Which Congressional Democrats are progressive enough?

Progressive Punch has added a new and incredibly useful layer of analysis to its rankings of members of Congress by voting record.

The “Select by Score” pages now indicate how progressive representatives and senators are compared to the districts and states they represent.

Select by Score Senate rankings

Select by Score House rankings

As before, you see members of the House and Senate ranked from most progressive to least progressive, based on all votes as well as on certain “crucial votes.” Calculating a separate score for “crucial votes” reveals which Democrats are not reliable when the chips are down. This helps prevent gaming of the system, as when Joe Lieberman voted against filibustering Samuel Alito’s nomination for the Supreme Court, then turned around and voted against confirming him.

For the new feature, Progressive Punch has placed every state and Congressional district into one of five categories: strong D, lean D, swing, lean R, and strong R. Each Congress-critter’s “crucial vote” score is then compared to the political lean of the district or state. In the right-hand column on the “Select by Score” pages, every member of Congress now has a rating from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most progressive. Progressive Punch explains:

The “%” and “Rating” columns underneath the “Progressive Score vs. State Tilt” are two different ways of measuring the same thing. They both measure how naughty or nice a member of Congress’ voting record has been in relation to his/her district. We’re grading on a curve. Five stars in the “Rating” column indicate members of Congress who are doing the best in terms of voting MORE progressively than could necessarily be expected given their states or districts. Those with one star are performing the worst in relation to their districts.

For more details on the methodology behind this analysis, click here for House ratings and here for Senate ratings.

Why is this useful? It’s now much easier to see which Democrats in Congress are voting about as well as could be expected, and which ones should be doing a lot better.  

Here are a few examples. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Harry Reid have identical lifetime progressive scores on crucial votes. However, since Feinstein represents a strong Democratic state (CA) and Reid represents a swing state (NV), Feinstein gets a 1 while Reid gets a 3.

Ron Wyden (OR), Barbara Mikulski (MD) and Amy Klobuchar (MN) have very similar lifetime scores, but Wyden and Klobuchar get 4s because they represent lean-Democrat states. Mikulski gets a 3 when graded on a curve that takes into account Maryland’s solid Democratic profile.

Similarly, Daniel Inouye (HI) gets a 1, while Jon Tester (MT) gets a 3 for almost the same “crucial vote” score, because Montana leans Republican.

Jeff Bingaman (NM), Jim Webb (VA) and Byron Dorgan (ND) have very similar progressive lifetime scores, but Bingaman gets a 2 for representing a lean-Democrat state, Webb gets a 3 for representing a swing state, and Dorgan gets a 4 for representing a lean-Republican state.

Scanning down the Select by Score House page, a few Democrats stand out. There’s Timothy Bishop (NY-01) with a 5 rating for how he represents his swing district, while most of the House members with similar lifetime scores get 3s, because they represent strong Democratic districts.

Dave Obey (WI-07) and Peter DeFazio (OR-04) get 4s because they represent lean-Democrat districts. Most of the House members with similar lifetime progressive scores get 3s.

Amid a large group of House Democrats who get a 2 when their crucial vote score is compared to how strongly Democratic their districts are, James Oberstar (MN-08) gets a 4 for a similar progressive score because he represents a swing district, while Michael Michaud (ME-02) and Paul Hodes (NH-02) get a 3 because their districts lean Democratic.

How can progressives use this information? One way would be to determine which incumbents in safe Democratic seats should face more pressure from the left. In extreme cases, this pressure could include a primary challenge.

Also, these rankings reveal which Democratic primaries should become top priorities for progressives when incumbents retire. For example, John Murtha (PA-12) and Henry Cuellar (TX-28) represent strongly Democratic districts but vote like Democrats representing swing or Republican districts.

I discussed Iowa representatives’ rankings in more detail at Bleeding Heartland. The relatively low score for Leonard Boswell (IA-03) was no surprise, but Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) didn’t fare much better when graded on the Progressive Punch curve that took into account their strongly Democratic districts.

Progressive Punch Schocker and more

Last night I was checking out the Progressive Punch scores for the new GOP House members.  Much of it was expected and depressing.  Seven of the new GOPers had a Progressive Punch score of zero.  That’s right Pete Olson (TX-22), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Blaine Leurkemeyer (MO-9, winner by 8,000 votes), Duncan Hunter (CA-52, son of that Duncan Hunter), Gregg Harper (MS-3),Brett Guthrie (KY-2) and John Fleming (LA-4) all had yet to cast a single “progressive” vote.

Eight others were not far behind with seven at 3.23 (Glenn Thompson, Tom Rooney, Tom McClintock, Lynn Jenkins, Mike Coffman, Jason Chaffetz, and Steve Austria) and one at 3.33 (Bill Posey).  Jenkins is a disappointment here.

Four showed at least a hint of moderation:  Phil Roe of TN-1 (6.45), Christoher Lee of NY-26 (9.68), Joseph Cao of LA-2 (12.90) and the positive surprise wonderkid Aaron Schock of IL-18 (16.13).  Lee is an improvement over the man he replaced, Tom Reynolds.  He might be harder to displace than I hoped.

I started counting Republicans by the year they were elected from information I had collected but found that the Washington Post lists representatives by class (the year first elected).  The results mainly “agreed” but the Post disregards gaps in serevice.  Ciro Rodriguez, for example, is shown as 1997 not 2006.  Dan Lungren, who served ten years and then left the House for 14 years is shown as 1978.

The Post lists 36 classes (they don’t list the class of 2008.  Republicans win 10 of the 37 classes (we know how 2008 turned out); 2 classes are tied and Democrats win 25 of the 37 classes.  The largest Republican class is the class of 2002 with 24 Republicans (and 13 Democrats).  The largest Democratic class is the class of 2006 with 37 members.  The famous class of 1974 where Democrats picked up 49 seats is reduced to just four members, all Democrats.  The Newt “Contract ” class of 1994 has been beaten down to 23 members, 16 Republicans and 7 Democrats.  There are more Republican House members left from the class of 1992 (18) than from the “revolutionary” class of 1994.  The Revolution is over.

The Republican years are 1973, (1-0), 1978 (3-0 including Lungren), 1979 (1-0, Tom Petri IIRC), 1980 (5-1), 1989 (1-0), 1994 (16-7), 2000 (17-12),2001 (5-1), and 2002 (24-13) and 2005 (2-1).

The three House members with the most seniority are all midwestern Democrats: John Dingell (1955, I kid you not), John Conyers (1964) and David Obey (1969, I remember his surprise election as an anti-war candidate).  The two Republicans with the most seniority are both named Young (Bill was elected in 1970, Don in 1973).  The other Republicans from the 70s are either from Wisconsin (Sensenbrenner and Petri) or California (Lungren and Jerry Lewis).

A narrow majority of Republican House members came in with George W. Bush.  2004 was the electoral high point for Republicans since 1928 when Herbert Hoover was elected along with 270 House members.  Since the election of 1932, Republicans have had the Trifecta for six years and five months.  The first spell lasted from early 1953 to early 1955.  Eisenhower was pretty moderate and the Republican legislative edges were about as slim as possible with 221 House members and a 48-47-1 edge in the Senate.  With the stolen Presidential election of 200, Republicans regained the trifecta from January 20,2001 to Jun 6,2001.  Their edge was 211 House seats, a 50-50 Senate vote with Dick Cheney as the tie-breaker and that is what Cheney did.  By obnoxiously leaning on Jim Jeffords and sonstantly denigrating him and threatening milk supports for Vermont Vheney pushed Jeffords to caucus with the Democrats.  Way to break the tie, Dick.  From January 2003 through January 2007 the Republican glory years broke out.  Following the 2002 election Republicans had a modest 229 seats in the House and 51 in the Senate.  With the elction of 2004 it spread to 229 House seats and a 55-45 Senate edge.  Then came Katrina.  And Iraq’s death toll mounting.

Since then, it’s been our time.