I find this story in today’s Washington Post troubling, because it contains the names of quite a few Blue Dog Democrats or otherwise fiscally-responsible Democrats I’ve worked for at the House Budget Committee and House Ways and Means Committee. From the story (my emphasis and references added):
House Democrats got a jolt Monday when a fourth lawmaker in a matter of weeks announced his retirement, leaving party officials and strategists fearful that they represent the leading edge of a wave of departures that could leave the Democrats vulnerable to significant losses in the 2010 midterm elections.
The most recent retirement came when Rep. Bart Gordon (Tenn.) [a Blue Dog Dem] decided not to seek a 14th term. While Gordon emphasized his desire to pursue other opportunities after 25 years in the House, party insiders acknowledged that he was swayed by the prospect of a highly competitive contest next November.
Gordon joins Reps. Dennis Moore (Kan.) [a Blue Dog Dem and member of the House Budget Committee during the last Congress], John Tanner (Tenn.) [a Blue Dog Dem and member of the House Ways and Means Committee] and Brian Baird (Wash.) [a member of the House Budget Committee last Congress] as Democratic members in swing districts who have announced their retirements in the past two weeks…
“Four retirements in and of themselves isn’t enough to create a big problem,” said Martin Frost, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “If there were to be 10 or 15 retirements like this, that is a problem for the DCCC.”…
Gordon’s retirement in particular came as a psychological blow to Democrats. Party strategists who pay close attention to House races anticipate that a number of longtime House members, particularly those in swing districts or areas of traditional Republican strength, will poll their districts early next year and decide after that whether to seek reelection.
Among the names mentioned as potential retirements if the political environment does not improve are Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.) [current chairman of the House Budget Committee (and my previous boss)], Vic Snyder and Marion Berry (Ark.) [a Blue Dog Dem and current member of House Budget], and Rep. Chet Edwards (Tex.) [current member of House Budget].
My concern is less about the usual mid-term turnover of the President’s party and more that by losing the Democrats of above-average fiscal responsibility, the Democratic Party overall will become less fiscally responsible–and just at a time when we need leaders who can be viewed as allies of the party in power and yet push for fiscal responsibility in a way that’s credible and compelling, both to the leaders of the party as well as to the American people.
Many of those members listed above are people who over the past decade have spoken passionately and persuasively about the need to get back to living within our means in the federal budget. They are policymakers who lived through the Clinton era and know that the fiscal responsibility of that era paid off. And they are policymakers who during the last Bush Administration were truly horrified over the deterioration in the budget outlook.
In my opinion we just can’t afford to lose any more courageous Democrats.