Blue Dogs and Tea Parties, Will New Forces Be For Good?

President Obama made a promise to the American people: a new era of political compromise. With the rise of splintered factions of Democrats and Republicans, I bet the President is now wishing for an old era of bipartisanship. The Blue Dog Democrats and the Tea Party Movement have accumulated massive power to taker control of progress (or lack there of) in Washington. As we look at the potential of these two movements, we can begin to see if they will they be a positive influence of compromise, or a paralyzing force of roadblocks.

President Obama made the following comments during his presidential acceptance speech, his promise to America.

“Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too[1].” (Emphasis added)

I do not think the new President could have ever expected what would happen during his next 12 months in office. Not only did he experience the entrenched factions within his own volatile party, but triggered the rise of a new, powerful, faction within the GOP.

The President made a few mistakes within his first year that triggered a rapid deterioration in the fragile cohesion within congress. It all comes down to the two emphasized words in his speech, “humility” and “determination,” with not enough of the former and too much of the later. I have been working within local government for a few years now. If nothing else, I have learned to manage my own expectations and set achievable goals. Obama thought he could reverse the course of the Country's hardest issues at breakneck speed. His determination to meet an unrealistic timeline was his own trap. As deadlines slipped, he lost his momentum and became vulnerable to a strong wave of attack from the right (and the left, I might add - IPE pundit). This past summer, he should have shown some humility issuing from this rookie mistake, set a new pace for his agenda, and taken a moment to readjust his priorities. Instead, he isolated the party on healthcare, pushing hard on a Democrat-centric solution, far from the Obama we knew from the campaign.

The State of the Union was a good attempt to reset the agenda, but the tone has already been set; and his speech was far from showing any humility. The President has lost a year without any real progress on his agenda and the political backlash from his first year in office may have changed the political landscape for a long time. Both major parties are now splintered. Blue Dog Democrats gained significant power from the healthcare debate, representing a less liberal, more centrist approach to spending. Representing a more extreme end of the political spectrum, the rise of the Tea Party Movement seems to be a growing force in America, and even has the potential to give birth to a new political party.

The Blue Dogs have the potential to bring balance to legislation as long as they bring reasonable compromise to the debate. If played correctly, the more center-leaning legislation can create a more moderate view of the Democratic Party. This is effective only if the Blue Dogs can be seen as part of a united front supporting certain legislation, instead of eating each other alive for political gain. If this new power is of true compromise, bringing legitimate objections WITH legitimate solutions to the table, they can be a strong force for good, centrist legislation. I have yet to really see this positive influence, but the possibility is there.

Unlike the Blue Dogs, which I think are a short term reaction to Obama's missteps, the Tea Party has some staying power. Now unofficially led by my favorite master of misdirection and rhetoric, Sarah Palin, new polls show the Tea Party brand is more valuable than the GOP. Still loyal to her party, Sarah resisted the idea of a Tea Party separation in her keynote speech at the Tea Party Convention last night, but I think this view can definitely change based on Sarah's future political ambitions. For whatever insane reason, Sarah is able to control her political/celebrity persona so well that she could definitely develop the Tea Party Movement into the Tea Party... Party! If she continues to lose support within the GOP this could be a platform to spring into a larger political career. Given the Movement's current distance from the center, and its choice of spokeswoman, I think this this new party has the potential of being a strongly polarizing force. Is the Rogue Maverick even capable of compromise?

Our Country seems to do best when we head down the center of the road. I see the Blue Dogs as a potential force for good, keeping the extreme liberal side of the Democratic Party in check, as long as they keep their own egos in check along the way. Unfortunately, if the Tea Party Movement is going to step in line behind Sarah Palin, I can only see that as a decisive, destructive force. Without compromise, I cannot see the potential for any real progress in this country, but let's hope I am wrong.



  1. Let us hope that the tea party movement alienates centrist republicans. In the mean time, maybe a little more republican attention to market efficiency is just what healthcare needs. Too bad the Republicans aren't interested in saving healthcare at all. Rather, they have an incentive to block everything and make the dems look bad until the midterms. Maybe in 2011?

    On a side note: I once read a study that showed that, when dems and reps work together, fiscal prudence in the result. It's too early to tighten fiscal policy too much, but it might be reassuring to know there's an exit strategy as well as a party in power concerned with deficit reduction at a later date.


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