Good news for progressive Democrats comes this week. Mike Ross, the leader of the once-influential right wing Blue Dog Democrats, has announced that he will not run for re-election to his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The news has some Democrats fretting that it will be difficult to keep the seat, in the regressive state of Arkansas, in Democratic hands. That’s a partisan concern, though. For those of us who are more concerned with the success of a liberal political agenda than with the organizational success of the Democratic Party, it’s difficult to see how having a Democrat like Mike Ross in Congress has helped.
Some Democrats point out that Mike Ross at least voted with the Democrats on procedural matters, making Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House in 2006. Liberal legislation was thwarted even during the two years when the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House, however, because the right wing Blue Dogs led by Mike Ross blocked every effort to move a liberal agenda forward. The wars weren’t ended. Guantanamo stayed open. Health care reform legislation was watered down, yet still reviled by Republicans. Climate change legislation was pumped full of coal subsidies and then cast aside.
Mike Ross has supported the worst aspects of the Republican right wing agenda. This year, Ross has voted to protect corporations’ power to pollute, opposed cuts to military spending, enabled the unconstitutional expansion of the Presidency’s war powers, supported the continuation of George W. Bush’s program of unconstitutional surveillance of the American people, and promoted bans on political protest. The That’s My Congress political profile of Ross gives him a liberal legislative score that’s little more than half the size of his conservative legislative score.
I’m hoping, but not expecting, that the Arkansas Democrats select a more liberal candidate to replace Ross in Congress. If the Democrats can’t hold on to the seat with a liberal candidate, they would do better to allow it to go to the Republicans. It’s better for the Democrats to allow seats in conservative areas of the country to go to the Republicans than to allow the entire Democratic Party to continue to be hobbled by conservatives from within.