I tend to agree with Chris Bowers and Jonathan Singer that while broadly Democrats may lose seats in 2010, it’s unlikely that progressives will be at risk as much as conservative Democrats. As Bowers notes, losses expected of non-progressive Democrats will only increase the relative strength of progressives in Congress. This in turn will mean there is an easier path to achieve progressive policies under a Democratic majority. There will be fewer conserva-Dems to try to hold the rest of the caucus hostage. And Singer is right that there is no real reason to take Charlie Cook’s assertion that being progressive is a political liability in this climate. We have no indication as of yet that supporting the progressive agenda under a Democratic president is something that voters will punish members of Congress for.
In fact, Nate Silver had a post a little over a week ago where he highlighted that the squeaky wheel Democrats in the Senate – people like Blanche Lincoln and Max Baucus – were suffering in the polls while making loud noises about how they may or may not vote on health care reform. Hemming and hawing in public doesn’t help their ratings, nor does making themselves swing votes in the debate. By comparison, their colleagues within the state who have been quietly taking a position and not making much noise afterward are doing just fine.
Broadly speaking, it is conservative Democrats who have made the most noise about where they do or do not stand on health care reform, while injecting themselves into the debate as negotiators seeking to extract specific concessions. Progressives, on the other hand, have largely been silently supporting reform while working quietly behind closed doors to hold the line against their vocal conservative colleagues. This makes me think that Bowers and Singer are right to be indifferent to coming conserva-Dem losses while projecting few progressive losses.
One thing that is certain, though. If there are a large string of conservative Democrat losses in the House and Senate in 2010, while there are comparatively few progressive losses, the media narrative will be that Democrats must be less progressive and stake more centrist positions. There will be no electoral evidence to support this position. It will simply be Conventional Wisdom via preconception and ignorance. It’s the way of the world and hopefully one of these days Democrats in DC will try to educate the press about why they are so fundamentally wrong.