Normally, I don’t have much patience for the whining on the left about the Blue Dog democrats — who were sliced in half on Tuesday, losing at least 28 of their 54 seats. When they lose, the Democrats lose control of the Congress. This year, however, I do feel that there is an argument that, to an extent, the Dogs brought this on themselves by being penny-wise, dogpound-foolish. The argument goes like this: a larger stimulus package might have helped the economy recover at a faster clip, but the Dogs opposed it on fiscal responsibility grounds. A second argument: the public really has had it with Wall Street, but the Dogs helped water down the financial regulatory bill, gutting the too-big-to-fail provisions. There is real merit to both points. If the stimulus had been bigger and the financial reform package clearer and stronger, the public would have had a different — and, I believe, more positive — sense of the President’s agenda.
And don’t forget cramdown legislation! Blue Dogs helped weaken it in the House (though it eventually passed) and centrist Dems then killed it in the Senate. If it had passed, it would have moderated the foreclosure debacle, and it would have done so via judges, thus insulating Obama from charges that he was personally helping unworthy homeowners avoid paying the price of their granite countertops.
Would these things have made the difference for Democrats? I’d say there’s a pretty good case to be made. A stronger economy combined with a bit more populist bashing of Wall Street could have been the difference between underperforming by ten seats and overperforming by ten seats. Too late now, though. Reducing economic misery just isn’t on the legislative agenda anymore.