Back when Democrat Heath Shuler was running for U.S. House there was an awful lot of talk about how having any Democrat would be better than any Republican. Of course, it really doesn’t matter when the Democrat being elected is just as conservative as the Republican he replaced.
Shuler’s 11th District covers the western-most tip of North Carolina. It is a conservative district, no doubt, and he has to answer to the constituents who put him in office. But his anti-LGBT and other conservative stances make him more foe than a friend, something the Democratic Party doesn’t need as more and more LGBT people find the party distrustful and slow to tackle our civil rights.
The Advocate‘s Kerry Eleveld took on the “Blue Dog Effect” in an article Monday:
As a point of inquiry, I decided to match up the Blue Dogs on the only LGBT vote taken this year in the House — the hate-crimes expansion bill, which passed 249-175 and is considered one of the ripest pieces of pro-LGBT legislation (although even some pro-LGBT folks oppose it on philosophical grounds). Of the 52-person coalition, 35 Blue Dogs, or 67%, voted to pass the bill — meaning that even if a few other Democrats were lost on the vote, the Blue Dogs would have provided more than enough padding to push the legislation through, even without the 18 Republicans who also voted for it.
Overall, 16 Blue Dogs voted against hate crimes with one abstention and, broken down by region, 12 of those congressional members were Southerners, three were Midwesterners, and one was from the Northeast (Christopher Carney, PA-10).â€¨
To be honest, none of this struck me as particularly surprising — I suspected that a healthy majority of Blue Dogs might have voted pro-LGBT on hate crimes, and that of those who didn’t, the vast majority would likely represent the South.
But it does demonstrate another point for those who are specifically interested in pushing LGBT rights forward — swelling the Democratic majorities by electing more Heath Shulers in the South does little to advance LGBT equality. The community would be better served, in fact, by letting Democrats lose some of those Southern seats while focusing on electing some pro-LGBT Republicans in the Midwest and Northeast. In fact, that would be particularly helpful in the Senate. The only caveat is that the movement certainly has an interest in keeping Democrats in the majority.
Eleveld has a break down of Blue Dog votes on the hate crimes bill. North Carolina’s other Blue Dog, Rep. Mike McIntyre also voted against the bill.
It strikes me as somewhat curious that the same coastal district that elects McIntyre to office also sends State Sen. Julia Boseman, an out lesbian, back to her office in Raleigh time and time again since her first election in 2004.
But, it seems the general belief that “any Democrat is better than any Republican” isn’t necessarily always true. If Blue Dog Democrats vote against the very interests that have helped to put them in office, who do they really represent? And, what difference does it make whether there is a “D” following someone’s name if they vote like a traditionally, morally conservative Republican?