New Tool For Rating Dems In Congress

by: Paul Rosenberg

Tue Oct 02, 2007 at 16:42

Progressive Punch has just announced the addition of a new tool for rating members of Congress, which should prove especially useful in getting a fix on different Democrats.  It's called a "Chips Are Down" score and has just been calculated for the current congressional session.

Progressive Punch explains:

The votes used to calculate the scores in the "Chips Are Down '07-'08" column are a subset of the overall votes that qualify according to the Progressive Punch algorithm described above. They show the impact that even a small number of Democrats have when they defect from the progressive position. These are votes where either progressives lost or where the progressive victory was narrow and could have been changed by a small group of Democrats voting differently. The definition of a vote where progressives lost is one where a majority of the progressive cohort (see list below) was on the losing side of the vote. Narrow progressive victories are defined as votes in which progressives won by 20 votes or fewer in the House (so a shift of 10 votes from one side to the other would have changed the result) or by 6 votes or fewer in the Senate (so a shift of 3 votes from one side to the other would have changed the result).

You can see the scores here:  Senate, and House.

Paul Rosenberg :: New Tool For Rating Dems In Congress

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Incredibly important. (0.00 / 0)
When votes aren't close, most legislators vote however they think the politics works the best for them. It's when the votes are close that you really find out whether they support the better policy position. This is a great new way to measure legislators' votes.

Excited to start playing with it (0.00 / 0)
The first thing that jumps out at me is the variation from center.  Some of this is probably to do with majority/minority status in general, but not most of it.  The "best" Republican is Wayne Gilcrest at 29.25% off center (50%).  34 Democrats are closer to center.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

Which would mean (0.00 / 0)
That you go through 34 Democrats before getting to the first Republican in a "most likely to break ranks" list.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

[ Parent ]
New Jersey (0.00 / 0)
3 of the top 4 Republicans in the House are from NJ. 

The detestable Scott Garrett is at #382, a huge outlier.  He is far too right wing for our state. 

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Garrett (4.00 / 1)
Runs behind the national ticket and has slowly been losing ground every race (60% to 58% to 55%).  Last year around election time, Garrett signs were prevalent only in Sussex county.  Most of the district is in the richest section of Bergen where he's an embarrassment.  Garrett lost Alpine, the richest town with the highest property values in the state (median is over $2 million per house).  He lost because in a small town with 1500 votes, a couple hundred Keane voters refused to cast a vote for the House in this town alone.

Primaries are usually a good thing but it hurt the Democrats badly in 2006.  Aronsohn never recovered the momentum despite a relatively easy win.  It's a shame.  He seemed lke a pretty guy (I met him in a small group meeting for about 2 hours).  Certainly better than Garrett.  Garrett not only votes wrong, he's got a reputation for being rude to constituents, particularly the disabled (like wheel chair disabled, too).

This is a long winded way of saying that I think Garrett is going down soon.  Maybe this election, maybe the next.  He's a Republican extremist in a moderate suburban and exurban district.  He inherited the seat from moderate Marge Roukema after running two nasty Club For Growth primary fights against her.  Word (from Aronsohn)was that Roukema was quietly backing Aronsohn the last time although that may not have been the case.

[ Parent ]
Interesting Garrett Challenger (0.00 / 0)
After looking at the race, I discovered an intriguing challenger to Garrett, Dennis Shulman.  Psychologist, Rabbi, and blind since early in life:


It will be interesting to see if he can raise some money and make this a race.

[ Parent ]
Engel and the Georgia boys (0.00 / 0)
Wow, what fun.  Bob Etheridge (87.77%) and Ciro Rodriguez (87.46% scored best in the clutch followed by Brian Baird (86.94%) among the Bush dogs.  Eleven Bush Dogs scored over 80% in the clutch. 

The name that just screamed off this list is Elliot Engel.  Engel's district, IIRC is mostly in the Bronx but includes some of Westchester.  In the clutch, Engel scores worse than most of the Bush dogs at a pathetic 73.44%.  How do you spell primary? E-n-g-e-l.  I lived in Engel's district for a few years circa 10 years ago and he was considered a crummy congressman for constituent service at least for Westchester.  The implication (in the newspapers) was that he favored the Bronx but maybe he wasn't that interested in actually helping people.

The lowest House scores in the clutch were held by the two Georgia boys, John Barrow (54.72%) and Jim Marshall (56.37%).  Nick Lampson is next at 58.60%.  By contrast, Gene Taylor was at 63.21%.  Barrow and Marshall are expensive toys.

On the Republican side, Olympia Snowe voted with us in the clutch 46% of the time.  Chris Shays lived down to his reputation of being absent in the clutch (15.97%) about half his typical score.  I think he will retire to preserve his reputation as the last Republican House member from New England rather than waiting to go down.  Last year Lieberman campaigned with Shays and helped drag him across the finish line.  Not this time, Chris.

Names that scream off the list. (0.00 / 0)
Suppose that one is inclined to give freshmen in republican districts a pass, for their first term at least, and suppose that one is more interested in finding long term incumbents in very Democratic districts who nonetheless vote against us, in the clutch.

Ranked from worst to lesser offenders, you get:

Eliot Engel
Henry Cuellar
Chaka Fattah
Solomon Ortiz
Jim Cooper
Yvette Clarke
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Artur Davis
Jerry Costello
Paul Kanjorski
Shelley Berkeley
Leonard Boswell
Robert Brady
Jane Harman
Ruben Hinojosa
Julia Carson
Dan Lipinski
Corrine Brown
Gene Green
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
and by that point you've pretty much reached the team players

Also, some of this bears closer inspection.  It's hard to imagine a vote that progressives stand any chance of winning (ie, it's "clutch time"), and yet aren't carrying Eddie Bernice Johnson or Yvette Clarke.  Furthermore, if all these people betrayed us in a group, as the Hoyer-Wynn gang tends to do, that wouldn't appear in this particular list because it wouldn't be a close loss. 

It's a good jumping off point though.  Seeing all these people scoring worse than known badguys like Dan Lipinski kinda boggles the mind however.  After all he has done, can there really be that many people worse than him?  Like I said, some peering under the hood will be required.

[ Parent ]
Single Issue Voters Will Just Love This (0.00 / 0)
Well I guess I shouldn't say single issue but it seems that way with a lot of people weighting their support of the Dem nominee on the war alone.

In the Senate 'chips are down' category the leader is:

Clinton - 92.95

followed by:

Obama - 83.22 

Dodd - 76.67 

That's quite a spread between Clinton and the others!

And to rub salt in the wound look at this:

Bill Nelson - Salazar - Feinstein - Schumer - Levin...

...all who most would consider moderate or slightly moderate all beat out Obama and Dodd when the 'chips are down'.

So while stopping the war is important is it the end all of Progressivism? These figures might make you think about that. And besides any Dem is going to end the was ASAP based on what is right for the country especially in not having to leave and go back into a bigger mess.

Dodd seems to be the progressive darling because he is saying (pandering?) the right things on the war but overall as a Progressive when the 'chips are down' - he is closing in on 20 points down versus Clinton. Hummm - 25% of the time he is not on our side. Say it ain't so.

Dodd votes against Iraq war stuff from the left. (0.00 / 0)
Although, your comment does point to a weakness of this system.

Voting with progressives, when they win in a tight vote, is a good thing.
Voting against progressives, when they LOSE in a tight vote, is a very bad thing.
Voting against progressives, when they WIN in a tight vote, is not a big deal.  At least not necessarily.

Illustration:  say you're Pelosi, and you're whipping a very tight vote on a controversial piece of progressive legislation.  You want only as many votes as you need to win AND NO MORE.  You put your conservative Dems in difficult districts on the famous DeLay catch-and-release plan, and once you're sure you have the votes you need, you contact your tame Democrats and tell them "thank you, I've got the votes, I want you to go ahead and protect yourself and vote against.  thanks for being a team player, but we don't need your vote this time."
Now that vote is going to be counted as a "bad vote" in this scoring system... after all, the congressman voted "against us in the clutch."  But that's not really what happened; he was available to help and his help just wasn't required this time.

So, voting against progressives when they WIN a tight vote can be a good thing.  It's voting against them when they LOSE that sucks.

Of course even then, if the whip has his shit together that should never happen.  Once you realize you're going to lose the vote, you should let all your marginals go immediately, so they don't hurt themselves with a dangerous vote that also accomplishes nothing (ie, the damn bill didn't even pass).  So a good whip would just pull the bill if he realized he didn't have the votes, or if he couldn't do that, he'd tell all his marginals to flip en masse, and let the bill lose by 45 votes.  You never want to force an extremely close vote on a controversial measure and lose it.  Then you've just hurt all your congresspeople for nothing.

Some of these things are just too damn complicated for simple quantitative measures to capture.  There's too much going on qualitatively, too much narrative to be accurately represented.  It's a real problem.

Back to Dodd and Iraq.  He votes against a lot of bills like Levin-Reed from the left.  That said, he's never going to let an important bill fail just cause it's not as strong as he'd like.  If it can pass without him, he'll let it do that, and if it's gonna fail even with him, then he'll vote against so he can stake out his position.  But if his vote were ever really needed you can be damn sure he'd be there.

Feingold, no.  Feingold has threatened to actually sink legislation from the left, by withholding his vote even when the whip would actually need it to pass the bill.  But then Feingold is more of a radical than Dodd is.

[ Parent ]
There Have Not Been (0.00 / 0)
that many Iraq votes to make Dodd's rating disparity as bad as it is. Plus Dodd only has an 'overall' Progressive rating of 82.23 for all votes he has cast in this '07 congress. Clinton's rating is 94.74 for the same period.

'Lifetime' Clinton is at 91.88. Dodd is 86.86.

So either way you slice it Clinton comes out on top.

Your point is well taken that the rating system for the 'chips are down' is not perfect for the reasons you pointed out but when you look at the other methods of rating that I included above the pattern between the two candidates is clear.

[ Parent ]
Explanation of why some members have low "Chips Are Down" percentage scores on Progressive Punch (4.00 / 1)
Hi,this is Joshua Grossman, President of Progressive Punch. It's exciting for me to see Paul's post and the mostly thoughtful responses to it. However, it seems clear that there's a little misunderstanding of how scores are arrived at.

  Five members of Congress -- Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Tim Johnson, Yvette Clarke & Eliot Engel -- have scores in all three categories on Progressive Punch that are significantly lowered by the number of absences on votes that they're not showing up for. Yvette Clarke had uterine fibroid surgery and Tim Johnson as most readers here know had a brain aneurysm. I'm not sure what the deal is with Eliot Engel. Obama and Dodd have missed many votes because of their presidential campaigns -- in contrast to Hilary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich.

We'll throw up asterisks next to Johnson's, Clarke's & probably Engel's names indicating why their scores are lower.We won't do that however for Obama and Dodd, because their absences are voluntary rather than involuntary. To my knowledge Progressive Punch has a more nuanced way of treating absences on votes than any other scorecard I've ever encountered. Other scorecards EITHER don't count absences at all when computing scores OR they automatically count an absence as a "bad" vote. We don't count the vote at all if it's not a close vote. But, if the vote is close then we count it as a bad vote. I'm not a Hilary Clinton supporter for president, but she is clearly doing a better job of showing up for the job the voters hired her for than Obama or Dodd are.

I invite people to go to the site and click on the "What is a Progressive Vote" link at the bottom of the home page for a detailed explanation of how votes in general qualify for our databases.

PP concept is fantastic !! Is there a data integrity issue? (0.00 / 0)
Hi Joshua,

Fantastic concept.  Desperately needed by the Progressive Movement.

A few questions...

I have not yet been able to find any "qualifying votes" for the 2006 session.  Surely the Senate and the House voted on something in 2006.

Is it just the user interface page code that is flawed and the 2006 vote data and 2006 summary statistics data are fine?  Or is it that the 2006 vote data itself for the gap periods is missing and yet there is confidence that the summary statistics data are fine?  Or is it that the summary statistics data are based on an incomplete vote data set--i.e., 2006 is missing?  Or...?  Or...?

What you're doing with ProgressivePunch is incredibly important for the Progressive Movement.  With that in mind, it's incredibly important that we progressives ensure that we make no mistakes about the fact that the data itself is solid.

3 Questions:

1) Have you been advised by any progressive with significant experience in database design and data management that the technical approach to data management underlying ProgressivePunch is flawed?

2) If the answer to question #1 is yes, I have a follow up question:  Have you addressed the flaws in database management approach underlying ProgressivePunch that were pointed out to you?

3) If the answer to question #3 is no, I have another follow up question.  Doesn't the Progressive Movement, and specifically OPEN LEFT and it's Bush-Dog campaign risk being made a mockery for trusting the ProgressivePunch data and summary statistics when, inevitably, those flaws become apparent to a larger audience?

[ Parent ]
The meaning of the PP missing votes issue (0.00 / 0)
I've created several flash videos using Techsmith's new screen capture utility called Jing that illustrate the problem I describe above.  I can share these if needed.

For example, on the page "JUSTICE FOR ALL: CIVIL AND CRIMINAL" , the site says that there are 114 votes in the "Equal Access to Justice VOTES" category.  If you click on that category you get a list of specific votes within that category.

If you count the number of votes in that category, you can see for yourself that there are 114 discrete votes listed.

But there are no votes for 2006 shown.  I assume that the Habeas Corpus votes of the House and Senate belong in this category and are important votes in rating the progressivism of our elected officials.  (If I've got the category wrong that the Habeas Corpus vote belongs in, point it out to me.)

What does this mean for the accuracy of the statistics shown at ProgressivePunch?

Well, it means all the lifetime Progressive Scores for our elected officials are calculated from an incomplete list of votes.

I live in CA-10 and I visited with Tauscher's staff this last Monday to discuss her MoveOn condemnation vote.  Now, fact of the matter is, if you compare Tauscher's lifetime score with her '07-'08 score, it's clear that her record has improved.

But now we know that the lifetime score is inaccurate.  And if the lifetime score is inaccurate, what other issues exist with the base vote data used to compute all the scoring statistics?

So, in fact, I can't have an honest and reasonable discussion with Tauscher's staff using ProgressivePunch.

And neither can you...

I completely understand that this is disappointing because I  also believe that the ProgressivePunch concept can be tremendously useful to us.  Joshua has done an incredible job on the CONCEPT.  I've said that before in posts as well as in private emails.  And this problem can and should be fixed so we should move forward to leverage the ProgressivePunch concept and what ProgressivePunch has already accomplished.

But we're having a hard enough time in the progressive movement getting people to pay attention to us.  We don't need nor can we afford to have an easy problem to uncover like this thrown in our faces.

IMO, it's better to have someone friendly like me pouring cold water on something exciting than we get too far ahead of ourselves and have a foe pour it on us.

[ Parent ]

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