Following the 2008 election, there were 54 Democratic members of the House who called themselves Blue Dogs. Basically, they were more moderate than their party leadership and hoped to influence public policy toward the center within the Democratic Party. Following this month’s elections, there are only a baker’s dozen remaining. Where did they go and why?

blue dog

The Democrats had their largest majority this century following the 2008 elections. They lost control to the GOP in 2010. The reason that their hold was so tenuous was because of Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, and because of their party rules.

Pelosi, as we know, comes from one of the more liberal districts in the nation, in San Francisco. Her constituents thus believe that the more liberal the better. She ends up advocating positions that are far to the left of moderate voters across the nation.

Committee Chairs are important in what actually gets done in Congress. They each pursue their own agenda and get a big say on what legislation eventually becomes law. Well, if the chairs are chosen based on seniority, who will they be? They’ll be from the most reliably Democratic districts, majority-minority districts and sure liberal outposts, where there is only one viable party. So, like Pelosi, these chairs are advocating positions much more liberal than the rest of their colleagues. As long as she has their fealty, and the interest groups they represent, she will be Minority Leader for life. So, after 2010, there were only about 30 Blue Dogs left.

The other reason for the demise of the Blue Dogs is the election of 2010. As we recall, not only did their party get clobbered in the Congressional elections, they also lost many Governor’s seats and state legislatures. Because of this, following the 2010 census, they had the ability to redistrict the House within their states. They chose to make the districts of Democrats much more problematic for their re-election. This, combined with the policies in the Democratic platform enacted this year, cost most of the rest of them their seats. So, the few remaining Blue Dogs are holding on to their seats by a slim thread, and must fight each election to hold onto a seat that accomplishes nothing.