As was stated in the last installment of this blog, Wikipedia tells us that the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition is “a group of 53 moderate and conservative Democrats committed to financial and national security, favoring compromise and bipartisanship over ideology and party discipline.” But are they really committed to financial and national security? And do they really favor compromise and bipartisanship over ideology and party discipline? Or are they perpetrating a massive hoax and posturing to convince the electorate that they are something that they are not? Are they really sailing under false colors in order to save their political skins in demographically diverse congressional districts?
Mississippi Democrat Congressman Travis Childers (MS-1) certainly hopes that his constituents view him as “bipartisan” and favoring compromise over ideology and party discipline. When he campaigned in a special election a year ago to succeed Roger Wicker (who was appointed United States Senator by Governor Barbour to replace the retiring Trent Lott), Childers worked hard in Mississippi’s First Congressional District to portray himself as a populist in the mold of one of his earlier predecessors, Democrat Congressman Jamie Whitten, who was Chairman of the powerful House of Representatives Appropriations Committee during Mississippi’s “one-party days” when there was no viable Republican Party in the State. Whitten often boasted that he could “bring home the bacon” for Mississippians with projects such as the mega-expensive Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which was envisioned at the time as destined to bring thousands of new jobs to the economically depressed northeastern region of the Magnolia State and other regions of the country as well.
Since Childers’ election after a nasty Republican Primary that left Republicans divided in a conservative district that has voted consistently for Republicans in past national elections, he has publicly stressed his independence from The Democrat Party’s national leadership and has tried to position himself, although a Democrat, as not subservient to party discipline in matters’ such as health care, that are of importance to his district.
Mississippi’s First Congressional District is racially diverse. While a substantial majority of its voters are white, middle class and blue collar, and live in the northeastern portion of Mississippi in the foothills of Appalachia, a substantial portion of its citizens are African-Americans, many of whom live farther west in the flat lands of the Mississippi Delta along Highway 61, the famous “Blues Highway”.
In winning his election last year, Childers cobbled together enough voters from the predominantly white and conservative eastern portion of his District to go with his far more liberal constituency from the Mississippi Delta. Many Republicans, bitterly divided after a bloody primary battle, stayed home and did not vote in the general election. Whether Congressman Childers can hold his coalition together in the 2010 Congressional Elections, in the aftermath of the tumultuous events that have taken place at the national level under the leadership of President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress, remains to be seen.
Next week, we will discuss whether Blue Dog Democrats such as Congressman Childers serve some legitimate purpose when they present themselves as “bipartisan” and as “conservative Democrats”. Is the Blue Dog Coalition good for America, or are the Blue Dogs simply “facilitators” that allow the extremely liberal national Democrat leadership to hold on to power in the Congress? Are they really conservative Democrat Dogs that are left out in the cold by their colleagues and turn blue in the process? Or are they really wolves in Blue Dog clothing? We will draw some conclusions, based upon the evidence, in our next installment (The Blue Dogs – Part III).
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