Congressional Loyalty Scorecards, Part Five: Progressive Caucus

Part One: Methodology and General Findings
Part Two: The DLC
Part Three: Building a Real Majority
Part Four: Blue Dog Democrats

This installment in the series looks at the voting patterns of the fifty-one members of the Congressional Progressive caucus, none of whom is a Republican (it also includes Bernie Sanders). As I am sure you will agree after reading this, the overall picture of Democratic voting loyalty is starting to come into focus.

As I already discussed, the voting loyalty of the thirty-five Blue Dogs currently stands on 54.3%, across nine votes and public statements on Social Security. For the thirty-nine members of the DLC, Democratic voting loyalty currently stands at 79.0% across those nine votes and one issue. For the Congressional Progressive caucus, Democratic voting loyalty currently stands at an astounding 97.3%, which is actually higher than the overall Republican caucus loyalty of 96.1%. The fifty-one members of the Progressive caucus broke as follows:
  • Stayed with the party all ten times (39):Tammy Baldwin (WI), Xavier Becerra (CA), Corrine Brown (FL), Sherrod Brown (OH), Michael Capuano (MA), Julia Carson (IN), John Conyers (MI), Danny Davis (IL), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Lane Evans (IL), Barney Frank (MA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Luis Gutierrez (IL), Maurice Hinchley (NY), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Tom Lantos (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), Jim McDermott (WA), James McGovern (MA), George Miller (CA), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Major Owens (NY), Nancy Pelosi (CA), Bernie Sanders (VT), Hilda Solis (CA), Pete Stark (CA), Janice Schakowsky (IL), Bennie Thompson (MS), John Tierney (MA), Tom Udall (NM), Nadia Velazquez (NY), Diane Watson (CA), Maxine Waters (CA), Mel Watt (NC), Henry Waxman (CA), Lynn Wollsey (CA)

  • Stayed with the party nine times (10): Neil Abercrombie (HI), Emanuel Cleaver (MO),. Peter DeFazio (OR), Sam Farr (CA), Chaka Fattah (PA), Bob Filner (CA), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL), Ed Pastor (AZ), Bobby Rush (IL), Jose Serrano (NY)

  • Stayed with the party eight times (2): William Clay (MO), Shelia Jackson-Lee (TX)
No member of the Progressive caucus strayed from the party three times or more.

Comparing the three Democratic groups studied so far, an interesting picture voting loyalty emerges:

  • Progressive Caucus: 97.3% loyal
  • DLC: 79.0% loyal
  • Blue Dogs: 54.3% loyal
Despite the already discussed lack of a pattern in DLC voting habits, these three groups appear to form three fairly distinct branches of the Democratic Party within the House of Representatives. However, I would like to present a different thesis. In the 109th Congress, the 168 members of the House who are not members of the Blue Dogs have been 88.3% loyal on Social Security and the nine major party differentiating votes. This places them almost precisely in the middle of the DLC members (79.0% loyal) and the Progressive Caucus members (97.3%). This also places them nowhere near the Blue Dogs, who are at a paltry 54.3%. Rather than there being three distinct wings of the Democratic party, there instead seem to be two distinct wings, DLC and Progressive, both of which are loyal, albeit to different degrees. By contrast, the Blue Dogs functionally serve as a third-party, swing vote entity. After all, a loyalty of 54.3% to the Democratic majority position means that the Blue Dogs have a 46.7% loyalty to the Republican majority Party position. The Blue Dogs thus appear to be almost entirely outside of the control of the Democratic leadership (and, for that matter, the Republican leadership as well), and thus can be accurately considered a third party entity in the House of Representatives.

Blue Dog Democrats serve as an added barrier toward a true Democratic majority in Congress. Right now, the Democratic majority position on Social Security and these nine bills has only 40.6% support in the House, despite Democrats and Bernie Sanders making up 45.7% of the House. Right now, the average Democrat in the House supports 8.25 of the ten Democratic positions, while the average Republican supports 0.39 of the ten Democratic positions, making the difference between them 7.86 out of a possible ten positions. In order for the Democratic majority position to become the majority position of the entire chamber, it would be necessary to replace 53 Republicans with Democrats. Perhaps not surprisingly, with 168 non-Blue Dog Democrats in the House right now, for non-Blue Dog Democrats to become a majority they would need 50 more members. That is almost identical to the earlier number.

As a final note, here's a memo to Al From and Bruce Reed: the DLC members in the House are more similar to the left wing of the party (a gap of 18.3%) than to the right wing of the party, the Blue Dogs (a gap of 24.7%). This is something you might want to keep in mind when composing future memos aimed primarily at basement dwelling elitists, or whatever Republican caricature you feel applies to progressive at a given point in time.

Tags: House 2006 (all tags)



Chris, this is amazing research, I hope that people within the party are paying your analysis the attention it deserves. I will be calling and emailing blue dogs all day asking for apologies to Pelosi and more party unity, I hope it will help but I don't feel that it truly will until we make enough progressives aware of this.
by spacemuseum 2005-04-28 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Unreal
Party unity is nice, but I don't care if anybody gets an apology.  This is a tough business; in the end, it's about results, not hurt feelings.


by v2aggie2 2005-04-28 07:22PM | 0 recs
one small oversight
Great research Chris.  One small oversight.

>it would be necessary to replace 53 Republicans with Democrats

Not necessarily.  We could defeat less Republicans and replace a few Blue Dog Dems as well to gain the majority.  I tend to doubt that it would be harder to defeat a Dem in a primary than it is to defeat a Republican in a red district.

One interesting thing to note is Maurice Hinchey (NY), one of the progressive caucus with 100% loyalty.  He represents a rural so-called "red district" where local and state representatives are overwhelmingly Republican.  It'll be tough but the fact is we can win these areas if we run real progressive Dems.

by hotshotxi 2005-04-28 11:59AM | 0 recs
not going to happen
"We could defeat less Republicans and replace a few Blue Dog Dems as well to gain the majority."

Most if not all of the districts the blue dogs represent are not going to elect a Democrat that is not a blue dog.  While many of these districts the NC 7th, Florida 2nd, Tenn 5th are condusive to electing Democrats, the white Democratic voters in these disricts are conservative and often vote Republican for President and although these districts have a good share of black voters they need the white conservative votes to win.  Otherwise the GOP will take these seats.

by THE MODERATE 2005-04-28 03:47PM | 0 recs
and defeated Rethugs will?
I'm sure it'll be easier to take a district that is already represented by a Dem than one represented by a wingnut.
by hotshotxi 2005-04-28 04:19PM | 0 recs
Re: and defeated Rethugs will?
Not if it is a moderate-to-conservative district.
We have incumbent Democrats who are still better than any Republicans in these districts.  Why do want to threaten them?

This isn't growth.  It's just running in circles, and it is a philosophy that I can do with out.

by v2aggie2 2005-04-28 07:28PM | 0 recs
Re: one small oversight
Hinchey does not represent a red district. Not by any means. His district includes very liberal Ulster County (home of Woodstock and New Paltz), solidly Dem Binghamton, and Ithaca, which is about as left-wing as you can get. Yeah, he also has deep-red Delaware County and 50-50 Sullivan County, but they don't have close to enough voters to outweigh those anchors of Democratic strength.

Indeed, Hinchey's district is a quintessential Democratic gerrymander. Go look up the map; I don't feel like posting it.

by JoshInNYC 2005-04-28 07:08PM | 0 recs
umm, no
Very liberal Ulster County?  Are you kidding me?  The county is very Republican and only starting to move left.  Still, the county legislature is majority Republican, it barely went for Kerry, and is mostly represented by Republicans in the state legislature.

The district might be gerrymandered now and safer, but it has a very Republican past.

by hotshotxi 2005-04-28 08:19PM | 0 recs
Re: umm, no
actually, it backed Kerry by 11 points.

my grandparents are from there, so I'm quite familiar with both its Republican past and the astonishingly rapid turn to the left it's taken in the past decade. my grandfather was registered as a Republican for years, despite always supporting Democrats federally, because it was the only way to have any political clout. but these days it's a different story.

I can't speak to Ulster's county legislature, but the state leg. is also highly gerrymandered--the Senate for Republicans, the Assembly for Dems.

by JoshInNYC 2005-04-28 09:46PM | 0 recs
I Love Julia Carson
One of the bright spots of living in Indiana (as mucha s I defend it we do have many problems) is being represented by Julia Carson. Good to see her as loyal as I perceived her to be.
by descolada99 2005-04-28 12:22PM | 0 recs
Re: I Love Julia Carson
What part of Indiana does she represent? I noted her and Bennie Thompson in Mississippi as progressives voting solidly democratic in states as red as they can be. Unless they are in some easily identifiable liberal pocket it puts the lie to the idea that progressive Democrats can't win in red states.
by Andrew C White 2005-04-28 06:04PM | 0 recs
Re: I Love Julia Carson
Sadly, they are in easily identifiable liberal pockets. Carson represents inner-city Indianapolis, and Thompson represents the heavily black Mississippi Delta region.
by JoshInNYC 2005-04-28 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: I Love Julia Carson
It's not JUST "inner city" indianapolis. Her district covers the old city limits as well as stretches into most of the county townships. True it is a very urban district, but it's hardly all "inner city" which implies minorities and poor.
by descolada99 2005-04-29 05:42AM | 0 recs
no more hounding the DLC...
hound the blue dogs!
by colorless green ideas 2005-04-28 01:05PM | 0 recs
This is excellent
Where you find time to do this boggles my mind.  The entire series is wonderful.

We should definitely focus our attention on the Blue Dog Coalition, and get them in line on core Democratic principles.  There's no way we will ever get majority status with Democrats who vote against Democratic principles 46.7% of the time.

by DaleH 2005-04-28 01:24PM | 0 recs
DLC and Blue Dogs have a pretty significant overlap though, don't they?

Makes me wonder if there's wide contrast between any of the following groups: the ones that are DLC and not Blue Dog, the ones that are Blue Dog and not DLC, and the ones that are both.

I think if I were in office, I'd probably be in both the DLC and the progressive caucus.

by tunesmith 2005-04-28 02:01PM | 0 recs
I think that the DLC as an organization represents the position of the Blue Dogs, while the DLC-associated Congressmembers have been duped into--or adopted as a measure of convenience--an organizational alignment that doesn't clearly reflect who they are.

I know that when I speak of the DLC, it's the organization that I'm thinking of. It's not everyone in Congress who's one their website.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-04-28 02:24PM | 0 recs
Agreed. Biden for example is not listed as DLC. It only takes a $40 fee to join the DLC and I'm sure membership has its privileges. It also tends to water down the voting pattern of core DLC power brokers and provide them cover.

The DLC is just short hand for the power brokers who may or may not be DLC, but definitely aline more with the Blue Dogs than the progressive bloc.

Instead of actual membership in the DLC, a better barometer might be which Dems received the largest contributions from Energy, Pharma, Banking, etc.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-04-28 03:07PM | 0 recs
one BIG oversight
According to your methodology, your analysis covers only eight votes in the first session of this Congress. That's a statistically insignificant sample size if you're talking about analyzing the votes of individual members of Congress.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You've got a politician who's considered essentially a moderate Democrat or even a little hawkish. His record over a period of years clearly indicates that. But because the bills voted on during a specific year aren't an ideologically neutral testing ground, his political enemies find that over the most recent session his voting record could be construed as making him the "most liberal" member of the body.

For this analysis to be statistically significant, you'd need to extend the time period covered over a period of years.

I might also mention that the Blue Dogs haven't exactly been in charge of the party leadership for the past 20 years. Nor have members of the Progressive Caucus. The DLC, however, has claimed credit for electing Bill Clinton, and members have been in charge of the DNC, and been involved in the 2000 and 2004 general campaigns. In that period the Democrats have lost control of both houses of Congress. I suppose you could blame the Blue Dogs, but they weren't running the show.

by darrelplant 2005-04-28 04:29PM | 0 recs
I would love to see you break down the "Republican Main Streeters" to see how they vote in comparison with their leadership.

The particularly striking thing to me is that while most people would say that what cleavage there is within the Democratic Party is based on social issues, most of the votes you are looking at are matters of economic policy.

by Patience 2005-04-28 06:09PM | 0 recs
 It would be great if you would repost over here the summary you put up at dKos.

This is an amazing piece of  journalism.  Amazing.

But what is the issue that unites the Blue Dog Democrats?  

by Jeffrey Feldman 2005-04-28 06:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Amazing
"But what is the issue that unites the Blue Dog Democrats?   "

Fiscal Responsibility, from what i gather.

if i might interject a couple of things:

i emailed John Tanner's office after getting riled up reading  Tanner's office responded from the point of view that the President's apparent proposal (at the time) was impossible to implement due to the amount of debt it would need to be funded.

anyone read the Blue dog's letter to Hastert?

their take?  it's important to pay off your debts, if it's possible to.

there've been several blog posts and jokings about "remember the good old fashioned republicans?  the ones with the calculator who'd pipe up 'how are we going to pay for this?'".

isn't it, in a way, good to have coalition of DEMOCRATS who are the calculator holders?

is it important for them to be Democrats, and listen to the party?  of course.

if all the Blue Dogs had had voted in line with the Democratic Leadership, would the bills have passed anyways?

by not voting along with Dem Leadership, but voting according to Blue Dog Fiscal Responsibility Principles, they give future Dem Leadership the opportunity (if it is taken and/or not destroyed before then) to say "Hey, look at our Party!  We have great ideas, and we have great thinkers, and we have a coalition of Fiscally Responsible Reps who feel it is intrinsically important to be able to PAY FOR all the great things we want to do.  Look what the Republicans have been doing for the past 8 years, they've just put us further in debt.  "

Now, don't get me wrong, if they are merely Republicans in Democrat clothing, they shouldn't be called democrats.

to get back the email i got from Tanner's office, it states "Ensuring the long-term solvency of the Social Security program is an absolute necessity. "  and goes on about how enlarging the national deficit is bad.

There are many paths to a goal.  is it more important that every single democrat follows the exact same path to that goal lockstep, or is it more important to get to the goal?

That being said, i think it's important to get to the goal, and to get to the goal you can't fight amongts yourselves so much that it's impossible to get there.

do the blue dogs need to listen to dem leadership?  if they really are dems, of course.

but don't you think that dem leadership needs to listen to its members?  especially a group that is trying to get to the same goal, but on a different path?

by arkabee 2005-04-28 07:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Amazing
All good questions.  I have no idea what the answers are.  

I think the whole point of Chris' series was to point out that the anger against the DLC had no foundation in actual voting patterns, that's all.  Whether or not the BDD is harming the party--I'm not sure how to figure that out.  Like everyone else, I'm catching up on this issue.

by Jeffrey Feldman 2005-04-29 05:07AM | 0 recs
No vindication for the DLC
I don't think this vindicates the DLC at all. The Blue Dogs have a reason to defect, since they often represent Red districts and I'll even grant that they have personal convictions that lead them to vote the way they do. This goes for DLC members who are in the same boat too.

But I don't have a lot of sympathy for DLC members who are disloyal for no good reason other than that's the way the wind seems to be blowing. I don't necessarily agree with everything that the Progressive Caucus does in either approach or policy, but the DLC has a penchant for going off the reservation so often that there is no reservation to speak of left. As it stands, the House Democrats are a loose coalition of three different parties, and I would like to see both the Progressive Caucus and the DLC make some sacrifices on some issues and form a unified front, bringing the Blue Dogs on wherever possible. However, the one issue that the Progressive Caucus won't compromise on is the DLC's addiction to corporate funding, even above pro-Life/pro-Choice and pro-"family"/pro-gay, and I don't see that going away soon.

by MrOnion 2005-04-28 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: No vindication for the DLC
I think this is precisely right.  In many cases the Blue Dogs have good reasons for their positions.  The DLC defectors rarely do.  

And I think it is inaccurate to measure loyalty by quantity of votes.  One problem with the DLCers is that they seem to abandon the party at the most critical moments.  Another problem is their rhetoric.  Too often they speak of the Democratic base with naked contempt.  That tone rubs off on voters.  If Democratic leaders don't support the grassroots, is it really a party that one would want to belong to?

by space 2005-04-29 05:27AM | 0 recs
General comment
Chris, I think this is really promising research, and I like the methodology, but my inner statistician is screaming "Sample size of 10! Sample size of 10!"

One way to look at this is to consider what you would expect to see if the probability that a given Rep votes with the party is .825(the Dem average), and then look at the expected distribution pattern for 10 votes. On a lark, I did this in a spreadsheet model (was faster than calculating the exact probabilities by hand). I ran the model for 203 Reps, 10 times, and then took the average. Here are the results.

Number of Reps that would be expected to be loyal on...

10 votes: 28 Reps
9 votes: 65 Reps
8 votes: 58 reps
7 votes: 33
6 votes: 12
5 votes: 3
4 votes: 1
<4 votes: 0

The point of this is that your small sample size creates some risks of false positives or false negatives in trying to identify disloyal Democrats. A Democrat of average party loyalty could have found himself with high disloyalty just because of bad luck in the draw of these particular votes.

I don't think it detracts from your overall conclusions, as the Blue Dog deviance rate seems far higher than could be expected by chance. I also would think, based on this, that any Dem with a loyalty score of less than 4 has a lot of explaining to do, even with the small sample size. I only raise it as this could easily turn into a "Democratic shit list", and as you say, we really want to make sure we target the right people.

I recommend broadening your analysis to the last Congress, or adding more data points for votes in the current Congress, to get a more accurate list.

I also think that other commentators are correct in that some of the Blue Dogs have it tough, living in very marginal districts. But not all. Collin Peterson, for instance, from Minnesota, is in a rural, working class district, and probably doesn't have the freedom of most Dems on issues involving firearms, farming, and "values". But he did get 67% of the vote in 2004, and there is no electoral excuse for his being in Marshall's "fainthearted faction". The guy clearly has a lot of wiggle room.

I think a combination of your list with election results and a subjective assessment of the districts in question would be a great tool in whipping the party into a bit more shape. Nice work.

by Raskolnikov 2005-04-28 09:43PM | 0 recs
Can you validate with 2003-4 votes?
Great analysis.  But I agree that ten votes is pretty thin, especially when you try to balance the topic of the votes (social issues, economic...).

I think a similar analysis of the 2003-2004 Congress would be very enlightening, and give you a larger sample of votes.  Either you'd validate your analysis or find a pattern you hadn't seen in just ten votes.

by dwightmc 2005-04-30 04:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Congressional Loyalty Scorecards, Part Five: P


You mentioned excel spread sheets, did you post these? I'm sure other people as well as I would like to use them for track more recent votes.


by leschwartz 2006-03-25 04:56PM | 0 recs


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