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January 13, 2007

All Your Northeastern Moderates Are Belong To Us

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Ramesh Ponnuru asks:

Last time around, it was 238-194. So while the Democrats picked up 30 seats, embryonic stem-cell research funding picked up only 15 votes. If the issue is so powerful, shouldn't the second number be higher than the first?

What actually happened here is that a substantial portion of Democratic gains came from defeating moderate Republicans -- for example, Rob Simmons, Jim Leach, Nancy Johnson, and the guys from New Hampshire -- who were voting for stem cell research before.  With Chris Shays as the last Republican from New England, we're left with a much more polarized House. 

January 13, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

As usual, Ramesh Ponnuru has taken simple facts and tried to spin them into his world-view. I'm not sure that he even believes his own bullshit.

Posted by: MarvyT | Jan 13, 2007 1:10:23 PM

There were 29 more Democrat ayes than last time, 13 fewer Republican ayes. (There's also an independent in the mix.) More polarized, yes.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 13, 2007 1:36:10 PM

I don't understand why the House is more resistant to this stuff. After all, everyone in the Senate is pro-life except Snowe, Collins, and Specter, and there are 15 Republican Senators who voted for it. You would think there'd be a veto proof majority in the House.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jan 13, 2007 1:37:46 PM

Why would the second number be higher than the first? Typical Republican innumeracy. Ponnuru expected us to gain more votes than we gained Democrats?

For the record, there were a grand total of four new Democrats who voted against the bill: Donnelly (IN), Ellsworth (IN), Shuler (NC), and Wilson (OH). The first three replaced Republicans who voted no the last time. Charlie Wilson is the only step backward, since he succeeded Ted Strickland, who had voted yes.

Posted by: KCinDC | Jan 13, 2007 4:13:11 PM

Also, three House members changed their votes from no to yes: Kildee (D-MI), Holden (D-PA), and Reichert (R-WA). No one went from yes to no.

Posted by: KCinDC | Jan 13, 2007 4:17:57 PM

Why would the second number be higher than the first? Typical Republican innumeracy. Ponnuru expected us to gain more votes than we gained Democrats?

No, he expected most new Democrats to vote yes, but wonders why more Republicans didn't join, if the issue is so "powerful." At least that's what he appears to mean.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 13, 2007 4:55:08 PM

But he's ignoring the fact that when a yes-voting Republican is replaced by a yes-voting Democrat there's no net change.

Posted by: KCinDC | Jan 13, 2007 5:16:42 PM

Pro-life is not a useful term in this context, given the near unanimous support of "pro-life" LDS senators like Hatch and Smith for stem cell research (at least as reflected in previous votes, I haven't seen how they voted on this one).

Although I dislike the term, I suspect at least some of the readers of this blog would consider me somewhat "pro-life," but I fail to be convinced that stem cell research has a damned thing to do with abortion, outside of the worldview of the John Paul II Institute of Fascist Mysticism.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady | Jan 13, 2007 5:36:32 PM

KC, you may be right. Hard to tell if he's really ignoring anything, since he says so little. One might expect that whatever led to 30 more Democrats would also have led to more Republican nos being replaced by yesses, if this was really a key issue. It may be accounted for in large part by the fact that Republican nos tend to be in safer Republican districts than Republican yesses.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 13, 2007 5:46:59 PM

As Neil was saying, I should add.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 13, 2007 6:10:35 PM

It seems to me at least plausible that Republicans who aren't budging on this even though it's a divisive issue are doing so because they're trying to please the fundamentalist base, and do the socially conservative thing regardless of whether or not it polls well - perhaps they're more likely trying to give the answer that'll get more supporters out to the polls. We don't really have much precedent for that here, though, since I don't believe there have been any other religiously motivating votes so far.

Posted by: Jon O. | Jan 13, 2007 8:01:53 PM

Let's not hide the fact that we did pick up some Republican seats, where the vote did not change. I'm thinking of Shuler here, who voted against the stem cell research bill.

He is blogging at the Asheville Times and gave his excuse here.

Posted by: Robert P. | Jan 13, 2007 9:42:18 PM

"Although I dislike the term, I suspect at least some of the readers of this blog would consider me somewhat "pro-life," but I fail to be convinced that stem cell research has a damned thing to do with abortion, outside of the worldview of the John Paul II Institute of Fascist Mysticism."

And that, of course, is the political beauty of the stem cell issue for Dems.

It's a way of reaching sane pro-life voters.

By dividing sane pro-life voters from the crazy theocrats, it serves as a wedge into the Republican coalition.

-----

"You would think there'd be a veto proof majority in the House."

Thank god there's not.

Like many maximal wedge issues with minimal policy impact, this is much more valuable as future campaign material than it would be as law. (Yeah. I know. Your grandma has Alzheimer's and this matters vitally to you. Apologies in advance for my inhuman callousness.)

Just as Republicans would be unhappy if they ever managed to pass a flag burning amendment, taking that wedge issue off the table, I'd be unhappy if we could override a Bush veto on stem cells. The law will pass when we have a Democratic Congress and White House. In the meantime, I'd rather have the issue to run elections on. It's a good issue for us.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 14, 2007 1:21:32 AM

Apologies in advance for my inhuman callousness.

Go to the corner, face the wall, and put your pointy pundit hat on.

I'd be happy to trade this wedge issue for better research funding.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 14, 2007 2:41:41 AM

Personally, I wouldn't describe this as "sane" versus "non-sane" pro-lifers. In fact, the polls on stems cells reflect what general polls about abortion show (when breaking down whether abortion should be legal if had for certain reasons - birth defect (suppurt is high) versus economic hard times (support is low)). A huge amount of the Country very specifically supports abortion in situations that might impact them but oppose it in situations that are unlikely to arise.

Similarly, huge numbers of Americans may want the benefits of this research. So, they support stem cell research. But if it was a woman who wanted an abortion because she was poor or simply did not want a child - Tough!

Posted by: MDtoMN | Jan 14, 2007 10:03:07 AM

"Personally, I wouldn't describe this as "sane" versus "non-sane" pro-lifers. In fact, the polls on stems cells reflect what general polls about abortion show (when breaking down whether abortion should be legal if had for certain reasons - birth defect (suppurt is high) versus economic hard times (support is low)). A huge amount of the Country very specifically supports abortion in situations that might impact them but oppose it in situations that are unlikely to arise."

Feel free to quibble with my sane/non-sane terminology, but in an important sense, you're agreeing with my larger point.

Within the pro-life universe, there's one chunk of Americans who are flatly and intensely opposed to abortion, and there's another chunk of Americans who are "opposed to" abortion, but see its legality as a question of shades of grey.

Driving a wedge between those two groups is in the strategic interests of Democrats, and that's exactly what foregrounding the stem cell issue does.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 14, 2007 11:43:31 AM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 5:14:45 AM

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