Dog Days

Democrat lawmakers publicly deride Republicans for blocking progress on their nationalized healthcare bill.  Privately, of course, they know that's hogwash, since they need no Republican votes to pass the legislation.  The Democrats have large majorities in both houses of Congress and a president that is willing to demean the office with such circus acts as hosting a healthcare infomercial and staging a fake town hall meeting to promote the legislation.

So what actually is preventing Democrats from finally realizing their authoritarian dream of controlling the multi-trillion dollar healthcare industry?

The Democrat leadership is afraid to pass the bill unilaterally because, once voters realize they were duped, the Democrats will need Republicans to blame. Democrats reportedly are targeting the usual suspects for defection, Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.  But so far, Senator McCain appears to be the only Republican lawmaker gullible enough to be lured into that political wood chipper.

As recently as August 27, McCain still seemed to be rushing toward the rotating knives, even though he was bumping into Democrat lawmakers fleeing in the opposite direction.  Many of them are said to be "Blue Dog" Congressmen.
The 52 members of the Blue Dog Coalition claim to be fiscally conservative.  However, Jane Harmon is a member and she got a zero rating by the American Conservative Union for her 2008 votes, many of which involved fiscal issues.

The rest didn't fare much better.  Of the 46 Blue Dogs that held office last year, their average rating was 15.2 on a hundred-point scale.  Meanwhile, 31 Republican House members scored a perfect 100.

If the typical Blue Dog voted with Democrat leaders on almost all fiscal bills last year, why are they reluctant to support this one?  Perhaps they're holding out for porcine bribes from Speaker Pelosi, but more likely, their August recess meetings revealed that no amount of government spending in their districts could overcome the political damage caused by nationalizing healthcare.

In early August, Washington Post columnist David Broder predicted a pro-Obama backlash against the protestors at Congressional town hall meetings.  But that turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking by a left-leaning beltway insider.  As more voters joined the protests and Mr. Obama's approval ratings continued to fall, Broder reluctantly admitted he was wrong.

Things are even worse for Democrat lawmakers.  As they return to Washington to lick their wounds, polls show that their constituents were not won over by anything they saw at the meetings.  For instance, in one telephone survey, "57 percent would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again".

But Washington isn't a safe haven for the Blue Dogs either.  If they vote against the nationalized healthcare bill to satisfy their constituents, the Democrat leadership will withdraw committee assignments and campaign support.  It appears that, regardless of how they vote, many are destined to lose in next year's election.

In response, Republican lawmakers could remain dormant for 14 months and let the Democrats self-destruct, but that would be risky.  Despite Mr. Obama's harmful policies, the American economy still is the world's largest and most resilient, so it might recover just in time to make the 2010 voters forgive the Democrats' past sins.  And the onerous healthcare bill is designed to kick in only after the 2012 presidential election, so Mr. Obama can campaign as Dr. Jekyll and govern as Mr. Hyde.

Rather than playing dead or foolishly teaming with Democrats to pass the bill, Republicans should team with Democrats to defeat it.  They can accomplish that by exploiting the dilemma facing the Blue Dogs.  Besides a bit of recent tepid public support, the Republican lawmakers have little other near-term power.

Republicans should form a coalition with the Blue Dogs to stage a peaceful overthrow of the Democrats' majority in the House of Representatives.  If Republican leaders can convince at least 70 percent of the 52 Blue Dog members to become Republicans, the party would regain its majority.  Granted, 70 percent is a huge number, but coalitions are enticing when both member groups can become better off, and that appears to be the case for this one.

As Republicans, the Blue Dogs might get:

  • A few more committee positions from the new Republican majority
  • Some RNC and PAC campaign funding
  • Higher approval ratings from their constituents
  • A much better chance of getting reelected in 2010

As the new House majority party, Republicans (and all Americans) might get:

  • A Republican Speaker that drives a conservative agenda
  • Immediate defeat of the nationalized healthcare bill, HR 3200
  • Probable defeat of the carbon tax bill, HR 2454 (By refusing to negotiate with the Senate when they demand changes to the earlier House version)
  • Legislation to "annul" the so-called stimulus bill, since most of it has yet to be spent (Voters would have to pressure the Senate and president, though)
  • Defeat of all job-killing union favoritism bills and the planned tax hike
  • Defeat of all Internet and radio censorship bills
  • A roaring economy, job gains, 401K gains, and big wins in 2010

Conservative purists might reject the notion of weakening the Republican Party by adding three- or four-dozen Leftist Congressmen.  But Mr. Obama has declared ideological war on America and sometimes it's necessary to form compromise alliances in such dire circumstances to avoid losing everything.  Recall that America formed an uncomfortable alliance with the Leftist Soviets to defeat the fascist powers in the Second World War.  Perhaps history is just repeating itself on a domestic battlefield.

Furthermore, the Blue Dogs only became so radical under Speaker Pelosi.  The American Conservative Union gave those same 46 lawmakers an average lifetime rating of 29.8, which is almost twice as good as last year's rating.  Under a conservative Republican Speaker and receiving RNC funding, they probably would vote conservative 40-50 percent of the time.  Not bad, considering that the 2008 Republican presidential candidate last year got a conservative rating of just 63.