A shadow covers the Valley. It is in the shape of a fat, blue pig with its fronttrotter outstretched to receive cash from the rich to stuff it where the sun never shines.
Historically, the Blue Dogs were the logical outgrowth of the career of former Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Merced, who preceded Gary Condit and, more importantly, who was in the go-go Eighties the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign slush fund for the Party's candidates and incumbents in the House of Representatives. Coelho got nailed for his involvement with Michael Millken, Wall Street's junk-bond king, later convicted for felonies and sent to prison. Coelho resigned rather than face an investigation and went into investment banking. When, in the course of managing Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, Coelho's "colorful" career was getting more media attention than his candidate's speeches, he resigned. An excellent study of Coelho's political career is Honest Graft, by Brooks Jackson.
The Blue Dogs have never stood for anything but money. They are no more than vultures feeding off the corpse of the Democratic Party. Coelho was at the funeral. Through the years, as the economy has grown steadily more concentrated in fewer hands, Blue Dogs dug deeper into the pockets of finance, insurance and real estate than ever, hiding as best they could from the people.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Pimlico Kid-MD, our nominal congressman, is a fine example. He has moved his family all the way to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay to avoid seeing his constituents and refused to hold any public hearings on healthcare-insurance reform last year. Whenever the press does catch up with him, if he doesn't outright lie (the Michelle
Obama/UC Merced/Blue Dogs-Preakness Affair), he talks about politics in an increasingly peculiar way. When you read a Cardoza analysis of a political situation, you can almost see a little boy alone in his room, playing with his tin soldiers. After the breezy superficiality of Condit, for a while people imagined Cardoza was a deep thinker. He sometimes used longer words than his predecessor from Ceres. Later, you got the impression he was reading the long words off a box of snacks. These days, he sounds like he's giving you an intimate report of something, but the something is his little tin soldiers in his little imaginary world, all laid out like plat maps for his little tin companies of landowners, speculators, public and private developers, realtors, the chambers-of-commerce falange, government road and rail builders, the shiny new UC campus, the homeless camped by the creeks, the empty little Monopoly-board houses in the towns ... just waiting for the speculators to come back to the 18th congressional district, foreclosure capitol of America.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Valley Blue Dogs feeling effect of Massachusetts Senate vote
Congressmen advocate slowing down on health care legislation...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- A Republican's stunning Senate victory in Massachusetts gives pause to Valley Democrats now weighing a controversial and ambitious health care overhaul.
Reps. Dennis Cardoza of Merced and Jim Costa of Fresno voted for the bill once. But they also represent a conservative-leaning region, where there's already abundant skepticism about the federal government. Together, they regard the Massachusetts results as a sign to slow down.
"If the administration and leadership don't pay attention to this wake-up call, then they'll get what they deserve," Costa warned Wednesday, adding that Congress should adopt "something far more modest" on health care reform.
Cardoza voiced similar sentiments, adding pointedly that "the White House has dropped the ball" on some issues, including tending to the Valley's economic woes.
"They better get the message that came out of Massachusetts last night," Cardoza said Wednesday afternoon.
Without pervasive exit polls, lawmakers are hindered in interpreting Republican Scott Brown's victory. No one can definitively say whether the previously obscure 50-year-old state senator won primarily because of his opponent's shortcomings, voter dissatisfaction with congressional health care reform efforts or some combination of reasons.
But Brown's win, taking a seat held for 46 years by the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, undeniably complicates life for congressional Democrats. In the Senate, his victory deprives Democrats of the 60-vote margin needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.
In the House, the complications are particularly acute for the so-called Blue Dogs, who represent conservative districts. They accounted for most of the 39 House Democrats who voted against the health care legislation last year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cannot afford many more defections, as the House approved its original bill by a scant 220-215 margin. House Republicans are united against the legislation.
"This proves the health care bill is an albatross," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, said of the Massachusetts vote, adding that Costa and Cardoza "have got a hell of a political mess on their hands."
Nunes said recent Valley polls have shown Costa and Cardoza with declining political support, and he said "they should consider switching parties" and "back away from their (previous) vote" for the House health care package.
In recent weeks, senior Democrats have been hammering out a final bill whose 10-year price tag could hover around $900 billion.
Some health care reform advocates initially suggested rushing the bill through before Brown is sworn in. Skeptics consider that a mistake.
"If we continue down the path we're on, we are showing the height of arrogance, and a tin ear," Costa said. "If we don't listen to what the American people are saying, we could well lose our majority in the fall."
Cardoza added that the defeat of Democrat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts "confirms what I've been saying privately in leadership meetings, that we need to focus on first things first."
He suggested this could include "as much as we can do" on health care, but without overreaching and with quick attention to economic recovery plans.
Costa and Cardoza agreed that lawmakers should cut through the 1,990-page House bill to find common ground. This could include the "portability" of insurance coverage for workers who change jobs, as well as ensuring coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Costa and Cardoza also want the health care bill to include funding for a new medical school at UC Merced. The House bill authorizes funding for new schools, like the one proposed in Merced, but the Senate bill does not.