There is a special election in the 20th congressional district of New York tonight. I hope the Democrat, Scott Murphy, wins. However, I am also frustrated that Murphy has received nearly $360,000 on Act Blue from around 2,000 donors. Given that Murphy has made it clear that he will attempt to join the Blue Dogs if he wins the election, the progressive small donor world should not have given him a single dime.
We--participants in blog and email list small donor fundraising efforts--have to completely stop raising money for Blue Dogs. We should not give a single cent to any current member of the Blue Dog coalition. We should not give any money at all to any candidate who refuses to rule out joining the Blue Dogs once in Congress. If we hope to improve Democratic behavior in Congress, this break has to be as public and as thorough as possible.
In politics, money speaks a lot louder than either voting or public criticism. We can criticize Blue Dog behavior all we want, but as long as we keep funneling their members millions of dollars every two years in small, online donations, then we will actually be ratifying, not criticizing their behavior. We will be supporting their efforts to push the party to the right, not working to push the party to the left. We will be sending a clear signal of support for their votes, not working to hold them accountable for those votes.
Let's take a quick review of the Blue Dog behavior we are ratifying. The Blue Dog coalition has made it clear that they believe they have veto power over the entire agenda of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership. After a meeting with President Obama three weeks before the election, the Blue Dogs declared:
"He also recognized that we had the numbers to block or clear" legislation coming from the White House if he is elected.
If they are coasting that they can block or clear whatever legislation they want, the Blue Dogs consider themselves to be in charge of D.C., not Speaker Pelosi or President Obama. Some highlight of their past behavior include being the driving force in the Democratic Party behind the 2005 bankruptcy bill (they voted 32-4 in favor), the 2006 ending of habeus corpus, the 2007 Iraq War blank check, and the 2008 FISA re-write (see here for both). So far in 2009, they only allowed the stimulus package to go through after extracting a pay-go promise from the Obama administration. Last month, they joined with the New Democrats to block foreclosure relief legislation, which Evan Bayh's Blue Dogs in the Senate seem to have killed. And most of them will vote against the budget, too.
The Blue Dogs are an overt obstacle to progressive governance. For crying out loud, their entire name comes from feeling "choked blue by the left-wing of the party." In the recent past, they have refused to send money to the DCCC because another member of Congress criticized them on Iraq. They are overtly anti-progressive and anti-left wing. They don't even work to help other members of the party. So, why are we working to help them?
We simply must stop funneling money to the Blue Dog coalition. Given how much we complain about Blue Dogs, this may seem self-evident, but it is not. In the past, I, personally, have helped raise a decent amount of money for Blue Dogs. Two of the fundraising pages that I helped build, Netroots Candidates and Blue Majority, took in about $150,000 for Patrick Murphy, Larry Kissell and Bill Foster, three members of Congress who are either Blue Dogs already, or who will be likely announced as such when the new Blue Dog membership list is made public. So, I am as implicated in sending Blue Dogs money in the past as anyone.
If we keep sending the Blue Dogs millions of dollars in small, online donations every year, then there is no incentive for Blue Dogs to ever change their behavior, or for Democratic candidates to not seek out membership in the Blue Dog coalition. Currently, being a member, or prospective member, of the Blue Dog coalition provides you access to a network of Hill staff, corproate lobbyists and their PACs, large donor fundraisers, and press releases back home to talk about how you aren't like those other, dirty liberal Democrats. If we want to change Democratic behavior in Congress, we have stop adding even more incentives for Democrats to become Blue Dogs. Instead, we must offer strong disincentives for them to become Blue Dogs, such as a significantly reduced access to online, small donor fundraising.
Unfortunately, in Scott Murphy's case, small online donors raised over $300,000 for him even after Murphy had stated he was applying to join the Blue Dogs. That has to stop. Before we raise money for other congressional candidates in 2009-2010, we have to extract promises from those candidates that they won't join either the Blue Dogs (for House candidates) or Evan Bayh's groups (for Senate candidates).
No more money for the Blue Dogs. We can't continue to ratify their efforts to push the Democratic Party to the right. There are plenty of candidates and organizations working to push the party in the opposite direction to whom we small online donors should give our money.