In recent posts
and in my last column
, I noted that there's an unspoken deal between D.C. reporters and "Blue Dog" Democrats to explain Blue Dog opposition to health insurance regulation, unionization, Wall Street reform and pollution controls as a direct outgrowth of them representing culturally conservative heartland districts. This "they're just voting their districts" myth posits that culturally conservative working-class voters' affinity for guns, love for Jesus and/or hatred of gays somehow automatically means they are huge fans of health insurance corporations, air pollution, abusive employers and Goldman Sachs executives.
What's really amazing about this fairy tale is that it is so ingrained in Washington that it's preposterous supposition isn't even explained - it's just assumed fact, presented as so totally obvious as to go without examination. This story about health care reform from the Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid provides a perfect example of what I'm talking about:
The Blue Dogs' numbers expanded with the election of lawmakers such as North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, an ex-Washington Redskins quarterback who opposes abortion, gun control and gay marriage...
Beyond health care, the Blue Dogs have helped delay a climate-change bill and block legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize...
Rep. Shuler, for his part, said that before agreeing to run, he spoke to Rep. Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to make sure he'd have the freedom he needed.
"One conversation I had with both of them before coming to Congress was, 'I'm going to vote my district,'" Rep. Shuler said. "It's one of those swing districts that can go either way...They're aware of that."
Notice here that Shuler's entire rationale for siding with multinational corporations and the health insurance industry is "I'm going to vote my district" - or put another way, he's telling us that his rank-and-file working-class constituents supposedly want him to vote with Big Money. And, of course, Bendavid, the loyal D.C. bumlicker, doesn't bother to question the premise whatsoever.
It's just stunning that this is so assumed that neither the politician nor the reporter feels the need to bother explaining how this storyline makes any functional sense at all. As I noted in a Washington Post op-ed a few years ago, polls show many working class cultural conservatives are, in fact, very supportive of universal health care and taking on corporate power in general. And as Nate Silver has pointed out, it's idiotic to assume that just because Blue Dogs represent districts that host competitive elections, it means voters in those districts want corporate whores representing them in Washington.
Nonetheless, the lunacy continues. Evidently, politicians and reporters in Washington have secretly discovered a physiologically causative link between a voter's affinity for guns and their love of health insurance bureaucrats.
UPDATE: You'll note that some progressive Members of Congress are annoyed that even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has echoed Blue Dogs claims that they are shilling for insurance companies because their working-class constituents want them to. Roll Call quotes one progressive lawmaker as saying, "She won't criticize [the Blue Dogs]. She says they're representing their constituents. She's being very careful. But other Members are not being as charitable."
© 2009 Open Left
David Sirota is a bestselling author whose newest book is "The Uprising." He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network-both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.
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