In the wake of the recent election, The Wilmington Star-News has given a lot of coverage to Mike McIntyre, and nearly all of it emphasizes his status as a "Blue Dog" Democrat. Typical of the paper's treatment is a depiction of Rep. McIntyre as very influential in a group of Democrats so conservative as to be virtually identical to Republicans.
One recent article leads off an interview with the Congressman by describing a sign that appears on the office door of every member of the "Blue Dog" coalition. That sign is a changing tabulation of the growing national debt. The article makes clear that the foremost objective of these conservative Democrats is addressing the national debt. That comes before everything else.
Rep. McIntyre admits to his support for an increase in the minimum wage, reforming the Medicare prescription benefit, and making college tuition tax deductible. However, he also makes it clear that this is about as far as his loyalty to the Democratic agenda takes him. Beyond that his positions have a decidedly Republican cast. Short of an exhaustive review of the tax code he refuses to endorse repealing any of the Bush tax cuts, and he strongly supports the repeal of the estate tax (though there's some consolation to his Democratic colleagues that he doesn't call it the "death tax.")
According to Cory Reiss, a reporter for The Wilmington Star, "Now the 'Blue Dog' Coalition expects to have its day. The mostly Southern group, formed in the wake of the 1994 Republican takeover, grew by at least nine members in last week's election, making this pack almost a fifth of next year's House majority. A tenth new member would bring the coalition to 45..."
Rep. McIntyre promises that the "Blue Dogs" won't be a rubber stamp and that, "We can be in a position to help legislation go forward or make sure legislation is revisited before it goes forward. This is going to be the Blue Dogs' shining moment to truly push for the things that we deeply believe in."
Among those things that they believe in is a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
If all of this sounds pretty Republican to you, you're probably right. However, if you're ready to jump up and down and call poor Congressman McIntyre a traitor to his "bluer brethren" there's a great story in a recent issue of The Fayetteville Observer told by Don Worthington.
He recalls the election of 2004 and a trucker from Kings Mountain named Ken Plonk. Evidently "Old Ken," a Democrat until only four years before, decided on a whim to run for Congress in the 7th District as a Republican. Conveniently State law allowed for the fact that he didn't live anywhere near the 7th District. His sole reason for choosing to run there was that his opponent, Mike McIntyre, did not have a Republican challenger.
Yet no sooner had "Old Ken" had his little whim then the pipe dream up and left him. Evidently he came to his senses and realized that compared to a life in politics driving his truck was honest labor. By his own admission, he didn't ask a single person in the 7th District to vote for him, not one. And given his decision to flee a life in politics, it was good that he didn't. When the election was over, and all the votes were counted, 66,084 people had cast their votes for "Old Ken."
I'm sure the lesson of that curious contest has not been lost on Mike McIntyre. He knows that he could be George Washington himself, and still there would be 66,084 people in his District who would vote against him, simply because his name appeared in the Democratic column.
I don't suppose anytime soon Rep. McIntyre will be endorsing a comprehensive program of National Health Care. Unless of course he intends to leave Congress and embark on the life of a poor person.