I’ve spent the better part of the weekend researching southern “Bush Dogs”. If you don’t know what a “Bush Dog” is, go to this FAQ to find out more.
With all the time I’ve invested, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about my intentions and my motivation in participating in this somewhat controversial project.
First of all, as you can see from the profiles listed below, they are not hit pieces. They are merely informational pieces about the Representatives in question. I have made every effort to remain neutral in reporting the facts about these individuals. Their records stand on their own.
Secondly, I’m not a political expert, but an active observer of the process. From that observation I have made some determinations and certainly have my opinions, but none of those determinations or opinions are included in the profiles.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, being involved in a campaign to hold individual representatives accountable for their voting record is not detrimental to maintaining a Democratic majority. A lack of accountability is what got us into the mess we’re in right now (Thanks Republicans), and all elected officials regardless of party or position should be held to account, even when it’s not an election year.
Fourth, the Democratic Party is a diverse community, and we should respect all sides of that diversity. Diversity spurs debate, which, while ugly at times, is one of the greatest strengths of the Democratic Party. Lack of diversity of thought is one of the things that is killing the Republicans right now.
So diversity is good, divisiveness is bad. It is only when we belittle each other in our disagreements, or affirm opposition rhetoric publicly that we weaken our party. If you need an example of this just check out anything Joe Lieberman has said in the past 18 months.
Aside from Lieberman, I don’t think there’s a Democrat out there who wants a weaker Democratic Party. Of the 7 districts that I have profiled, only three consistently lean Democratic, two of those by very small margins. Were it not for these individuals, who have overcome the odds, the Democratic Party would have a much smaller majority in the House. Indeed, without these 41 Representatives there would be no majority in the House. I applaud all of these members for their resolve in overcoming these electoral odds and retaining their seats in the face of adversity for, in some cases, years.
That said, I cannot square some of their votes with their party affiliation. Diversity is great, but voting against the fundamental right to privacy (the recent FISA debacle) seems contrary to not just Democratic or Republican values, but American values. I don’t say this to slam the 41 Democrats that voted to ease restrictions on wire-taps and other technologically advanced surveillance methods, but to put the blame squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of a Republican administration that was too grossly incompetent and patently partisan to react to intelligence that signaled the immanent attacks of 9/11. Indeed, had the warnings brought forth in the August PDB that Bush characterized as “covering your ass” been heeded, these Orwellian tactics would not seem so “necessary” or palatable now.
Unfortunately, that’s all water under the bridge (pardon the pun Minneapolis).
Going forward, we need to put together a concerted effort to praise those who do the right thing, Bush Dog or not, and counsel those who don’t. We can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. That’s not to say we can’t hold those who vote against American values accountable, but that a more measured approach will help us from attacking too many sheep in wolves clothing so we can focus on the real wolves out there.
I hope that this is what the “Bush Dog” campaign eventually becomes. Sure, there are about 6-8 Representatives on the list that may need to be primaried, particularly in “safe” districts, and there’s nothing sexier than the idea that you, the individual, have the power to take someone out. There are just as many districts that are currently represented by Republicans where we can compete, and probably win. Ultimately, maintaining the seats we have and gaining more seats should be our focus. Democrats will vote more like Democrats when there are more Democrats around them to bend their ear and make a strong case to them.
In conclusion, let me just say a couple of things. 1. Holding our elected officials accountable is our job as citizens, and if it hurts their feelings, well, that’s what they’re getting paid for. 2. Holding them accountable doesn’t necessarily mean threatening them with a primary opponent, though, like all negotiation, that option should be left open. 3. We are strongest when we debate, not argue. By turning down the volume, and openly considering each other’s positions, without giving away the store (regional reference) we arrive at conclusions that achieve our needs without sacrificing our values. 4. We Democrats are blessed with a vibrant, energetic, and imaginative base, by harnessing this strength, we can ensure a better world for future generations.
Thanks for reading.