The Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1995 in reaction to devastating losses in President Clinton's first mid-term election. The moniker played off of the expression "Yellow Dog Democrats" of the South who were so loyal to the party after the Civil War. Blue Dogs could also refer to the idea that when dogs are not let in the house, they stay outside in the cold and turn blue.
The Blue Dogs sought to find a compromise between conservative and liberal positions. They tended to be Democrats who were from rural districts who were pro-guns, pro-life and fiscal hawks. Blue Dogs were successful in 1996 and then Democrat National Committee Chairman Rahm Emmanuel used Blue Dogs to retake the House in 2006.
However, in the same 2006 election cycle, progressive began to retake the Democrat Party. A Progressive candidate beat Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CN) in the Democrat primary, forcing the veteran lawmaker (who was quite an orthodox liberal except on staunch support for Israel and being a war hawk) to successfully run as an "Independent Democrat" in the general election. But this bode as a bad omen for Blue Dog Democrats.
At their high water mark, Blue Dog Democrats had 44 members, which was roughly 20% of the Democrat Caucus. But progressive tides and internecine battles have lowered Blue Dogs ranks to 17 members which again puts them out in the cold.
At the beginning of the 115th Congress, Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH 13th formerly 17th) sought to run for House Minority Leader against the incumbent Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-12th formerly 5th & 8th). The final vote was for unseating Pelosi not even close 134-63.
Considering the way that close to 70 Democrats (all from safe Democrat districts) boycotted President Trump's inaugural festivities shows that Congressional Democrats seem dedicated to the progressive cause, under the delusion that they will retake the House in the 2018 elections.
The Democrats continue to be obsessed with gun control, abortion rights, liberal immigration and an ever expanding government.Thus it seems that Democrats continue to count on winning urban voters along with educated white collar suburban voters in their path to victory. This sort strategy leaves Blue Dog in the cold, forcing them to accept irrelevance amongst the DC Democrat party or to go against their tradition and aversions to vote GOP to remain relevant.
It was fascinating to see how 2016 Democrat Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (D-NY) ran against coal country in her futile bid for the White House. Hillary lost the Keystone State by about 46,000 votes. That slim margin of victory may have been taken from President Trump's increased support in Central Pennsylvania, which epitomized Blue Dog Coalition voters.
In Washington Examiner, Salina Zito noted how Cambria County, Pennsylvania, which contains the old industrial city of Johnstown, has shifted from being a 70 reliably Democrat area in 2006 to today being a 70% Republican area. It is these working class white voters that Democrat strategist Dane Strother worries that imposing a progressive purity test will drive Democrats into the political wilderness for forty years.
President Trump may have sensed the alienation that Blue Dogs (who also comprised "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s) felt, and now seeks to cement the relationship with them. Thus the overtures to labor leaders and winning back manufacturing jobs as well as fulfilling campaign promises which validate voters who then candidate Barack Obama derided as those who were "Bitter Clingers" to their bibles and their guns.