“I will vote to extend the Bush tax cuts, repeal healthcare reform, and be a vote against Barack Obama,” says one southern Democrat.
In an opportunistic election year, some Democrats are running from their accomplishments and turning their backs on the manifestation of the long awaited change that Americans across the nation have been clamoring for.
The Bush tax cuts are set to end this year. A senior White House official signaled to the conservative Democrats, known as the Blue Dogs, “I don’t think there is any Blue Dog Democrat that is coming out against extending tax cuts for people up to $250,000 a year.” The White House spoke too soon. In a campaign email on Thursday, September 23rd, Congressman Charlie Melancon, running for Senate against David Vitter, voiced his support for the Bush Tax Cuts.
By the same token, healthcare reform is not a cut and dry issue within the party. Take Mississippi for example: according to a 2009 study by Families USA, one third of Mississippians have no form of healthcare. A Census estimation of that same year approximated the Mississippi population to be 37% Black and 60% White. These findings together demonstrate a rather interesting, if not wholly disconcerting, correlation between the number of Mississippians that lack healthcare access and the majority population of minority Mississipians. And yet, Representative Gene Taylor (D-MS) was the first Democrat to sign a petition pledging his support for the repeal of healthcare legislation.
No, the contest of Republicanesk showmanship within the Democratic party does not restrict itself to Mississippi. Recently, Congressman Heath Shuler (D-NC) recently stated that he would not be voting for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
Political positioning aside, this developing trend toward a conscious contest between certain Southern Democrats regarding who can be the best conservative among them not only alienates them from their true supporters, but it damages the Democratic base.
Democrats are fulfilling their promise for change but, have yet to saturate that message in the public’s ear. The Republican refrain of late has been “No, We Won’t” versus the Democratic message of “Yes, We Can.”
Since the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th President, the Democratic Party has almost singularly accomplished an ambitious set of policy advancements for the American people, including the expansion of children’s healthcare programs, enacting higher fuel efficiency standards for states, ending policies that offered tax benefits to companies who outsource American jobs, and last, but not least, implementing equal pay for women.
These advancements, however, run the risk of being lost in the shuffle of campaign season when schimisms within the party begin to detract from the good that’s been done.
As elected Democrats try to “out conservative” Republicans in political campaign messaging, minorities are being left hanging with no hook. What have Republicans achieved in the past two years for the American public? Their opposing messaging has been their accomplishment, not their legislative agenda.
According to Gallup, 9 out of 10 registered Republicans are non-Hispanic whites. Voting minorities are the voting bloc of the Democratic Party but, when the election kitchen is hot, southern Democrats leave their base and flock toward the party perceived to be in favor in the moment.
Other than a few bi-partisan sponsored ground breaking bills by brave individual socially conscious Republicans, as a group, their successes of the past 2 years have been slim to none, and do not go far beyond successfully delivering messaging to a huddle of already enraged people.
So why are conservative Democrats leaving their base? The politics of the moment cannot be the basis of policy decisions for the future. Though the conservative types might be wrestling with the best messaging to win at midterms, a retreat from Democratic values may not be the way ahead.