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Most Republican Democrats
vs. True Blue, not Blue Dog

September 26, 2005

This spring, Chris Bowers over at MyDD did a series on House Democratic party voting loyalty. He identified the problem and their name is Blue Dogs. They turned out to have an atrocious party voting loyalty rate, little better than flipping a coin, really. For all the complaints about the DLC, it was eye-opening to discover they weren't the problem, vote-wise.

This is a big issue, because it means even if the Dems make a comeback and have a majority in Congress, Blue Dogs will still be voting with the Republicans.

That was pretty early in the term, so one could argue the statistics were a little thin. He used the relative handful of critical party votes to do the analysis. Perhaps the trend wasn't as clear as he made out.

So I thought I'd do an update.

Since the House uses XML to serve up rollcall votes, I was able to slice, dice and load it all into my database, then ask a few questions. Excel, my old trusty friend finished it off with a nice color-coded pivot table. I've generated a PDF with two views of the data: Most Republican Democrats vs. True Blue, not Blue Dog. I've marked Blue Dogs and Progressive Caucus members, to make it even more clear.

A little explanation of methodology.

I ran an analysis of all votes, recording the majority Democratic and Republican positions for each rollcall, as well as other statistics. With those statistics in hand, I ran a query that categorized and tallied up four classifications of votes for each Dem representative:

  • Against the party: voting with the Republicans against the Dems
  • Anti-bi-partisan: voting against a measure which the bulk of the Democrats and Republicans took the same position
  • Bi-Partisan: voting with the majority on a bi-partisan supported measure
  • With the party: voting with the Democratic bloc in opposition to Republicans

There were two reasons for this approach.

  1. I wanted to deprive the least loyal Dems of their cover for supporting the large number of bi-partisan supported measures and
  2. to remove the stigma that progressive's have for taking stances with little support from the bulk of the Democratic party. 

The first is only fair as it helps weed out non-consequential votes, much the way Chris Bowers had done by hand picking votes that mattered. The latter ensures that you can tell the difference between the mainstream and the progressives. I didn't do the Senate statistics at this point, but I decided on this approach after I looked at the very first Senate vote of the year. Barbara Boxer introduced an objection to the electoral votes, so the issue could be opened up for debate in the House. Michael Moore had made a point of this in Fahrenheit 9/11, you might remember. Well, Boxer introduced her objection and voted alone in it's behalf. I knew that in other cases single Congresspersons had voted their conscience alone or in small groups while the rest of the body voted for things en masse. I'm thinking of a certain war....

As it turns out, the anti-bi-partisan category also strips the cover from the least loyal Democrats as well. Among the top 10 Most Republican Democrats (8 Blue Dogs), 855 votes have been cast with the Republicans, while 122 against measures with bi-partisan support. Blue Dogs are pretty keen on bi-partisanism. You have to go down to the 40th Most Republican Democrat to find one that has cast more votes for the party on a partisan issue than for bi-partisan measures. Of the top 10 Most Republican, 56% of their votes with the Democrats are bi-partisan supported measures. Are they really voting with the Dems? Or just voting with the crowd? Take the bi-partisan votes votes away and the difference between voting for the party or against it gets pretty small.

At the other end of the scale, the Progressive coalition dominates, with few votes favoring the Republican position against Democrats. Conyers is #50 on the True Blue scale, with 7 Republican leaning votes. Yet many members of this group have voted repeatedly with lonely voices. I would imaging that a good number of those votes are for solidly progressive principles.

Anyway, have a look. It advances Chris Bowers thesis strongly, now that there's lots of datapoints to analyze. And if you catch anything that looks odd, let me know. I discovered I had Sharrod Brown's name and a Republican from SC switched (votes were tied to the right party so it didn't show up in the tally checks) and that the Millers had gotten mixed up (that one did throw off the numbers until I fixed it). I've spotchecked my rollcall vote breakdowns and checked who's who coalition-wise, so I think I've got it right now. It is a quarter million vote records to futz with, so not an insignificant weekend project.

And lest you think I suffered at home alone over a hot SQL Sever all weekend -- Green Day was awesome! I even loved the rock'n'roll cliches. Like emo observed (he saw them in Mpls), they did the cliches with that sense they couldn't believe they actually got the chance to do them. Kudo's and thanks to my bud "Ozzfest" John. Oh yeah, and a big f*** you to George F***ing Bush! We are the champions, my friend. Um, what was this article about again?