Rep. Kurt Schrader says he’s a member of an “endangered” species — the Blue Dogs.
Founded in 1995, the Blue Dogs are a conservative coalition of New Deal Democrats who prize fiscal responsibility and national security as their core mission, while often leaning pro-life and pro-gun. In the past, the group aligned nicely with voters in swing districts in the industrial Rust Belt states across the Midwest and in the South and even resonated with people in places like Schrader’s home state of Oregon.
Or they did — until Barack Obama got elected in 2008. As the Democrats took a sharp turn left, voters punished Blue Dog members for their party’s progressive bent, even though they didn’t represent it.
By 2016, Republican Donald Trump had stolen the Blue Dogs’ pragmatic economic message — and their thunder. Voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, who had once been represented by Blue Dog members of Congress and supported Democratic candidates for president, flipped for the outsider candidate.
“Trump nearly won my Oregon district,” said Schrader. “I frankly blame a lot of Trump’s success . . . on Democrats. All this deep soul searching, what’s the right message and what did we do wrong? Pretty easy. We didn’t talk to average Americans.”
In 2008, when Schrader was first voted into office, the House of Representatives had 54 Blue Dogs and a Democrat majority of 263 seats compared with 178 Republican. Today there are just 18 Blue Dogs in the House, and Democrats have 194 seats compared to 240 Republican.
“We talked to an elite group of folks who had personal identity issues or cultural issues, and all those are important, but you’ve got to reach out to people and talk about their pocketbook issues, their education issues,” Schrader said.
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