How the election affected Braley's Populist Caucus

Now that Representative Bruce Braley has survived a Republican landslide despite a bucketload of money thrown at him, I thought I’d check to see how others in his House Populist Caucus fared on Tuesday.

Short story: the Populist Caucus lost five members. As a group, they fared better than the Blue Dogs or New Democrats, but not as well as the Progressive Caucus. The details are below.

Going into Tuesday’s election, 33 House Democrats belonged to the Populist Caucus, up from 23 members when Braley founded the caucus in February 2009. Five of the Populists lost their seats: Michael Arcuri (NY-24), Phil Hare (IL-17), Steve Kagen (WI-08), Tom Perriello (VA-05), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01). Arcuri had been one of four vice-chairs of the Populist Caucus.

The 28 returning members are Braley, Vice Chair Betty Sutton (OH-13), Vice Chair Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Vice Chair Keith Ellison (MN-05), Leonard Boswell (IA-03), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Joe Courtney (CT-02), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), Donna Edwards (MD-04), Bob Filner (CA-51), John Garamendi (CA-10), Mazie Hirono (HI-02), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Dan Lipinski (IL-03), Ben Lujan (NM-03), Michael Michaud (ME-02), Linda Sanchez (CA-39), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Brad Sherman (CA-27) Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Jackie Speier (CA-12), Paul Tonko (NY-21), Henry Waxman (CA-30), Peter Welch (VT-AL), John Yarmuth (KY-03).

Most of the Populist Caucus members represent safe Democratic districts, and only a few of the returning Populists had been considered vulnerable at any time this year (those include Boswell, Loebsack, Yarmuth, Sutton and Kaptur). In a scenario much like what Braley faced with the American Future Fund, a group calling itself Concerned Taxpayers of American spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television commercials attacking DeFazio. It turned out just two individuals were funding the so-called Concerned Taxpayers. When all was said and done, Braley’s 49.5 percent to 47.5 percent margin was the narrowest victory for any of the returning Populist Caucus members.

In the outgoing Congress, the Populist Caucus contained 12.9 percent of the House Democrats (33 out of 255). In the incoming Congress, the Populists will contain approximately 14.6 percent of the House Democrats (28 out of 192).

The New Democrats and Blue Dogs lost more members than the Populists, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the caucus membership. The Blue Dogs and New Democrats will still be larger groups than the Populists, but not twice as large as they were in the Congress on the way out.

The Progressive Caucus, to which Loebsack also belongs, lost only 5 percent of its members and has more returning members than the Blue Dogs and New Democrats combined. That may change if the Blue Dogs replenish their ranks a bit from their waiting list. Membership in the Blue Dogs is capped at 25 percent of the House Democratic caucus.

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  • Good piece

    I would argue that people like Childers, Spratt, Gene Taylor and so many others within the Blue Dogs had a populist tint about them, but I’m a guy who thinks political parties as a whole are damaging the country anyway.  

  • What do they do?

    What does the populist caucus do for us?  for themselves?  For that matter, what good is the progressive caucus?

    • not much

      in theory, they are supposed to work together to shape legislation. In practice, the Progressive Caucus caves every time, like when dozens of its members promised not to vote for health care reform without a public option.

      Braley and Sutton did get the Cash for Clunkers funded with stimulus money after the first bill it was attached to (Waxman-Markey climate change bill) was obviously going nowhere in the Senate. Don’t know whether the Populist Caucus influenced that or whether Braley and Sutton could have done it on their own. I know the Populist Caucus also got Buy American language in some bill, and I think they were trying to get some changes in the Wall Street reform, but I don’t know whether they were successful.

      The Blue Dogs tend to be most successful at winning concessions because leadership knows a lot of their members really will vote with Republicans unless Democrats concede a lot of ground.