Blue Dogs? Purple Cats with Claws Would Be Better

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CommonDreams.org

Blue Dogs? Purple Cats with Claws Would Be Better

Am I the only one frustrated that now that we finally have a President who looks out for the greater good of average Americans, his own party won't join the fight to take the country back from special interests?  Yesterday, Indiana centrist Democrat Evan Bayh announced that he and 14 other self-titled "Blue Dog" Democrats have been secretly scheming how to dig a hole around President Obama's agenda.[1]  For instance, neglecting to mention that all their hot air is further threatening the climate and making us all sick, the Blue Dogs want to bury healthcare reform and clean energy policies.

Hasn't anyone told them that dogs are supposed to be loyal?  Or that, as of November 2008, purple is the new blue? 

But what really drives me mad is the Democratic party constantly bending over backwards to placate this fringe minority that is more wedded to Wall Street ideology than common sense and the common good.  Democrats in Congress rush to prove their tax cutting and deficit watching bona fides to please the Blue Dogs, regurgitating Right wing attack lines on government and insisting that their policies aren't really that progressive or bold.  At a time when the American public handed a strikingly decisive victory to a Democratic president and now holding him aloft with dizzying popularity numbers---including support for a strong government hand in fixing the economy and support for Obama's multi-pronged agenda[2]-shouldn't the majority of Democrats feel courageous enough to stiffen their spines and say and do what's right?

Polls show that the American people think a bigger budget deficit is worth it for spending that jumpstarts our economy.[3]   And Christopher Hayes from The Nation has written[4] that the Blue Dog's signature issue of fiscal responsibility doesn't even matter to their own constituents-it's simply code for "centrist".  But at a time when the code itself is being codified into policy, when we need discretionary spending and deficit spending to jump start an economy that is plainly getting worse by the minute, shouldn't the Blue Dogs be big enough to put petty politics aside for the good of the people?  And shouldn't the rest of the Democrats be bold enough to stand up for strong principles and a strong economy instead of wavering and equivocating each time the Blue Dogs tug at their tether? 

Instead of constantly deferring to a small fringe group of ideologues as alpha dogs, it's time for a new political caucus.  I propose the Purple Cats.  Anyone from any party should be able to join-unlike the Blue Dogs who masquerade party infighting as pragmatism, there are actually a number of decent and dedicated politicians who want to do what's best for America, not just their party or re-election.  And as popular resentment rightfully swells against Wall Street and the bloated executive class, Congresspeople with a conscience have new wind at their back to reject the wishes of their donors and re-commit to the will of the people.  As Barack Obama famously reminded us, we are not a red America or blue America but the United States of America-all in the same boat in this growing crisis and all desperate for political leaders who will prioritize our shared interest and our shared sacrifice.

Another quality must define the Purple Cats:  Claws.  No more political leaders cowering in the corner when the Blue Dogs bark.  It's time to come out scratching, fiercely defending the principles and policies we all know are good for the economy, good for America, good for humanity.

We are facing extraordinary challenges as a national community that drive us to learn from our history as much as we can, a history that teaches that public spending buffers the inequalities and shortcomings of the private sector.  In the 1930s, public spending was just under 20 percent as a share of the total economy and unemployment hovered around 17 percent for the decade.  By 1944, expanded New Deal programs fully kicked in and public spending was, at its peak, 70 percent of the total economy.  And unemployment for the same period was one percent.[5]  Knowing that cuts to government programs and reckless deregulation of the private sector got us in this mess in the first place and bold and big public spending is the only thing that ever has and ever will rescue us, how could any politician look in the mirror let alone the faces of suffering constituents and do anything but champion the vital role of government going forward?

They have a saying in the South:  The cat is mighty dignified until the dog comes by.  The Democrats seem mighty principled until the Blue Dogs foam at the mouth.  But, especially at a time like this, it's essential that principles beat out politics.   Speaking yesterday at a town hall meeting in California about his re-election, President Obama said, "I would rather be a good president---to take on the tough issues for four years---than a mediocre president for eight years."[6]  The Purple Cats should learn from his courage. 

Sally Kohn

Sally Kohn is Chief Agitation Officer for the Movement Vision Lab

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