Democratic moderates in the House have begun to assert themselves in their caucus, two years after giving Nancy Pelosi the majority. Blue Dogs issued a call to see moderates in key leadership positions and have proposed candidates for these slots. They want recognition of their role in maintaining the Democratic majority:
Blue Dog Democrats Friday called on the Democratic Caucus to support “moderate voices” in the slew of leadership decisions the party will be making this month.
The release did not name any of the races or contenders, but Blue Dog sources say it can be seen as preliminary support for Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a brewing bid for vice chairman of the caucus and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) in his fight to stave off a committee chairmanship challenge from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
“As the moderate faction of our caucus has grown and contributed to our large majority, our leadership must have more moderate voices at the table if we want to continue to be successful, strong, and effective as a caucus,” said Blue Dog leader Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.).
I’m not sure that anyone would have described John Dingell as a Blue Dog Democrat before now, but he’s certainly more moderate than Henry Waxman. Waxman wants Dingell out of the Energy and Commerce Committee so that Waxman can pursue more radical solutions on global warming. Dingell wants to protect the auto industry from excessive regulation, and has fought back against Waxman’s attempt to wrest control of the committee away from him.
The Blue Dogs see this kind of leftward tilt as a threat to their seats. If the 111th Congress runs hard to the left, voters in their more conservative districts will punish them by replacing them with Republican challengers in 2010 — and Democrats will lose their majority just as they did in 1994. Their need for self-preservation pushes them to get more of their members into leadership.
This leadership fight will give voters a clear indication of how radical the upcoming single-party government will get. If the Blue Dogs get their committee chairs and their leadership positions, they may help keep the worst excesses of Pelosi and Barack Obama in check. If not, we can expect major overreach, and Republicans can start getting ready to take back these conservative districts in two years.