Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Yellow and Blue Dog Democ_ats

When President Bush was asked last night how he would deal with the new Democratic Congress, his response was that there would be enough ‘blue dog’ Democrats in it that he would be able to work with it. Blue Dog Democrats?

Blue and Yellow Dog DemocratsWhen I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina in 1959 of the 100 counties in the state, only 2-3 HAD a functioning Republican Party organization. Everyone voted Democrat and the real elections were the primaries. No one ever received a majority in a primary and usually there were two candidates close enough to the winner that either he (white male Protestant) or the runner-up would have to “persuade” the third-place winner to throw his votes behind one of them. Several months after the elections, the third-place winner usually received a Cadillac and other appreciative and appreciated gifts from his “supporters”.

The point is, all candidates were Democrats. The saying down there was, “I’d vote fer a yeller dawg if’n he’s a Democrat!” This led to the appellation of those who would vote for or with Democrats, no matter what the issue, as “Yellow Dog” Democrats.

The Southern Democrats were always social conservatives, i.e. they were strong supporters of segregation. So when the Democratic Party pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Act, they were left out in the cold. Many leaders, like South Carolina Democrat Strom Thurman, converted to the Republican Party to keep his seat in the Senate and he was joined by racists like North Carolina’s Jessie Helms and succeeded in turning the blue South red.

Some Democratic leaders did survive by voting very conservatively. Those who supported Reagan’s tax cuts were called ‘Boll Weevils’ for the damge they did to the Democrat Party. That name was much too pejorative so they looked for another. Since ‘Yellow Dog Democrat’ was much more positive (dogs are assumed to be faithful), they changed their name themselves to ‘Blue Dog Democrats’ and formed an unofficial organization.

Democrats at their best are more remindful of a herd of cats than they are of dogs. But the Blue Dog Democrats are fairly predictable: their positions are much more conservative, closer to those of the Republican Party than traditional liberal Democratic positions. It will be interesting to see how many of them will be in the new Congress and how they will blend in with the other ilks and breeds and hues.

Leave a Reply