I am very interested in the Bush Dog angle that Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers at Open Left are pushing --- Bush Dogs are defined as Democrats who have voted against the majority Democratic positions on two bills; the warrantless wiretapping and the Iraq appropriations bills. One of the things thats is being noticed is how many recently elected Democratic Congresscritters fall in this category. Twenty two of the thirty eight Bush Dogs have been elected for the first time to Congress since 2002.
Some of this is understandable, as the 2002 and 2004 classes were running in pro-Republican years, so one would expect to see generically more conservative Democrats. However I have to wonder how much of this effect is also related to the types of campaigns that Democratic funders, most importantly the DCCC, funded early and often. Were they specifically targeting conservative Democratic campaigns with seed and growth stage money as well as massive end-stage opportunistic funds while neglecting other campaigns that either would not heel or were running on a slightly more liberal and confrontational tone?
The DCCC's greatest internal to the caucus power is that their funding decisions set up the distribution of option space. If they choose to fund and recruit only right of center of the caucus Democratic challengers, the caucus eventually moves right. If they choose to fund median Democratic challengers only, then the caucus moves due to the vagaries of retirements, deaths and defeats.
I have spent a couple of hours last night going through the 2006 FEC report for the DCCC, and I have quite a few more hours to go, but it sure looks like that; any early money was going towards muddle the difference candidates, a lot of whom lost last November. As a technical note, which program is needed to read the FEC downloadable data files, as right now I am doing 100% hand re-entry and there has to be a quicker way.
If this finding holds up, what does it mean for netroot liberals and progressives? The first finding is that this is information and an argument we should have been having in 2005, or at least in the winter of 2007. The second is netroot liberals and progressives need to build the capacity to seed start-up campaigns twelve to eighteen months from the election. Early funding means early 'viability' which means a greater base of resources available for support, with their attendant strings, instead of multiple campaigns forced to bootstrap themselves into contention and competition for limited single source funding before the opportunistic silly season immediately before the election.