Battling the Blue Dogs

There is a debate going on in Washington right now as to whether or not the so-called Blue Dog Democrats are holding up critically important issues that face our nation. Nearly 50 million Americans live without health insurance coverage. Climate change is real and affecting our lives every day. Civil rights for millions of LGBT Americans may make no progress in this Democratic-controlled Congress because of opposition by some Blue Dogs.

I've spent the last 22 years of my life working to help elect Democrats to federal and state offices. With very large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, along with a Democratic president, now is the time to make good on the promises Democrats have made to the American people.

We've talked about health care reform and covering the uninsured for several decades. We profess to be the party to support a strong environment. We go to labor unions for their support during campaigns, but don't do enough to help the average American workers they represent.

Politicians are elected to help improve people's lives, make tough decisions regardless of political consequences and ensure that our Constitutional rights are protected. Instead, too many in both parties are more concerned about their re-election than making real progress. Blue Dogs view themselves as centrists. I look at the term centrist and think of politicians who are afraid to take positions on issues that might cause heartburn with swing voters. That's about their re-election and nothing more.

Blue Dog Democrats tend to be Democrats who win election in states or districts that aren't heavily Democratic. Does that mean they shouldn't fight to ensure that all Americans have good health care? Does it mean they should shy away from making bold decisions to curb the devastating effects of climate change? To me, it doesn't matter if you represent a state or district that mines coal or has several coal burning plants. This is a national and international issue, and while you represent a particular jurisdiction, Congress as a whole has a responsibility to protect all of us.

Those who stand in the way of reforming health care, passing meaningful climate legislation, protecting the rights of workers and making progress so that all Americans have equal rights -- it is you who also need to take responsibility for the problems that won't be fixed.

I recently heard one Blue Dog ask "what do we have to do to get the Democrats off our back?" Seems pretty easy: Start acting like Democrats. Your Blue Dog label is a shield you hide behind, not a place where leadership is shown.