September 18, 2009


(Tip O'Neil - always wondering when Reagan was going to leave the pony)

In the 1940s up to the 60s we had that segment of the Democratic Party known as Dixiecrats, the ones who appeared to have no party unity and seemed to march to their own sets of erratic drummers. Now we have the Blue Dogs who, much like the Dixiecrats, seem incapable of following their party affiliation and are, for some bizarre reason, intent on undermining what they were elected for in the first place. But I almost forgot about the Boll Weevils of the 1980s, those conservative Democrats, like their brethren before and after who almost always voted with Republicans and actively supported Reagan programs.

There's been a lot of talk of late about recriminations for the Blue Dogs, particularly with their seeming contempt of the party that brought them there.

It appears Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neil had much the same predicament on his hands during the Reagan Years with the Boll Weevils. It cost the party quite a lot during those years, especially since the Republicans had adopted a lock-step approach, much as they do now.

Here is a "Face The Nation" episode from June 27, 1982 featuring Tip O'Neil and a panel of CBS reporters asking about the current state of the Democrats on the Hill.

O’Neil: “Approximately 90 percent of the Democratic party has always stayed with us. Through the years . . . we never needed the Boll Weevils, we always had twenty-five or thirty Republicans, moderates and liberals, particularly from the Northeast of the country who always voted with the Democrats. We lost 43 Democratic seats last year, And so the discipline in our party has been good. Now that the Boll Weevils haven’t been voting with us . . but for thirty years they have been voting with us. The Republicans interestingly, have voted in robot step – all of those Northeastern and city Republicans , they have voted the . . .the Republicans have also had better discipline than they ever had before. Now, there are those who want to criticize the Boll Weevils and say we should punish them. That the Speaker should remove them from the committee. Our day of reckoning is the week of . . . the first week in December of every other year when we meet to formulate the rules. That is the particular time when we elect the members to the committee. That is the time for the people to stand up, if they want to write in to the rules of our caucus that you must go along with the rules as offered by the leadership, the previous question and things like that and punish somebody for that reason . . it’s not in our rules at the present time. Secondly, I’ve seen punishment along the line. I saw a man leave our party and go to the Republican party and get elected and take a Democratic . . .I saw a man removed from the second spot in the committee to the last spot in the committee, go home and become the Governor of his state. Punishment hasn’t worked out there, to be perfectly truthful. But the interesting factor – it’s in the caucus where these things should be done. There is no way in which we can remove a man from a committee. Because it goes from the policy committee to the caucus. And after the caucus it then goes to the floor, it’s a perfunctory matter when it goes to the floor. But in order to remove a man you’ve got to start where you finished. You’ve got to start and remove him from the committee by a vote of the Congress, and that’s an impossible thing to do”

Although the circumstance are different, my guess is O'Neil had much the same problems as Pelosi does now.

That unwillingness to dance with the one what brought them there.

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