Fox News, the Politico, the Weekly Standard, Firedoglake, and in the New York Observer.  Anonymous Democratic strategists are attacking us with the straw man argument that criticism will jeopardize Democratic seats, wingnuts are upset, and some local Democrats are very very angry.  

Insiders don't like what we're doing.  DLC Senior Fellow Ed Kilgore at the Democratic Strategist has the standard insider criticism of what we're trying to do, Conn Carroll at the National Journal helpfully instructs us not to go after Brian Baird because his only issue difference is Iraq and the netroots doesn't want to be known only as an antiwar faction, so there is obviously some insider buzz.  DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen has also voiced frustration with our efforts.

Ok, I'm sold.

Great!  Go sign up, and tell your friends!


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what about candidates? (0.00 / 0)
That are running on conservative platforms? Are you working to support progressive primary challengers to those folks?

you mean open seats? (0.00 / 0)
In general, yes.  For instance, Darcy Burner has a primary challenger who think the district needs a Democrat who is more 'moderate', and we raised a bunch of money for her.

That's not part of the Bush Dog Democrat campaign, though.


[ Parent ]
Primary candidates (0.00 / 0)
I'm concerned about a primary candidate in my district who has DCCC support, presents himself on blogs as a "progressive", but actually announces conservative policies in the local newspapers & in e-mails to supporters. His camp uses the old "progressives' can't win in this conservative district, and I'm not buying it. 
There will be a least one progressive challenge to this candidate, and I'll be supporting him in this primary.

I'm fed up with the Bush Dogs. I think they greatly undermine our objectives, and although I supported all D's in the last cycle (and worked really hard for them!), I've decided to only support candidates whose values align fairly closely with mine.

Thoughts?


[ Parent ]
Just voting the district is (4.00 / 1)
the least convincing defense of any of these rats that could possibly be put forth. Weren't Democrats in the South just "voting their districts" during the struggle for the Civil Rights Act? Weren't many of them just "voting their districts" when they either refused to end our military role in Vietnam, refused to not fund the war, or even refused to limit military operations in Cambodia, or Laos? Does history give these shits a pass because they were just voting their districts, or their states?

Link to interview with Brian Baird... (0.00 / 0)
you know that I'm in (0.00 / 0)
This is looking very good, and it is definitely a project that a site like y'all's should create and implement.  The rubric and logo are excellent, too.

I'm still not ready to call Brian Baird a BushDog, but, as you know, I am committed to find a viable primary opponent for him (unless, as I have stated, he recants on his support of the Iraq occupation).  I've already started the process informally and will be going to the other county organizations in the district next month.

As you may know, the state party leader has already lined up - carefully - behind Brian.  That will not stop us from proceeding.  I will pay the candidate's fee myself, if necessary.

Do you want more of a biography of Brian, or are you satisfied with the coverage to-date?  Warning: If I provide you with more information, you may find less justification for calling him a BushDog, Terry Schiavo notwithstanding.

By the way - did I mention that I'm running for president?


in defense of Ed Kilgore (0.00 / 0)
He no longer works for the DLC, you are just using his prior employment to impeach what he says, along with the moniker "insider."  I know both Ed and Matt personally, and I happen to agree with Ed on this one. 

I encourage everyone to read the article, it lays out why this might not be the best idea without using names to sully the message like Matt and Chris have done. 

I agree with the general idea that we need to get wayward Dems together on Iraq, FISA, the MCA, etc. but calling them names like this really ain't going to do it.  Sorry.

Truth over balance, progress over ideology


??? (0.00 / 0)
From Ed's bio:

Ed Kilgore is Managing Editor for The Democratic Strategist, an online magazine (www.thedemocraticstrategist.org); principal blogger at The Daily Strategist; and a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council and Progressive Policy Institute. Earlier in his career, Kilgore was Vice President for Policy at the DLC; Communications Director for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn; and a federal-state relations liaison and speechwriter for three Governors of his home state of Georgia. He's also served in the script and speechwriting operation of the last five Democratic National Conventions.

Unless I'm missing something, Kilgore is both (a) affiliated with the DLC and (b) an insider who wrote speeches for the last five DNC Conventions.  How exactly is it an insult to call him a DLCer and/or an insider?  Where exactly did I attack him?

I would also note I offered up his post as a critique of the Bush Dog Project so others could read it. 


[ Parent ]
RE: ??? (0.00 / 0)
Do you see the word "was" in there.  That means he NO LONGER works for the DLC.  Now, it can't be said he left there for ideological reasons and I am not suggesting as much.

But the way you used to the words "DLC" and "insider" were as epithets.  If you said a former DLC policy guy and speech writer to lots of Dems (he ghost wrote chapters of Kerry's presidential book) that would be as factual as you were with out the pejorative slant that was conveyed/intended.

I am glad you included his critique and I never faulted you for that.  I just wish you wouldn't use names like "Bush Dogs" and "DLC" and "insider" like that to discredit their arguments by association to groups you don't like, such as the DLC or "Washington insiders."

Truth over balance, progress over ideology


[ Parent ]
Kilgore has reenfored my view (4.00 / 1)
His criticism is mild and reinforced my view that Matt is right. Finding and disseminating information about questionable Democrats and working toward a progressive majority are things that I agree with.

I you want health care, work hard. If you want universal health care, vote for liberals.

[ Parent ]
I'd add Jane Harman (0.00 / 0)
to the list of 2006 primary challenges that greatly improved the incumbent's voting record.

Her challenger was Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America, which made a huge effort on her behalf.

PDA also supported Christine Cegelis in her primary against Rahm Emanuel's designated Bush Dog Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth won the primary but lost the general.

PDA supported many other truly progressive candidates in primary and general elections, as did ImpeachPAC.


Who primaried Tauscher? (0.00 / 0)
I think you're thinking of Jane Harman.  There was talk about a primary challenge to Tauscher in 2008, but Tauscher didn't have a challenger in 2006.

Did you even read the post on Waltz you linked to? (4.00 / 1)
I think the title says it all:
Walz + FISA = Blue Dog? Not Quite.

Your "definition" of a "Bush Dog" states "Bush Dog Democrats are Democratic members of Congress who enable the right-wing through their support of Bush's policies on core progressive values at key moments" and yet it includes someone with a 90% progressive punch rating (who has a better progressive rating than both of Philly's congressmen). So those other votes weren't "key" or didn't occur "at a key moment"? And who decides what these two items are?

The funny thing is that I imagine that the two "progressive" values that you are using to define these politicians are just as much a part of the far-right mentality (at least the libertarians) as they are the far left. I suppose Ron Paul is progressive now.

Also, over 1/3 were written by Howie Klein (including the FireDogLake piece), aka "DownWithTyranny", who lives, I believe, in exactly none of those districts (I believe he lives in California, but I could be wrong), and who is also supporting an independent candidate who is running against a progressive Dem.

This campaign isn't likely to change many voting behaviors, but I do think it's likely to alienate you from a fair number of progressive activists...


Umm (0.00 / 0)
Wasn't Ciro supposed to be...well...progressive?

Netroots for Gore

Only compared with Henry Cuellar ... (0.00 / 0)
... who is indisputably a Bush Dog.

[ Parent ]
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