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July 15, 2007

Senate Partisan Rankings

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

At last! Voteview has posted DW-NOMINATE scores for the 110th Senate. These rankings are a good approximation of how often Senators agree or disagree. So what happened with the six freshmen takeovers? On the DW-Nominate scale, a rank of 1 is "most liberal"; a rank of 100 is "most conservative". More properly, a rank of 1 means "least likely to agree with the Senator ranked 100", but liberal/conservative is a semi-reasonable approximation. I compared the new members' NOMINATE scores with the scores from the 108th Congress, before the incumbents shifted towards the center in the hopes of winning re-election.

State108th SenatorRank110th SenatorRank
PA Santorum 93 Casey, Jr. 10
RI Chafee 49 Whitehouse 4
OH DeWine 54 Brown 14
MO Talent 68 McCaskill 44
VA Allen 79 Webb 39
MT Burns 83 Tester 45

The surprises in the bunch, for me, are Bob Casey, Jr., who I was lead to believe would be essentially a blue dog: socially conservative and afraid of any tax increase; and Jon Tester, who I thought would be more of a bombthrower that would get credit with his constituents for making a tough stand, a sort of Western Paul Wellstone with a somewhat less liberal voting record. I also thought economic populism would be a good sell in Montana. But Tester doesn't seem to be straying very far from Max Baucus.

For the curious, Obama is in a tie for 7th; Clinton, an eight-way tie for 16th; Biden, a four-way tie for 29th; Dodd, 2nd; and Joe Lieberman, a four-way tie for 9th (!).

July 15, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Nice work, Nicholas!

As much as it is nice to see that the Senate has shifted some to the left, even nicer is....

Not having to see Santorum, DeWIne, (no Talent), Allen and (mind)Burns in the papers with US Senator as their ID.

Now if we could just get another 6-12 more like them pasturized (so coin a usage), maybe the Senate would act like something closer to the "world's greatest deliberative body' they claim to be.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 15, 2007 6:31:53 PM

That is indeed nice work, Nicholas.

"As much as it is nice to see that the Senate has shifted some to the left, even nicer is...."

...Having the majority and getting to run committees and the Senate calendar.

Posted by: Petey | Jul 15, 2007 6:44:35 PM

No Democrat with a lower rank than a Republican. Interesting about Obama--very high rank, especially considering his reputation in the blogosphere.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 15, 2007 6:47:55 PM

The way I see it is that in every single case, it's a lot of improvement over the Republican that held that seat and astronomical improvement in the case of Casey, Whitehouse and Brown.

I don't care how any one slices it, these guys are all way better, not just politically than their predecessors, but morally too.

Posted by: david in norcal | Jul 15, 2007 7:47:05 PM

I didn't see the moral rankings. Where did you find those?

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 15, 2007 8:21:50 PM

It should be noted that "people-powered" candidates did not fare particularly well on this measure compared to "establishment" candidates.

Posted by: Patrick | Jul 15, 2007 8:23:10 PM

in every single case, it's a lot of improvement over the Republican that held that seat

Specifically:
Talent to McCaskill: a 24-point shift, from a middle-of-the right R to a rightish D
Burns to Tester: a 38-point shift from hard-right R to rightish D
Allen to Webb: 40 point shift, from a righty R to a middle D
DeWine to Brown: 40 point shift, from a a middle R to a left D
Chafee to Whitehouse: 40 point shift, from leftmost R to nearly-leftmost D
Santorum to Casey: a staggering 83 point shift, from nearly rightmost R to a left D

Interesting stuff - I saw a similar rank order for the House, in which the biggest shift was from Bonilla to Ciro Rodriguez.

Posted by: SDM | Jul 15, 2007 8:46:57 PM

I didn't see the moral rankings. Where did you find those?

Exactly. Political beliefs and votes have no moral significance or consequence whatsoever.

Posted by: Tyro | Jul 15, 2007 10:27:02 PM

Ah, the old "we're the moral ones because we believe the right things!" approach? I find that, along with claiming to be part of the reality-based community, to typically be more arrogance than fact, in reality. I suspect david had something more in mind, since he distinguished the political from the moral.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 15, 2007 10:43:18 PM

Are the same issues under consideration in these two Congresses?

Posted by: otto | Jul 15, 2007 10:55:11 PM

Ah, the old "we're the moral ones because we believe the right things!" approach?

Hm. This is a bit of a philosophical issue-- certainly holding more moral beliefs does reflect a desire to be a more moral human being. But, truthfully, I do regard political participation as an expression of moral beliefs. If one can't take a moral stand against torture in your political life, what is the point of morals, anyway? If my political beliefs weren't the more moral ones, I would have other political beliefs. No one supports torture from a "it's more moral" position, in the traditional sense. They simply believe it should be allowed because it's what strong people do in such a situation. So, yeah, you can say opposition to torture is the more moral stance, and the loss of congressmen supporting it provide a net moral gain to the legislative branch.

But you, Sanpete, always seem a bit unwilling to make a moral judgment about political beliefs and their consequences, so your aversion to david's language is not unexpected.

I suspect david had something more in mind, since he distinguished the political from the moral.

It could be that he was referring to the loss of Foley, Harris, and others, resulting in a net moral gain, but this way lies trouble. The last thing I want is to get into a pissing match of "George Allen's racism vs. the bad marriage track record Democrat of your choice" and other such things. On the other hand, Jim Webb's populist concern for the middle class and support for returning the GI Bill to its original purpose certainly does strike me as more moral than George Allen's Republican voting record.

Posted by: Tyro | Jul 15, 2007 11:00:23 PM

Amazing, how the two parties' votes organize into two distinct blocs with *no* overlap.

You know what would be cool? If I could determine how I would have voted on this legislation and have my hypothetical ranking calculated.

Posted by: Mark | Jul 15, 2007 11:32:04 PM

But you, Sanpete, always seem a bit unwilling to make a moral judgment about political beliefs and their consequences, so your aversion to david's language is not unexpected.

I have an aversion to making overly simplistic, arrogant moral judgments of the kind that are typical of highly partisan views. Does Edwards' vote for the Iraq authorization show him to be morally worse than, say, Ted Kennedy? Does it matter why he voted as he did?

How about your example of torture? You seem not to be a good position to make moral judgments about it or the people who support it, as it appears you don't understand why some people in this country support some kinds of torture (though they generally don't see it as torture) in some cases. In fact, its supporters in this country generally do see it as the more moral choice, and not as something to do because that's what strong people do, contrary to what you claim.

This is an example of one reason I find judgments such as you make repellant. Those most inclined to make them are usually judging based on very limited and even intellectually dishonest ideas about the views they oppose. Those who have taken the trouble to understand those they oppose are generally less inclined to be so simple-mindedly judgmental, both because they know better, and because the impulse that led them to understand the other side usually involves a bit of humility to start with.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 16, 2007 12:59:50 AM

Is it possible Sanpete has been taking lessons in pungent analysis from Bill Kristol?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 16, 2007 3:18:49 AM

While this is a great post, and appreciated, the highlighted example of Joe Lieberman should be a caution on methodology. The creators of this study are right, except when they're wrong, and their methods identify Lieberman as a very liberal senator. Without going to the trouble of reading their methods (sorry), I will assume this means they haven't tried to weight the different issues. Because this approach would bury the critical issues - i.e., that Holy Joe is not only wrong but actually deranged on civil rights, torture, and the war - such a study becomes a little less useful.

Similarly, I suspect I'd disagree with Jim Webb more often than I'd like for a Democratic senator. But on the most important issues facing us today - the war, torture, economic opportunity, etcetera - he's not only on the right side, he's outspoken and effective. A score identifying him as a conservative Dem may not be inaccurate, but it might be misleading.

Along the lines of the above suggestion for an interactive tool where interested parties can determine their votes and get their score (and I suspect this is impractical, because there are a great number of votes on obscure amendments and resolutions), an interactive site where we can determine the senators' party loyalty scores when different votes are given different weights based on the subject matters the votes address (i.e. the user determines the relative importance of the war, budget, health care, education, social policy, etcetera) would seem to be an interesting prospect.

Posted by: Warren Terra | Jul 16, 2007 7:08:56 AM

"Without going to the trouble of reading their methods (sorry), I will assume this means they haven't tried to weight the different issues."

Yes ... this is the big problem with this methodology. However I will point out that Lieberman is well to the left of where he was in the 109th Congress, which suggests that in exchange for keeping his seniority etc., he has agreed to vote with Democrats far more than in previous congresses.

Also the large number of immigration votes probably makes Tester & Webb appear more centrist than they truly are.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jul 16, 2007 9:27:44 AM

Bill Kristol? Your delusions multiply, Jim.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 16, 2007 3:32:33 PM

"Without going to the trouble of reading their methods (sorry), I will assume this means they haven't tried to weight the different issues."

Oh please. How the hell are we supposed to "weigh" different issues? Who decides which issues are important and unimportant?

Posted by: Matt | Nov 12, 2007 1:58:51 AM

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