But many other moderate Democrats viewed the passage, which came so late, as a Pyrrhic victory at best. “Failing to immediately push the infrastructure bill in the House was the biggest mistake of Biden’s term because it essentially said a few things,” said Al From. “First, it said progressives still run the Democratic Party even though he defeated them in the primaries. Second, it said he really doesn’t mean this bipartisan thing because when it comes down to it, he will let the most partisan people in his party have their way.”
Almost as disturbing from Murphy’s perspective was a flood of negative ads that began to run against her in her Florida district, not just conservative groups, but also outside liberal groups. “You’d think it was October of the ‘on’ year,” Murphy told me, referring to election years. “Despite all that Democrats swearing at the super-PACs, I would say there are parts of our party that have used super-PACs very effectively as a tool against their own Democratic members to ensure party unity. And so a moderate member today receives in equal proportions from the left and the right.”
Murphy told me that the negative advertising against her and other moderates, including Kathleen Rice of New York, who is retiring, and Jared Golden of Maine, who is Frontliner, “costs money to fix,” and she claimed that in a world Where online small-dollar donations are the currency of the empire, money can be difficult for moderates to raise. “I am a member who has been repeatedly credited as one of the most effective and bipartisan members on the mound,” said Murphy, who is a member of the House Jan. 6 committee. “Nobody knows who I am.” Colleagues she viewed as far less effective lawmakers, meanwhile, had millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook, while hers were stuck in the mid-five figures. “Social media platforms allow people to focus more on making statements than making laws,” she said. “The crazier you say, the more money you raise. The more hostile you are to the other party, the more money you raise.”
This got Murphy and her fellow moderates in trouble. They usually represent or run in competitive districts, which take a lot of campaign money, but also punish extremism. This year, Henry Cuellar, a South Texas Blue Dog who is the only remaining anti-abortion Democrat in the House, faced a progressive challenger in his district’s Democratic primary, which surpassed him by more than $1 million; Cuellar eventually won the primaries in May by fewer than 300 votes. South Carolina congressman James Clyburn, the whip of the House majority and the highest-ranking black member of Congress, had traveled to Texas to campaign for Cuellar, angering liberal Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez, who attacked high-ranking Democrats who supported Cuellar for “a total failure of leadership.” Clyburn supported Cuellar, he explained, because he believes Cuellar gives Democrats their best shot at winning in November in a district that, like many in South Texas, is headed for the GOP. elected, but I couldn’t get elected in his district,” Clyburn told me. “Our job is to try to reconcile those differences.” He added: “It doesn’t mean you occupy the same space. You are under the same umbrella.”
But the Blue Dogs’ share of the space under that umbrella is dwindling. In 2010, the Blue Dogs had 54 members. Today, that number stands at 19. Of that group, Murphy is one of three to leave Congress on his own initiative; two more lost their primaries. Six of the Blue Dogs who will vote in November are Frontliners. All of this means there could be less than a dozen Blue Dogs in the house in January.
To make matters worse, Murphy and some of her fellow moderates believe the House Democrats’ own campaign arm is working against them. Last summer, at the height of the standoff over the infrastructure bill and Build Back Better, Maloney or members of his DCCC staff contacted several centrist representatives to warn that majority Democrats would be endangered if they overturn Biden’s legislative priorities. would thwart. Some of these centrists, who face tough reelection campaigns, interpreted the outreach as an unconcealed threat that their own party fundraising efforts would be jeopardized if they didn’t stand in line. “You want your political arm to be on politics, not policy,” Murphy told me. “My belief is that the DCCC has one job and one job alone: to protect the incumbents and expand the majority. And becoming an extension of leadership, and working against members you are supposed to protect, is at odds with your sole mission.”