Tuesday, September 22, 2009

For whom do the Blue Dogs speak?

The so-called Blue Dog Democrats are often associated with Southern and working class voters, as well as with rural voters (who are, of course, often Southern and working class!). An NPR story this morning made the point, however, that some Blue Dogs are flush with contributions from health insurance and health care PACs. Donations from such PACs presumably exceed those from constituents, who also may not be well represented at the town-hall meetings that have attracted so much media attention in recent months.

In particular, Peter Overby writes about Mike Ross (D-AR)'s recent town hall meeting in Arkadelphia, population 10,912.

The meeting was a chance for Ross' constituents to be heard. It ran well over the two-hour time limit, but mostly, there was only the familiar bickering about illegal immigrants and the role of government. Just three people without insurance asked questions.

But Prof. Kevin Motl of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia points out that many of Ross' constituents are unable to attend such meetings for very practical reasons, including those related to their lack of health insurance! Motl is quoted:

Many of those individuals who would need a public health care option are those who are not likely to be able to take two hours out of their day to go to a public event like that town hall. ... They were too busy earning hourly wages and trying to keep roofs above their children's heads. Those voices are not going to be present in that discourse.

Now there's a very realist perspective. And it amplifies the question: for whom exactly are the Blue Dogs speaking?

I note from the accompanying interactive map that Ross' southern Arkansas district, which covers nearly half of the state's land area (making it the most rural in terms of total population sparsity), has the highest uninsured rate (2.2%) among the state's four Congressional districts. Still, that is not far behind the uninsured rates of the other two relatively rural districts, but it is nearly five percentage points lower than the uninsured rate for the most urban district, which includes Little Rock.

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