The 15-year old Blue Dog Coalition is almost invariably characterized as the “fiscally conservative,” “fiscally responsible,” or “moderate” wing of the House Democratic Caucus – especially by the Blue Dogs themselves. A Google search of “fiscally conservative Blue Dog” returned more than 434,000 results, and the first text written on the Coalition’s website refers to the Blue Dogs’ “independent voices for fiscal responsibility and accountability.” In the political media, in particular, the conventional wisdom is so ingrained that “Blue Dogs” operates as a short-hand term for “economically conservative Democrats.”

But a detailed analysis of Blue Dogs’ voting records suggests the conventional wisdom is wrong. On economic issues, the Blue Dogs are only marginally less extreme than their non-Blue Dog Democratic colleagues, and far more liberal than House Republicans. This fact, more easily obscured under Republican congressional majorities, has become more pronounced since the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2007.

Whatever substantive distinction the “Blue Dog Coalition” ever carried has all but dissolved into a crude and cynical branding mechanism. The Blue Dog Coalition exists not to help conservative Democrats influence policy, but to allow conventional Democrats to deceive the media and their constituents.