Congressional Loyalty Scorecards, Part Three: Building A Real Majority

Read Part One: Methodology and General Findings
Read Part Two: Is the DLC The Problem?

Part three of this series looks at how many seats Democrats would need to capture in the House in order for the current Democratic Party majority position on key pieces of legislation to become the majority over the current Republican Party majority position. The answer is not as simple as it may seem. While capturing fifteen net seats from Republicans would technically give Democrats control of the chamber, the previously discussed finding that Democrats defect from their party's majority position more frequently than Republicans defect from the majority position of their party complicates the issue. Surely many of us must remember the early years of the Clinton administration, when the long awaited Democratic President still had difficulty passing much of his agenda despite fairly solid Democratic control of both chambers of Congress. This is because even though Democrats may have controlled the chamber in terms of number of elected representatives, Democratic voting patterns left the majority Democratic position either with extremely narrow control, or actually in the minority.

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, and my study looked at eight pieces of legislation. Thus, there were 3,480 (435 * 8) potential votes on these pieces of legislation. In order for the Democratic majority position to be the majority position within the chamber, it would require 1,741 or more votes to agree with it across these eight pieces of legislation. Currently, the Democratic majority position has 1,380 votes, leaving it 361 votes short of a majority and at only 39.66% of the votes in the chamber. Ouch.

Since the average Democrat supported the Democratic position 6.53 times of out a possible 8.00 (81.4%), and the average Republican supported the Democratic majority position 0.24 times out of a possible 8.00 (3.0%), by this measure the average Democratic Representative can be counted on for 6.29 more votes than the average Republican Representative. Considering the 361 vote deficit, in order for the Democratic position to reach majority status, it is thus necessary to replace 58 Republican Representatives with Democratic Representatives in order for the Democratic majority position to reach majority status within the chamber.

That is a frightening total. Because their rather extreme party loyalty (97%), 175 Republicans would actually hold slightly more sway over the chamber than 260 Democrats (who are loyal 81.4% of the time). Clearly, in the House of Representatives we are in a deep, dark hole as a party. It will be some time before the Democratic majority position regains control of the chamber.

Of course, there are other ways to improve the standing of the majority Democratic position within the chamber, most notably by improving voting loyalty among Democratic Representatives. David Sirota writes about Democratic efforts in the House to do just this after the bankruptcy bill debacle:

In two separate articles today, the Washington Post and Roll Call paint a divergent picture of Democrats on Capitol Hill. The Post looks at Senate Democrats and says they are "standing firm" in the face of the GOP. The paper points to Democratic opposition to Bush's Social Security plan, the GOP's ethics rules changes, and the nomination of John Bolton as evidence.

Roll Call, on the other hand, finds "a major rift has developed within the House Democratic Caucus, as moderates and liberals wage a war over influence and questions mount over the leadership's direction for the minority party." The article points to a contentious meeting last week where progressives accused moderates "of selling out to special interests on the bankruptcy bill." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "expressed particular frustration" that some members vocally joined Republicans in pushing the bill. She made "clear it was inappropriate for Members, despite their support for the bill, to urge the Republicans to bring it up."

Both of these stories are positive. The first story shows that on some key issues, Democrats have been very effective. The second story shows that on other key issues where the party has fractured - bankruptcy, class-action reform, the estate tax and energy policy - progressives are finding their voice, and are increasingly willing to tell it like it is to their colleagues (big kudos to Pelosi). That's a major step forward in building the kind of durable, sturdy opposition party that will be necessary to defeat the GOP. Far from "hurting the party," these progressives are emboldening it for the long run, as they are moving Democrats back to their traditional position as defenders of middle and working class America.

Retaking the House consists of at least two separate tasks: replacing Republicans with Democrats and increasing Democratic voting loyalty. We need to make huge strides on both fronts in order to succeed.

Tags: House 2006 (all tags)



forgive me
Since the other post was so long ago, check out what Ed Kilgore wrote with regards to the post on the DLC.
by kydem 2005-04-26 10:49AM | 0 recs
Allow me to retort
The $40 membership DLCers water down the real DLC power brokers like Biden and Dodd, who are not even official DLC. Biden is not DLC? Give me a break. DLC may have become shorthand for the Al From-Lieberman-Biden wing of the Democratic party that continually attacks other Democrats, extracts contributions and political endorsements from corporate bigwigs and rarely complains about Republicans.

When was the last time Al From or Joe Lieberman criticized a Republican? Biden has been sharply critical of Republicans, but he is also in the corporate wing of the Democratic party that greased the skids on bankruptcy. That bill was greased out of committee and through the Senate so it wouldn't get caught up in the filbuster threat that everyone saw coming.

I'll stop criticizing the DLC when Al From and Joe Lieberman stop criticizing liberal Democrats and start criticizing Ann Coulter instead of Michael Moore.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-26 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Allow me to retort
Let me make it simple. I'll stop criticizing the DLC when Al From, Joe Lieberman and a few Blue Dog Democrats get on a national stage with Michael Moore and Move On for a Republican bashing festival with Whoopi Goldberg as the featured comedian. It's time for all Democrats to get on the Bush Bashing Bandwagon.

It's way past time to stop sitting around the Republican bi-partisan campfire singing koom bay yah and roasting marshmellows for corporate smores. John Kerry could start things off by withdrawing his co-sponsorship of the Pharmacists Right to Discrminate Against Women Act. After what the Swiftboat Vets did to him, he reaches across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship. What a spineless pussy.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-26 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Allow me to retort
with regards to Michael Moore, I wouldn't stand on a stage with him.

I never once have criticized DFA, yet I am frequently bashed for paying $25 to the DLC.  Such hypocracy.  I shouldn't be bashed for that.  Lieberman is doing us some good like standing up for the filibuster and the environment.  His mother is ill right now so give the man a break!

by kydem 2005-04-26 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Allow me to retort
Since Lieberman's mother is ill, he should withdraw from running for re-election, and then I'll give him a break. (Once he's out of office, that is.)
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-04-26 04:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Allow me to retort
Still, I have never once criticized DFA.  Only the media overblow of the scream but that is it.

The only way we can win in 2006 and 2008 will be to unite, not divide.  Your rhetoric doesn't help.

by kydem 2005-04-26 04:52PM | 0 recs
Lieberman Is The Divider
As has been demonstrated ad nauseum here and on DKos.

Making him pay for his divisiveness is a way of strengthing unity, not destroying it.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-04-26 05:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Lieberman Is The Divider
He's out of the fainthearted faction, what more do you want?

The guy was voted VP AND was robbed.

by kydem 2005-04-26 06:19PM | 0 recs
Simple: I Want Lieberman Out Of The Senate n/t
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-04-26 06:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Allow me to retort
Ugh, this canard again.

First of all, Kerry and lots of other Dems have been backing the Workplace Religious Freedom Act since Clinton was in office. This is nothing new.

Second, the bill requires that another pharmacist be found who will fulfill their prescription. In other words, it will be required by law that your prescription be filled. Who cares whether it's Mike or Joanne behind the counter at Walgreens who does it?

Third, that's not what the bill is about. As an observant Jew, I would love to have a law on the books stating that I can't be fired for refusing to come into work on Saturdays. It's sort of a big deal to me. The Kerry-Santorum Workplace Religious Freedom Act has been languishing in the Senate for eight years and absolutely should be passed. It's an important and needed piece of legislation.

I am perfectly comfortable as a passionate liberal Democrat and a deeply religious person. (wish there were more like me...) Any legislation that can mend the rift between the Democratic Party and people of faith without compromising progressive principles deserves our fervent support.

by JoshInNYC 2005-04-26 11:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Allow me to retort

Seven days, the holy rhythms of cleansing. Shabat.
Ever noticed that Josh. The fabric of space
and time unites under the Judeo-Christian
ethic of time.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-04-27 07:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Allow me to retort
huh? what's your point?
by JoshInNYC 2005-04-27 07:23AM | 0 recs
Since there is not an "open" thread today, and I have been waiting to get this off my chest for some time now, I guess this is the place to say it.  If we're talking about loyalty, what is up with Bill Clinton these days?  Reports are out that he is so close to the Bush family that Bush 41 recently commented that "maybe I'm the father he never had."  The architect of the stolen 2000 election in Florida, Jeb Bush, apparently refers to Bill as "bro."

Darth Vader himself, G W Bush, recently joked that Bill woke from a dream to see his loved ones, "Hillary, Chelsea, and my Dad."

While I am all for civility between the small club of presidents and ex-presidents, why is Clinton being so chummy with these war-mongering, election-stealing, yes, I would say almost Fascist family???  I don't get it.

I have never been that fond of the Clintons other than being grateful he kicked Papa Bush's butt and returned a Democrat to the White House after 12 long years in the wilderness for the Democratic Party.  But, while he was President the Democrats went from controlling both houses of Congress to losing the House and Senate in 1994, and have lost it ever since, aside from the brief interlude in the Senate in 2001-2002 due to Jim Jeffords party switch.

I know I will be called a troll or worse, but I think the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, are out for themselves, not the long-term good of the Democratic Party or the country.  Maybe that is why they get along so well with the Bush family, because they are also out for nothing but themselves and their rich friends.

Someone should tell Bill to lay off the butt-kissing of this evil family.  This should serve as a lesson that we should turn to someone else rather than Hillary to be our standard-bearer in 2008.  If not, will we have Hillary calling Papa Bush "Dad" at the Inaugaration???  

I'm really steaming over this.

by MichiganDemocrat 2005-04-26 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Loyalty
I think it's about time we heard from Hillary. She's been playing her cards pretty close to the vest. Do BillandHillary care more about friendly relations with the Bush clan than they do about civil liberties and the Constitution? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. It's time for them to both say a few words about Bush's Compassionate Fascism.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-26 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Loyalty
Don't forget how Bill praised Nixon, either. There's nothing new to this, unfortunately.
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-04-26 04:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Loyalty
You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-04-27 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Loyalty
With all due respect, Clinton carried the Democratic Party throughout his presidency.  He took on the right-wing machine by himself.  Even between 1993-1995, when he had a Democratic Congress, it took Al Gore to cast the winning vote on his historic 1st budget.  

I'm including the DLC on this list as well.  They basically freeloaded off of him through the 1990's and did not help him even thought they theoretically shared a similar philosophy.  A lot of Democrats were there with Clinton when it suited them, but ran for the hills when it got hot.

And of course, there were those who thought that Clinton wasn't "liberal" enough.  Well, now they get to deal with Bush.  Who would they rather have?

I like Al Gore, but, gosh, why run away from the guy who you worked with closely for 8 years and did a lot of great things?  It definitely cost him.

Our Democratic Congress from 1995-1999 wasn't very strong, to say the least, and only gained seats in 1998 due to the arrogance of Gingrich and the Republicans. We did do well in the congressional elections in 2000 (perhaps a combination of lingering Republican problems from 1998, and a little momentum from Clinton on the way out the door) and briefly got the Senate back in 2001.  But post-Clinton, we lost seats in both houses of congress in 2002 (where we lost the Senate back to the GOP and 2004.

With this in mind, imagine the Democratic Party's condition if there had been a Republican President from 1993-2001 (or even just 4 of those years).  Yikes!

Even today, after being out of office for over 4 years, Clinton is still a major player, if not THE major player, in the Democratic scene.  Why?  Well, when you're the only 2-term, twice-elected Democratic President since FDR, it's hard not to have clout.

As for his newfound wealth, remember that Clinton was broke when he left the presidency.  Yes, he is now rich, but also remember that he is working hard with his foundation on AIDS and other activities, as well as tsunami relief (with Bush 41 and with the United States).  This is what truly matters.

Remember, Clinton's background does not include a silver spoon.  You can't leave it behind so easily.  And he has a way with folks.  Maybe the charm has rubbed off on the Bushies...I don't know.

If you're going to judge Clinton, judge him by his efforts on policy, as Governor, President, and now former President.  How he gets along with the Bushies isn't worth the time and effort to analyze.

by v2aggie2 2005-04-26 08:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Loyalty
And Partisanship is good for...?

Suppose this is a Neville Chamberlain
moment for Bill Clinton.  The greater
scope of history remembers him now
for his record. Boom economy. Big expansion.
Technology. Welfare roll dropped. 39% reduction
in Abortions under his watch.

I seem to recall being partisan was
what kept SIXTY of the judge appointees
he wanted to make off the bench.

We'd be living in a clintonian
democracy right now if they were there.

Most of Al Qaeda practiced by aiming
bullets at him. I think if a bullet
were heading towards 41, 42, or 43..
I'd jump in front of him and take it.

Remember, you fall into the well built
trap the thugs put in front of you
when you get all frothy about W.
He is and always will be a good guy.
Not a shabby golfer either.

The people you are probably bent out
of shape about love to keep you in that
distinctively pretzel shape, but
they will enron around you to hide
their identity. Spend about 2 hours
and pick your targets and then carry
them all the way down to the local level
and THROW THE BUMS OUT! next election.

Comprende, Senor?

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-04-27 07:09AM | 0 recs
I think you're neglecting the increased flexibility that House Democrats would have if Dems were in the majority, even speaking strictly by the numbers. Dems from conservative districts who now might feel forced to go along with the Republicans on things like the bankruptcy bill won't feel the need to do that if Dems are in the majority, because
a) Dems would control the agenda and wouldn't necessarily bring up things like that, and
b) they'd be able to justify it to constituents as "it was gonna pass anyway."
by asf6 2005-04-26 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: hmm
I totally agree.

I think that although the Ds may not tow the party line as well as their R counterparts, a lot has to be said for the fact that even a less loyal majority would make a huge difference because of the leadership positions the Ds would get.  Disloyal Ds could much more easily be brought in line or marginalized by not bringing to the floow conservative legislation that would allow Ds to cross the line (like the Rs do with many progressive bills) and also with the leadership position enticements / passovers.  I know that these are heavy handed techniques, but it is a form of  effective leadership. (obviously moderation is key, but lets worry about that when the Ds actually are drunk with power)

by avagias 2005-04-26 11:29AM | 0 recs
Re: hmm
The control over (1) the agenda of the House and (2) committee assignments make the issue of democratic defections less problematic than this article suggests.  If the Democrats had control of the House, I do not expect that they would put forward an agenda that was simply the negative of the Republican agenda.  Rather, the Democrats would find issues and bills that would garner support from most of the Democratic caucus.

It is also dangerous to reason from the floor votes, because members often "vote their district" when they know that their vote will not be decisive.  Unlike the 1993 budget, none of the current House votes were very close.  

by Ephus 2005-04-26 11:45AM | 0 recs
Nancy Pelosi
I happened to meet with leader Pelosi (yes I agree that that the title sounds funny, but that's how people address her) yesterday.  I think that she is working effectively to get the caucus to stick together.  She said that she is telling the members who vote with the republicans that they should just call themselves republicans.  She is designating votes occasionally as leader's priority votes (not her words, I forget the exact term she used) and telling her members that there will be consequences for not voting with her.  She is even prepared to back primary challengers against uncooperative members.  She is raising money for the DCCC.  She thinks that there are about 10 democratic members who will have touch re-election fights, but 40 or 50 republican seats where she (speaking for the DCCC) expects to support challengers who will have a good chance to win.  I suggested that I would like to see my money used to field credible democrats to run against every republican member.

She is using the resources that she has to keep her people together, using some (but not all) of the kinds of techniques that the republicans use.  It will be a lot easier from the speakers office.  I am trying to do what I can do to make her the first female speaker of the house.

by mpearl 2005-04-27 03:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Nancy Pelosi
Well, a lot of the Republican tactics with regards to keeping their "flock" in line are disgusting and lead to the abuses of power that we have seen.

Is this the party we want?  We need to fight, but we need to do it the right way.

And why is Pelosi concerned with challenging her own incumbents.  Shouldn't the REPUBLICANS be our target.  We don't have the luxury of going after our own.

by v2aggie2 2005-04-27 08:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Nancy Pelosi
As above, there are a handful of democrats who vote with DeLay more than they vote with her.  There is no point in having a party, if there is nothing that that the party stands for.
by mpearl 2005-04-30 04:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Nancy Pelosi
Still, you have to have priorities, even if you believe that these Democrats should be targeted.

Getting control of the House is the first priority.  Anything else is a luxury at best

by v2aggie2 2005-05-01 10:35AM | 0 recs
Hold them accountable
When a Dem house member votes to abolish the Estate Tax and to pass the Bankruptcy bill, those members should be held accountable by the party and their constituents.

Progressive Dems should challenge in their primaries long standing cross-voters in our party who do this.

by michael in chicago 2005-04-26 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Hold them accountable
Pelosi should start pulling committee seats. That's how the GOPers keep their troops in line and it's time for Reid and Pelosi to start doing the same thing. I'd start by pulling Lieberman and Biden both off of at least one committee. Pelosi should do the same to a couple of blue dog democrats who were so hot to trot on passing bankruptcy restrictions.

That would send a clear message to the rest of the Democratic party and to the Republican party that Reid and Pelosi were serious.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-26 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Hold them accountable
Any Democrat who voted for both the Bankruptcy bill and to eliminate the Estate Tax should be pulled from a committe. These are GOP initiatives, and they gave them bipartisan cover by voting for them.

I'm so dissapointed in Melissa Bean.

by michael in chicago 2005-04-26 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Hold them accountable
While I understand and agree with the frustration toward most of the Democrats who voted for the bankruptcy bill, I cannot extend my animus to Biden and Carper. They were looking out for their constituents. The credit card companies richly deserve to be fucked over, don't get me wrong. But they're Delaware's biggest employer. Fuck them over and lots of people in Delaware lose jobs. Hold the other 43 Democrats' feet to the fire, fine, but a senator's greatest responsibility is to his/her state, and Biden and Carper's votes are thus eminently excusable.
by JoshInNYC 2005-04-26 11:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Hold them accountable
I understand looking out for your constituents, which includes employees as well as residents of the state.  However, credit card companies are receiving record profits even without this outrageous bankruptcy bill, so I don't give Biden or Carper a pass on that.

There was room for a reasonable bankruptcy reform bill that Democratic members of Congress should have united behind.  What passed gave no exemptions for medical emergencies, etc. but gave millionaires their trust fund exemptions.  This was nothing but a giveaway to the credit card companies who were doing just fine, thank you very much.  I have not seen any evidence of "lots of people in Delaware" losing jobs if this bankruptcy bill did not pass.  And not passing it would not, in my opinion, have "fucked them over".

To quote the LA Times March 4, 2005:
In the eight years since they began pressing for the tough bankruptcy bill being debated in the Senate, America's big credit card companies have effectively inoculated themselves from many of the problems that sparked their call for the measure.

by Intellectually Curious 2005-04-27 11:05AM | 0 recs
The Replacements
"Retaking the House consists of at least two separate tasks: replacing Republicans with Democrats and increasing Democratic voting loyalty."

As to item two, I would call it replacing "Democrats" with Democtrats.

by Tod Westlake 2005-04-26 12:01PM | 0 recs
Re: The Replacements
I don;t think this is really a very useful exercise.  First, these are not necessarily good votes to use to test party loyalty.  Second, how a House member votes as part of a minority may be very different from how he or she would vote as part of the majority.  When in the majority, there are more perks and carrots, and it would be easier to impose more discipline.  If the Dems were in the majority in the narrow sense, perhaps some members would change some votes to vote with the leadership.  Perhaps there would be more PAC money or money in general so that they wouldn't have to pimp for the financial industry so much.  Perhaps more Republicans would defect on a few votes that they knew would pass anyway.  

That said, there is not now a majority in this country for real progressive legislation.  Either there will have to be a crisis on the order of the Great Depression to bring that about or the Dems will, over a period of years, show that they are more in touch and more trustworthy at governing.  Even with that, business is very strong in this country, and barring a return to the more socially responsible and less selfish attitudes of the '50s and '60s, it will take real work if it is to happen in my lifetime (maybe 25-30 years left?)  

At various points in the past when the Dems had power (most recently in 1992) they did not use it wisely and lost it.  

by Mimikatz 2005-04-26 01:41PM | 0 recs
Re: The Replacements
Enforcing party-line loyalty is a vert useful thing, as the politically nimble Harry Reid is currently demonstrating.

Now we need to crack the whip in the House.

by Tod Westlake 2005-04-26 02:47PM | 0 recs
Re: The Replacements
That said, there is not now a majority in this country for real progressive legislation.

Actually, there is if you look at underlying attitudes and priorities, which are predominately liberal across a wide range of issues. But this majority is not mobilized and organized.  Thus, it's apathetic, discouraged, and fragmented. Ripe for picking off with symbolic feel-good gestures, since it sees no chance of getting anything real instead.  

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-04-26 04:17PM | 0 recs
Aspects of Loyalty
Republicans in Congress were more uniform in their voting going back at least as far as the 60's.  But they were never nearly as loyal as they are now.  Some of the mechanisms that compel loyalty would include DeLay's money machine, the Club for Growth primary challenges, computer-designed one party districts, the right wing noise machine.  Any switch, particularly if it is lasting, would seriously weaken some of those ties.

What we would see here is an increase in Republican defections after awhile but the upper limit would probably be about 10%.

Similarly, centrifugal forces of party discipline and a party agenda would tend to push the Democratic loyalty factor closer to 90%.

So ... we would need more than 218 votes to control the House but i would suspect less than 260.  Whether the number is 250 or 245 who knows.  Unfortunately, it seems destimed to be clearly above the 232 that the GOP has now.

by David Kowalski 2005-04-26 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Aspects of Loyalty
This is right combination of things to be considering. But I also think that a very seriously-minded multi-pronged attack could make the Democrats effective with a narrower margin.

That said, who wants a narrower margin?  What we need is the boldness of vision and attitude to make them defend every single seat, and every single vote.  They plain fact is that the GOP political elite are way out of synch with what their electoral base as a whole wants. (Look at the vote on raising the minimum wage in Florida, for example.)

The movement conservaties have a very effective disinformation machine in place to hide this from folks. But wherever you can break it down, they are in real trouble. And that's what we should be focused on doing.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-04-26 04:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Aspects of Loyalty
Much discussion is flawed on its statistical merits and suicidal in its subtext.

In the first place, with even an 80 percent loyalty rate, most important Democratic initiatives would pass with with a 225 or 230 seat margin, for that 80 percent number is an average.  You're going to see far more defections on some votes than others.  Shrug.  That's the way it is.  I can name at least 20 House seats and 7 Senate seats where I'd be grateful for an 80 percent Democratic vote right now.

In the second place, going after partially non-compliant Dems is a waste of resources.  Per the above, I'd rather spend the resources knocking out 97 percent GOPers than burning down the house to roast the pig by going after 80 percent Dems.

Finally, if you think the national demographics would support a majority of 97 percent Dems, you really don't understand the country.  I live in one of the Bluest cities around (Santa Monica) but it gets very purple within an hour's drive.

by InigoMontoya 2005-04-26 09:34PM | 0 recs
Scope limited by constituents
I agree that the loyalty model could do with some further dimensions being added - such as the agenda-setting effect. (I wonder whether it's possible to integrate the model's idea of salience with DW-NOMINATE and such mathematical techniques.)

One or two points:

  1. I can't see that carrying water for the credit card companies is a moderate (or DLC) value; there was hardly a better issue, surely, around which to gather a broad New Deal coalition of Main Street against Wall Street; many more debtors than credit card companies, etc.

    The same goes for the estate tax bill.

  2. The composition of both houses changes slowly: last November, a 98% incumbent reelection rate in the House, 96% in the Senate. Few competitive open seats either, thanks to 'creative' redistricting from both parties. Moderate Dems aren't going anywhere soon - short of a purge.

  3. Even if a 'disloyal' Dem were successfully replaced by a more 'reliable' one (a pretty uncertain and bloody process, one might expect - how have such attempts worked out in the past?), chances are that enough moderate voters would go with the GOP candidate in the general for the seat to be lost altogether.

    Evidently, the fact that, say, South Dakota elected both Stephanie Herseth and John Thune last November means that (some) constituencies show a certain flexibility in terms of the ideological range of the candidates they chose to represent them.

    But only so far - I can't see a Barbara Boxer making much headway in SD.

    Averaged over the whole membership of Congress and over time, you'd expect a member to vote more or less his constituents' ideology. (And I'd tend to think that would be a good thing.)

by johnsmith0903 2005-04-26 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: The fear of losing seats
Taking a DINO out in the primary does mean an increased likelyhood of losing the seat, I'll freely grant.  The problem with using this an excuse for not enforcing party disicipline is that's penny wise and pound foolish, electorally.

Do the math.  Let's say we have 200 represenatives currently, to make the math easier.  We currently have about an 80% loyalty rate- which means we can generally muster about 160 votes on our side, as we generally see about 40 defections.  Now, let's say we up the loyalty rate to 90%- but in doing so, we lose 10 more seats, so we only have 190 Democrats in Congress.  But now we have an effective 190*0.9 = 171 votes on things we care about.  We've actually gained ground, despite losing seats- and we're better positioned to gain more seats (and to benefit more from gaining those seats).


by bhurtaw 2005-04-27 11:07AM | 0 recs
Once we get a majority...
...enforcing party loyality becomes a million times easier.  So getting to 51% is what we need to concentrate on first.
by Geotpf 2005-04-27 09:24AM | 0 recs
The importance of party loyalty
I think this demonstrates that, more so than anything else, we need to increase party loyalty in the Democratic party- or resign ourselves to effective permanate minority party status, even when we're technically the majority.

At current loyalty levels, we'd need to control almost 65% of the seats in Congress before we'd get an actual working majority.  This isn't going to happen soon, and it'll only happen (if it'll ever happen) after the Democrats start delivering on stuff.  The last major new Democratic reform happened under Johnson back in the 60's- literally before I was born.  "What have you done for me lately?" isn't being facetious- it's a legitimate question for the Democrats.  Because, unfortunately, the answer is "nothing".

But to do that something (and universal single-payer health care being an obvious something), we need to get it passed.  With luck, work, and the continuing stupidity of the Republicans, and maybe a serious economic downturn, we might get 53-55% of house seats, a majority in the Senate, and the Whitehouse back in the next 3-5 years.  But we need to turn that into a major accomplishment- we cannot afford another Clinton style embarassement.  

Which means we have two choices- one, resign ourselves to being an ineffectual minority party, even if technically the majority, or two, increase our party loyalty.  We have to be able to win with narrow majorities, before we can dream of wide majorities.

Which is why I think we need to do some widely visible takedowns of some DINOs.  This is a trick the Republicans have learned- make an example of a few, and the rest fall into line.  This is why the Republicans have such incredible party loyalty- every Republican knows that if they defect too much, they become the nail that sticks up, and gets hammered.

I don't think the Democrats can, or should, go for 97% loyalty.  But if we can get up to say 90% loyalty, that means we'd only need 56% of the seats being Democratic.  If we got 95% loyalty, we'd only need 53% of the seats.  Those are the levels we should be targetting.  Anything less than that dooms us to irrelevence.


by bhurtaw 2005-04-27 10:52AM | 0 recs
Thank you Chris...
... for all your hard work on this.

Before accepting this particular set of numbers though I would be interested in seeing how it has carried out over previous congresses... particularly when Democrats have had the majority.

One of the aspects of this particular minority is that it is not cohesive and does tend towards defection. Is this always true for Democrats? Is it always true for minorities? How did the Republicans fair in this regard when they were the minority for all those years? Did they defect more often in order to buy vote favors for their personal amendments and pork projects?

How did Democrats do when they were the majority and didn't feel the need to curry Republican favor in order to get some crumbs to bring home to their constituents?

It would be interested to select the equivalent of these 8 major, defining pieces of legislation over the past 10 congresses and build a more thorough track record and statistical analysis of voting, loyality and defection trends. One congress is not enough to say with absolute certainty that this is the way it is.

by Andrew C White 2005-04-28 01:35PM | 0 recs


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