The Campaign Spot

There Is No Such Thing as a Conservative Democrat.

My comment in the Morning Jolt that “one of the key lessons of this is that Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Mike Castle, and Mark Kirk will come through for you when Bart Gordon won’t” is turning some heads.

I get the feeling that I’m a little more tolerant of those often derided as “RINOs”  than your average guy on the right, but a lot of my easygoing acceptance is directly proportional to the political character of the district or state that they represent. For example, I’m just not convinced that Maine will elect a Republican more consistently conservative than Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins. I knew Scott Brown was going to leave some of us disappointed from time to time. I know Mike Castle’s going to frustrate me if he becomes a senator, but he’s probably as good as it’s going to get out of Delaware.

But in the end, even the squishiest Republican candidate chooses to be a Republican, with all of its attendant inherent hostility from much of the mainstream press, demonization by Hollywood, reflexive accusations of racism, etc. That suggests at least a little spine, or at least a certain willingness to espouse a view because of some deeply held principle independent of public opinion.

Meanwhile, all but the most wildly rebellious Democrats will let down a conservative pretty frequently. Only three House Democrats voted against the health-care bill, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus: Bobby Bright of Alabama, Walt Minnick of Idaho, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi. In other words, every other self-proclaimed conservative Democrat voted for at least one piece of legislation that conservatives loathed. John Barrow of Georgia (lifetime ACU rating 36.2) voted for the stimulus. Heath Shuler (lifetime ACU rating 30.6) voted for cap-and-trade. Joe Donnelly of Indiana (lifetime ACU rating 32) signed on for health care.

When discussing the gun issue last week, I noted:

For even the best, most pro–Second Amendment House Democrat, the first vote they cast in the House is to make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House, ensuring the floor schedule is controlled by a woman who is scored an “F” by the organization. And her speakership ensures that F-rated John Conyers of Michigan chairs the Judiciary Committee, and that liberals, often but not always anti-gun, control the important committees.

Meanwhile, if that A-rated House Democrat were beaten by some squishy C-or B-rated Republican, his first vote be would make A-rated John Boehner (or perhaps some other Republican) the speaker.

This goes well beyond the gun issue, obviously. Heath Shuler, John Barrow, Dan Boren, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, and their ilk may completely disagree with the way Pelosi shaped the health-care bill and this insane plan to use the Slaughter Rule. But all of them were key to putting Pelosi in position to do this.

Broaden it beyond the gun issue and you have our situation. (Remember, every pro-life Democrat in the House voted to make Pelosi, usually scored 100 by NARAL year after year, the speaker.) The Democratic majorities in Congress were built on first-time candidates in 2006 and 2008 who had no voting record, who touted how conservative they were in right-leaning districts in places like Arizona and Indiana and Mexico and North Carolina and Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The health-care vote reconfirms that conservative Democrats, much like the Loch Ness Monster, are widely discussed but rarely leave evidence of their existence. In the end, those who are touted as being “centrist” or “conservative” are still Democrats, who are receptive when Pelosi, Reid, or Obama come calling, asking for a vote that their constituents vociferously oppose.


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