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The Meaning of Mike Ross

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By Doug Thompson

The biggest hold-up to a new health care plan comes from Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., and his “blue dogs.”

This highlights some severe political problems — for the Republicans too.

What’s a minority party to do when the effective loyal opposition comes from a wing of the majority?

Granted, Ross and his conservative pack couldn’t hold up health care without the GOP Greek chorus of “No, No, No” votes. However, it’s the Blue Dogs that the rest of Congress will be forced to deal with. The Republicans just make noise.

The dogs prove that someone can be a Democrat and stand up to the party leadership at the same time — and do so more effectively than a Republican. That bodes ill for the GOP comeback strategy of waiting while President Obama leads the Democrats to over-reach themselves. It also bodes ill for the plan of picking off Democrats in conservative districts. Those Democrats in conservative districts are likely to declare themselves Blue Dogs soon if they haven’t already.

As for Democrat leadership, there’s no nice way to say this: Things would be a whole lot better for them if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., could count. She’s repeated the same pattern on stimulus, then on the budget, then on the auto bailout and now on health care. She’s confidently predicted victory each time and had to backpedal each time because she didn’t have the votes.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., takes a lot of grief for being a weak leader. Most of that grief comes from Democrats. It’s time to wonder whether Reid’s as effective as anyone can be in Washington these days.

Many Democrats are frustrated because they believe the last election was a mandate for big “C” change. This is a myth. This is believing your own propaganda. Worse, the big legislation that has passed is all dedicated solely to preserving the status quo. The proof is the stimulus package. The Congress for big “C” spent trillions and blew their political capital in the biggest, most expensive effort to preserve the status quo in living memory.

Anybody who reads my column regularly has heard this before: The “stimulus” package was mainly a bailout for state governments facing budget crises. It’s main goal was to prevent cuts in existing education and health spending administered by states. It was drafted by panicked Democratic governors and congressmen to save themselves from the political fallout of serious budget shortfalls.

We had a bankers bailout. We had an auto industry bailout. We’ll, now we’ve had a state government bailout, too.

Note the trend here: All the money and all the political capital has gone to shore up institutions of that status quo: First on Wall Street, then in Detroit, and now in state capitals.

Note to people who believe in big “C” change. Try putting our money where your mouth is.

If you don’t pass health care, you have no one but yourselves to blame. You exhausted your political momentum saving states from having to raise taxes or make cuts.

I’m bitter when I hear all the talk about where a “second stimulus” package is needed. We never had a first one. So we need one then? No. Nothing would be better that what this Congress would pass.

Some of the big “C” Democrats argue that what’s needed is more party discipline. Folks, here’s a clue: There’s nothing you can use to threaten a congressman more than the prospect of his own defeat in an election back home.

I repeat, your belief in a liberal mandate is a myth. You picked a president in a primary where the Idaho caucus awarded him as many delegates as a victory in the New Jersey primary rewarded his opponent. Like it or not, the Blue Dogs know their districts far better than you do.

All those articles about how people in Ross’ district need health care won’t help you a bit because people in the 4th District of Arkansas are conservative.

You may think they’re acting against their own self-interest. Fine: Go to Prescott. Tell them that. See how far you get.

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