What will be the largest of the ideological caucuses in the new House Democratic majority?
Why, of course, it must be the “centrists” affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council’s “New Democrat Coalition.” Yes, that’s got to be the case because all the commentators at the Wall Street Journal keep saying that centrists were the big winners on Tuesday.
Well, then, it must be the more conservative Democrats who identify themselves as “Blue Dogs.” Surely, that’s the answer because all the folks on Fox News keeping talking about them.
The largest ideological caucus in the new House Democratic majority will be the Congressional Progressive Caucus, with a membership that includes New York’s Charles Rangel, Michigan’s John Conyers, Massachusetts’ Barney Frank and at least half the incoming chairs of House standing committees.
The caucus currently has 64 members — up 14 since last year — and its co-chairs, California Democrats Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, say they expect that as many as eight incoming House Democrats will join the CPC. The number could actually go higher, as several candidates in undecided House races ran with strong progressive support. (The CPC worked with labor and progressive groups to assist a number of candidates in targeted races around the country this year, reflecting the more aggressive approach it has taken since the caucus was reorganized under the leadership of Lee and Woolsey and hired veteran labor and political organizer Bill Goold as a full-time staffer.)
The caucus will need an infusion of new members — not because those associated with it lost elections Tuesday but because they won. CPC members Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio will be leaving the House to become U.S. Senators. Interestingly, the two members of the “Blue Dog” caucus who ran for the Senate, Hawaii’s Ed Case and Tennessee’s Harold Ford, both lost.
Says Lee: “Some inside-the-Beltway commentators, columnists, and conservatives want the American people to believe that last Tuesday’s election results have especially empowered moderate-to-conservative elements within the House Democratic Caucus in the 110th Congress, but that is an incomplete picture of the new political landscape on Capitol Hill.”
She’s right. The convention wisdom may say that the new crop of House Democrats is conservative or centrist: Political Correspondent Gloria Borger: “the people coming in are going to be these moderate conservatives”; New York Times columnist David Brooks: “For the most part they exchanged moderate Republicans for conservative Democrats.”