Do Blue Dogs gather in pews?

blue dog

Once upon a time, there were these ordinary people in the great state of Texas called "Democrats." They (I should say "we") were pretty much like everyone else in what was and is a pretty conservative state. There were political differences, but the divide wasn't as great as the differences between tenured political science faculty members at the University of Texas and the ordinary man or woman on a Texas sidewalk. Democrats even went to church, at pretty much the same rate as everyone else. Then along came Woodstock and Roe v. Wade and all kinds of things, pretty much handing the state to God's Own Party.

However, there have always been a few Democrats who managed to retain their old cultural values -- which is a pretty good thing to do when you are running for office in a place like West Texas. For a long time these Democrats have been called "Blue Dog Democrats" and, lo and behold, these culturally conservative Democrats (think pro-Democrats who cling to God and guns) even played a role in the Democratic Party surge in 2006.

So what in the world is a "Blue Dog Democrat," precisely? Click here to go to a website celebrating this strange political breed. It claims, in part:

Blue Dogs represent the values of Middle America. Blue Dogs are moderate and conservative Democrats that do not support abortion, gay marriages or gun control. There are other issues. Primarily, securing the border to stop the flow of drugs into the United States and the hemorrhage of manufacturing jobs leaving the United States for other countries.

But why "Blue Dog"? That site explains that when "dogs are not let into the house, they stay outside in the cold and turn blue." That's the explanation I have heard in the past.

Which brings us to a Washington Post story with the timely headline, "Looking Ahead, Obama Builds Ties With 'Blue Dogs.' " The top of the story explains:

Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas is not likely to bring Barack Obama many votes on Nov. 4. Neither is Rep. John Tanner of Tennessee or Rep. Allen Boyd, a farmer from the Florida Panhandle.

But the three could play a big role in the success or failure of the next president, one reason Obama took a break from campaigning last week to call each of them, among the leaders of the "Blue Dog Coalition," a group of conservative-leaning Democrats who are committed to balancing the federal budget. The group's 49 members already wield significant power in the House, and their ranks are expected to expand in the next Congress.

Later, the name is explained this way:

While Democrats could well emerge next month with sizable majorities in the House and Senate, the party will remain divided between members who want to restore budget discipline, and more traditional Democrats who yearn for new spending in areas such as health care and education. Republicans are unlikely to help either side. The name "Blue Dogs" comes from a quip from one member that moderate Democrats, traditionally known as "Yellow Dogs," had been "choked blue" on spending by the demands of more liberal party members.

So one member created this name? When was that, pray tell?

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We get some kind of clue, later in the report:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), an ally of the Blue Dogs, is one of several Democratic leaders who urged Obama to forge a relationship with the 13-year-old group, which draws many of its members from south of the Mason-Dixon line. It picked up 11 new members in 2006, and has endorsed a dozen candidates this year.

So this "Blue Dog" thing is all about money and began 13 years ago? During the Bill Clinton administration?

Then who were the Blue Dog Democrats that struggled for survival all of those years out in West Texas and similar Bible Belt locations, those old-school Democrats who were often economic progressives but were united in their social conservatism? You know, the kind of people who held cultural (even religious) points of view that put them in Democrats For Life and other heretical circles?

The story is right that Obama will need a way to talk to the Blue Dog Democrats, from time to time. However, it appears that the Post doesn't realize that he will find many of these old dogs in church. Also, while they care about the budget, they may have other issues that they want to discuss with him.

One more think, here is the Wiki version of the origin of the "Blue Dog" label.

"Blue Dog Democrat" is playfully derived from the original term Yellow Dog Democrat. It was former Texas Democratic Rep. Pete Geren who said that the members had been "choked blue" by those "extreme" Democrats, from the left. Thus, he is credited for coining the term Blue Dog Democrat.

Note that the term is broader than economics and that Geren, of course, served the 12th district in West Texas. However, he was on the Hill from 1989 to 1997 and I am almost certain that the term was in use before that. Can anyone help me out on that? When did Blue Dogs start barking?

ART: Where do you find this blue dog?

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