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August 17, 2009

Dear Media, the Blue Dogs Are Not Fiscally Conservative


A primary story of the health care debate has been the Blue Dog Democrats’ resistance to Barack Obama’s takeover of American health care. As a result of this show being put on by the Blue Dogs for their constituents, just about every media outlet has labeled the group and its 52 congressional members as “fiscally conservative.”


A quick note to the journalism majors who are penning such words: Not everyone slightly to the right of the far left is “conservative.”


You see, to the right of the far left, one might find an array of categories – from “leftist” to “moderate” – that provide a mighty buffer before a consequential label such as “conservative” can be used. And allow me to assure you, the Blue Dogs have far from traversed this ideological buffer.


On their official web site, the Blue Dogs themselves describe their coalition as “fiscally conservative” (which, it turns out, suffices in satisfying modern journalism’s minimal standards of research and inquiry). Yet ever since the group’s formation in 1995, the Blue Dogs have been anything but “fiscally conservative.”


They hardly stood up to Bill Clinton when he pushed economic overregulation and tax increases. But they most certainly stood up to George W. Bush when he chose to act in a fiscally conservative manner (something that did not happen too often), most notably when he promoted his tax cut legislation.


The Blue Dogs haven’t exactly jumped out as “fiscally conservative” under the current administration either. This was most visibly noted when only seven Democrats voted against Obama’s gargantuan, pork-filled “stimulus” package that has, if anything, only slowed down the economy in the last few months. That leaves an overwhelming majority of Blue Dogs who failed to oppose a $787 billion monster that was drawn up and thrust with incredible haste and irresponsibility by the Democrats, and that dropped billions on items that not even Keynesians could pretend are helpful to the economy.


On the other hand, precisely zero Republican members of the House voted for the so-called stimulus. When three Republican senators cast their vote for the wasteful spending bill, they faced such outrage from even politically moderate Americans that one of them was even compelled to change his political affiliation, and has since become a Democrat.


In other words, with the exception of three individuals, no fiscally conservative, fiscally moderate, or fiscally liberal Republican voted for the stimulus. The same cannot be said for the Blue Dogs, who did not exactly join the ranks of the resistance. When the stimulus was such a massive waste that even fiscally liberal Republicans voted against it, it is no more than a mockery to call the Blue Dogs, who largely supported the morally ambiguous bill, anything even approaching “fiscal conservatives.”


Indeed, organizations that keep track of legislators’ ideological placement, such as the American Conservative Union and the National Taxpayers Union, confirm the fact that the Blue Dogs are fiscally conservative only relative to their far-left Democratic friends, and only slightly so.


The Blue Dogs are simply not fiscal conservatives. They are Democrats from moderate or conservative legislative districts with voters who keep them on their toes. They will vote for massive government when they think it will help them, and will appease their constituency when the latter demands restraint – which explains in large part the Blue Dogs’ current resistance on the health care issue, in light of widespread popular dissatisfaction with the administration’s plans.


So, dear journalists, please refrain from placing the Blue Dogs, who regularly vote to the left of even liberal Republicans and for such decidedly fiscally unconservative horrors such as the $787 billion stimulus, anywhere other than to the left of the ideological center.


You, dear aspiring members of the press, might not realize it, but when anyone barely to the right of the far left is called “conservative,” then actual conservatives suddenly sound like right-wing extremists, and average liberals come off as moderates. Come to think of it, actually, you most likely realize this fact quite fully.

© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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