In addition, they are mostly liberals in a caucus now definitively dominated by their kind. Many of the defeated Democrats were so-called "Blue Dog" moderates, nearly wiping out that wing of the party.
Frank, Markey, McGovern, and the rest can lead the charge for Democrats — pushing back against Republicans, and in favor of a positive agenda — in ways that Obama and Senate Democrats, who will be expected to produce results, cannot. Being in the minority is freeing, as House Republicans demonstrated over the past two years.
"You're going to see a Barney who can be more of a fighter" in the minority, predicts Sowyrda. "I think the fire in Barney's belly is stronger now than the night before Democrats lost control of the House."
Furthermore, having proven themselves nearly unbeatable, they can worry less about their own re-elections, and put more effort into getting more Democrats elected — helping 2012 House challengers raise money, for instance, or supplying staff and supporters. (Expect a particular push to win back neighboring New Hampshire's two congressional districts, which both flipped from blue to red this year.) They can also help Democratic incumbents get re-elected — as Capuano points out, not only with campaign assistance, but by taking the heat off them through their choice of votes and other actions.
Helping elect new members, protecting incumbents, standing up for progressive principles, leading the agenda, winning legislative victories — these are the ingredients for gaining influence and power within the party. That could make members of the Massachusetts delegation more important than ever — if they can stomach being in the minority for now.
READ:Ten little Congressmen . . . by David S. Bernstein.
To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.