People are feeling a bit testy and conflicted about the decision of the Blue Dog and other conservative Democrats to meet with George Bush. Some say a little bipartisanship and good will never hurt anyone, so why worry?
Well, when Steny Hoyer was campaigning for the job of Majority Leader, one of the things he pointed to with pride was his ability to hold the Democrats together:
I have been very supportive in helping create the most unified Democratic Party in half a century. Nancy and I have created cohesion. That was critically important to our success and will be critically important as we move forward. It will certainly be my intention to do in coming years as I have done in the last four, that is, work very closely with Nancy Pelosi to create the cohesion that will be essential to the new direction of Congress and the Country.
So I guess we're going to go with the notion that party unity is a good thing, for a variety of reasons. Who then are the troubled players, the ones who are already prone to buck the party's efforts to hang together?
Let's look at Chris Bowers' Congressional Loyalty Scorecard for 2005:
Out of the nine votes (the child interstate notification abortion act has since been added to the original eight) and the one proxy vote (I have also added Social Security to the totals via the Fainthearted Faction and Conscience Caucus collected by TPM) here are the current levels of party loyalty among different groups in the House:
- All Democrats: 82.5%
- All Republicans: 96.1%
- DLC: 79.0%
- Democrats, non-DLC: 83.3%
- Blue Dog Democrats: 54.3%
- Non-Blue Dog Democrats: 88.3%
Bingo. Caucus disunity has a name-o. Outside of the Blue Dogs, Democratic Party loyalty on the important, party differentiating votes in the House is comparable to Republicans: 88.3% to 96.1%. Further, Blue Dog Party loyalty, 54.3%, is massively lower than that found either in the DLC, 79.0%, or among non-Blue Dog Democrats, 88.3%. Overall, the thirty-five members of the Blue Dog coalition account for 44.9% of all Democratic Party defections over these ten votes / issues, even though they only make up 17.2% of the caucus.
Now it's quite possible nothing but tea and sympathy will be exchanged at this meeting with President Bad Ideas. But if there was ever a group of Democrats to worry about in this instance when it comes to creating problems for Nancy Pelosi in the upcoming legislative session, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out who that might be.