Blue Dog Coalition facing identity crisis, few members, decreased clout.
The Blue Dog Coalition is a group of budget-conscious, centrist Democrats in the House of Representatives. It was founded in the wake of the 1994 Republican landslide, when some Democrats found themselves in vulnerable territory and complained of being “choked blue” by extremists in both parties. The group has long been known for its focus on fiscal policy and for being a safe place for Democrats with conservative positions on cultural issues.
Recently, the Blue Dog Coalition has been experiencing an identity crisis. Seven of the fifteen members expected to join the Coalition this year, including two Congresswomen, have decided to leave due to a disagreement over a potential name change. This has left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male, members – their smallest roster in nearly three decades.
The Blue Dogs are one of three prominent centrist Democratic groups. The other two are the much larger House New Democrat Coalition and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Each of these groups has a different purpose. For some members, it is to signal to swing voters and potential donors that they are independent thinkers interested in getting stuff done. For others, it is to shake down the powers that be through the threat of defection.
The Blue Dogs’ reduced numbers and clout may have an impact on their ability to operate outside the boundaries of the Democratic Caucus. However, their influence may be irrelevant if House Republicans remain unified in their obstructionist stance, leaving no opportunities for bipartisan maneuvering.
The Blue Dog Coalition’s identity crisis is reflective of the larger changes in the Democratic Party. As the party shifts to the left, the role of centrist groups like the Blue Dogs has come into question. Whether or not the Blue Dogs are able to rebrand themselves remains to be seen.