(Nantucket) If the recession wasn’t enough, the summer’s unprecedented bad weather has added to this island's woes. Also experiencing very heavy weather these days is the Democratic Party and it looks like getting worse for them before it gets better. The roots of Democratic disarray lie in one very great success and one huge strategic mistake. Oddly the same man bears a principal responsibility for both.
Inside the Beltway there is wide consensus that Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is a really smart guy and that more than any one person he is the principal architect of Democratic Party strategy. While still an Illinois Congressman he gained great acclaim as the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Emanuel shrewdly grasped that if Democrats were to capture control of Congress they couldn’t run liberals everywhere. Accordingly he recruited an excellent cadre of moderately conservative candidates to run in Republican leaning districts and got George Soros and others to insure that they were very well funded.
The result-aided greatly by an unpopular war and a stumbling economy- was that in 2006 and 2008 dozens of “safe” Republican seats fell to the Democrats who gained control of Congress for the first time in twelve years.
Of this group of newly minted Democratic congressmen- currently numbering 52- many (22) but not most were from the South. California and Pennsylvania had the largest representation. Collectively they are known as the now famous “Blue Dogs”.
Once elected it was assumed that the presumptively grateful Blue Dogs could easily be transformed into Lap Dogs for Nancy Pelosi. On routine votes this proved true but on high visibility votes- issues their home folks really cared about-complications arose.
The first big test was the “Stimulus” vote. Not too subtly threatened by party “whips” most (40) Blue Dogs toed the line and the bill passed comfortably. However as the ineffectiveness of the Stimulus became more evident those 40 had a lot of trouble back home explaining their vote for a 1300 page pork laden bill they hadn’t even read.
The second big test was the infamous “Cap and Trade(Tax)” bill where most Blue Dogs were among the 44 Democrats who defied the party’s left-wing leadership and voted No. Though the bill passed by a razor thin 7 vote margin it was such a mess- riddled with exceptions, exemptions, payoffs, and obfuscations- that the Senate refused to even take it up, thus leaving over 200 Democrats to answer for an unpopular vote that the “Global Warming” ideologues Pelosi and Obama never should have demanded.
All of this set the stage for a full scale Blue Dog revolt in response to the Pelosi/ Obama insistence on passing health care “reform” before the August recess. Having had their arms twisted on the Stimulus, then broken on the tax raising/economy killing Cap and Trade votes, the Blue dogs –most of them elected by very narrow margins- saw their approval numbers back home falling even faster than Obama’s.
Thus faced with the prospect of electoral extinction, the Blue Dogs en masse effectively “crossed the aisle” to join Republicans and bring health care reform (a.k.a. Government seizure of one sixth of the U.S. economy) to a screeching halt.
So, in a supreme irony this historic break-up of the Democratic House majority was triggered by the very same individuals who made that majority possible.
All this happened because Emanuel made a huge strategic mistake in acting on his famous aphorism that “a crisis is too good a thing to waste”. Believing that they could hype and exploit fears about the economic crisis (“Another Great Depression!) and the soaring early popularity of Obama in a way that would allow swiftly ramming through the most radical and expensive legislative agenda in history without people or even Congressmen understanding that they had given birth to a Socialist America, Emanuel and his fellow Democrats audaciously gambled that a strategy of stealth, speed, and deception could in less than a year deliver our country into that “Brave New World” that generations of liberals have yearned for.
Their great gamble has been lost. The American people have won. Perilous days yet remain ahead, but now a new kind of “Hope and Change” comes into view. Let Freedom Ring!
William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post.