Blue Dog Democrat Heath Shuler appeared on CNN's State of the Union and said he would challenge Nancy Pelosi for leadership post in the House if she doesn't step aside.
The Booman Tribune did an excellent breakdown on why Blue Dogs like Shuler have been so horrible for the Democratic Party and why their caucus took a beating this last midterm election: Blue Dogs Don't Get Why They Lost:
It's kind of amazing that the New York Times can write an article about Heath Shuler and the Blue Dogs without ever trying to analyze why so many of them lost. Shuler actually won reelection, but he doesn't seem to know why. [...]
That's not what happened. Heath Shuler and the Blue Dogs did things to make sure that the Democrats' achievements were unpopular in their districts. The first thing they did was water down many of the more popular aspects of the reforms so that true-blue Democrats would be less than enthusiastic about them. Did this matter in Shuler's district? [...]
I've gone over this before, but most Blue Dogs lost because they chose the worst of both worlds. They took away parts of the Democrats' agenda that people supported, like giving them an alternative to for-profit health insurance and a financial bill that really put the screws to Wall Street, and they supported the unpopular stuff like the bank and auto bailouts. Shuler was smart enough (politically) to vote against TARP and against the Stimulus Bill, while voting for Cap & Trade and Wall Street reform. But Blue Dogs who took a less populist approach and had less fame and charisma were not able to survive.
In the end, though, Blue Dogs lost because money couldn't save them this time.
Go read the rest, but it boils down to the fact that when Democrats chase after corporate money and act like Republicans and don't look out for the interests of the working class in America, given the choice, a real Republican is going to beat them every time, especially when they get out gunned with the corporate contributions like we just had this last election cycle. The question is whether the party is going to learn any lessons from this, or double down on their third-way policies where they think the voters are going to like Republican-lite.
Full transcript via CNN below the fold.
JOHNS: Joining me now from North Carolina, Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler.
And, Congressman, thanks so much for coming in and talking to us. I understand you're in Asheville.
A simple question here, right off the top, is you've said that you would step up and challenge Nancy Pelosi if no one else will. Are you prepared to say today that you're going to do that?
SHULER: We've just come off the largest -- a devastating loss for the Democratic Party in almost a century. And to be able to put Speaker Pelosi as minority leader is truly -- it's unacceptable for our party, to move our party forward in a moderate direction. To be able to get some of those members of Congress who lost in this 2010 election -- to get them back available for the 2012 election, we're going to have to go more of a moderate direction. And, you know, to be able to take the same approach that we have during these last two years is not going to get us where we need to go as a party.
JOHNS: So you're throwing your hat in the ring?
SHULER: Well, I mean, I've said all along I'm hoping that Nancy Pelosi will step aside and will allow the leaders that are available, who are ready to go, but because of her being at the very top right now, no one's willing to throw their hat in the ring. And if it comes down to this coming week and she doesn't step aside, then I will challenge her.
JOHNS: Right, so you've only got until Wednesday. Are you in or out? Can you say yes or no or not prepared to say yes or no right now?
SHULER: Well, I'm really hoping that, when we get back to Washington tomorrow night, that the speaker will realize, with so many of the members of Congress knowing that we need to go in a different direction -- you just saw the latest polls based upon Democrats wanting to go in a different direction.
We've got to be able to recruit. We have to go into those moderate areas, those swing districts, and be able to get great recruits or get back those members of Congress that we lost, be able to have them on the ticket in 2012 to be able to win back the House. And I just don't see that path happening if we have her at the top of the leadership. JOHNS: She has given every indication that she's in, in the race for minority leader, so given that fact, it's much more likely that you're going to be in; it's much more likely that you're going to be running, and do you have or see any chances of winning?
SHULER: Well, I mean, Joe, let's be realistic about it. I mean, there's a reason why -- I mean, over 60 moderates lost in this 2010 election, so I mean, the moderates lost. There's very few numbers of us left. The entire House has been pushed further and further apart in their different viewpoints. The moderates have to bring the Congress back together to move our country forward.
SHULER: And you know, I would really hope that she would step aside to allow Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, those gentlemen to step forward in the leadership positions that they held in the majority to be leader and to be the whip and to be able to move our Democratic Party in a direction which we can gain back seats in 2012.
JOHNS: All right, so some House Democrats of course are justifying, saying that Pelosi should be in, simply because she'll be able to keep the president from moving, they say, too far toward the middle, back toward being moderate, as opposed to staying out on the wings where a lot of people say he should be, given the fact that he pushed things like the health care bill and other bills.
What's your view of that argument?
SHULER: Well, the first and foremost, I mean it's time for us to start looking, are we push legislation to the left or to the right and start pushing legislation based on what the American people want. And if you look at it, I mean, the diversity within the Democratic Party, we want to be able to keep the big tent and not just be able to get under one umbrella. And so I really think it's very important for us to be a very moderate caucus, but realize that we have to push legislation that's going to be voted on and that we can have compromise with our colleagues across the aisle, and to be able to work with the entire caucus within the Democratic Party.
And I mean, if we can't do that, then it's very difficult for us to legislate and it's very difficult for the president to be successful.
JOHNS: I know that Nancy Pelosi has been held out as the big problem on Capitol Hill by Republicans, but there are a lot of Democrats privately who say it was the president's policies and the president's positions that led to the demise, if you will, of so many blue dogs, in the House of Representatives.
What's your view? Is Nancy Pelosi or President Barack Obama more to blame for what happened to Democrats in the midterms?
SHULER: Well, I'm not here to cast stones or putting -- placing blame on everyone. I think the most important thing is when we look at legislation, far too often in the House the legislation was so far to the left it took so long to move legislation back to the center, it had been demonized by everyone involved and made it very difficult to be able to get a real message out clearly to the American people about what legislation should be passed in the U.S. House, and then in effect what ultimately happened they become demonized and obviously publicized and it was very difficult to get Democrat moderates to weigh in on the legislation, and at the very end to vote on it.
JOHNS: So safe to say right now you're neither in nor out of the race for the Democratic leadership.
SHULER: Well, obviously if she doesn't step aside then I'm fully aware, I'm going to press forward. You know, I can add and subtract pretty well. I don't have the numbers to be able to win, but I think it's a proven point for moderates and the Democrat Party that we have to be a big tent. We have to be all inclusive. We have to invite everyone into the party.
JOHN: All right.
SHULER: And I don't like the direction in which we're going. So I want us to be a big tent party.
SHULER: Thank you so much, Congressman Shuler, joining us from North Carolina.