Ideology and age

This is very preliminary but a short conversation I had with a friend on FB this morning made me wonder if there is any statistical link between age and how our representatives behave in Congress. I principally back a younger congress for many normative reasons, which I am sure many of us do. So I went and found some data which had both stats for the age of everyone in congress, and their DW Nominate scores which political scientists use as a measure of ideology.

DW Nominate scores are calculated from every roll call vote. I couldn’t begin to explain to you how they are put together because they were designed by geniuses (one of whom is here at UGA) far smarter than I, but they are considered a reliable metric of how representatives vote. They range from -1 to 1, with -1 being the most liberal and 1 being the most conservative.

The congress I examined was the 114th (2015-2017). I ran my model separately for different parties and found that the age of our representatives does seem to have an effect on how they vote. Just as long as they are Democrats. And the finding works the opposite way: older members are actually more liberal in how they vote. I found no significant effect for Republicans at all.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 11.01.04 AM

The highlighted number in the table above means that as the age of a member of the House goes up, their DW Nominate score goes down by 0.003 (they get more liberal). So every ten years they age, it goes down by 0.03. Every 30 years, by around 0.1. It is a pretty small effect but it certainly isn’t going the way we would expect:

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 11.05.17 AM

It is important to note that I haven’t actually controlled for any other relevant factor here so we don’t know precisely what this means. I have absolutely no theory. It could easily mean that leadership (which is older) votes in lockstep with itself while those who younger members go a bit more rogue. Because the roll call is also a function of what members vote on, those in the minority (which Democrats were in the 114th congress) are having that dictated to them by the majority – they don’t get to choose what they vote on. There could be 100 different things creating this finding and since I wrote this in ten minutes on a Labor Day morning I haven’t checked it out properly.

But at first glance, it isn’t simple to merely say that younger members will give us more liberal ideas.



Healthcare II

I know that conference is where a lot of legislation is hashed out but it was fucking ridiculous to try and create an entire healthcare bill from nothing that was passed by wither chamber. The House version was a piece of shit because they felt the need to pass SOMETHING and the Senate… well, the Senate. From this article: Senate Rejects Slimmed-Down Obamacare Repeal as McCain Votes No.

What an absolute shitshow.

the skeletal plan was just a vehicle to permit negotiations with the House” – In other words, they tried to pass a bill that they did not want to pass.

The new, eight-page Senate bill, called the Health Care Freedom Act, was unveiled just hours before the vote” – So they wanted senators to upend the healthcare system with a plan they didn’t want passed that no one had time to read, and leave it to a conference committee which generally does its business in private. You also can’t add anything new into a conference report and to change this rule in the Senate requires 60 votes. So even going to conference is an open-ended lottery in terms of what the final product could have been.

And then, from the same article, presented without comment:

Before rolling out the new legislation, Senate leaders had to deal with a rebellion from Republican senators who demanded ironclad assurances that the legislation would never become law.

Mr. McCain and Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin insisted that House leaders promise that the bill would not be enacted.

I’m not going to vote for a bill that is terrible policy and horrible politics just because we have to get something done,” Mr. Graham said at a news conference… Mr. Graham eventually voted for the measure

Republican senators found themselves in the strange position of hoping their bill would never be approved by the House.

“[Senator] Rounds, who built a successful insurance business in his home state, said he was concerned that “the markets may collapse” if the Senate bill ever took effect.

Even some senators who voted for the measure Friday conceded that its enactment could have been disastrous.



Healthcare Fail Spectacular

I am simply gobsmacked at the failure of the Republican Party to get an Obamacare repeal through the Senate, even with massive manipulation of the process which involved no public input or hearings, text released mere hours before the vote, a vote in the middle of the night, and use of the reconciliation process so it only required 50 votes (plus a tie-breaker from the VP).

Obviously John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are going to be blamed, but it is very important to note that Obamacare was passed in 2010, the same year the GOP won control of the House of Representatives, and the party took control of the Senate in 2014, which has meant three years of legislative control in which to have come up with a plan – literally any plan – to repeal Obamacare, which stands out as every Republican candidate for office has been yakking on about this for seven years.

Senate leadership of the party has not changed much – Mitch McConnell has been the GOP leader in the Senate since 2006. He is not new. This period of Obamacare repeal cannot be the first time he has had to think about what goes in an Obamacare repeal bill that requires 50 votes.

Since 2010, when the bill passed and Republicans began their uniform opposition to it, these people have represented Republicans in the Senate:

Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
John McCain (R-AZ)
John Boozeman (R-AR)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Dean Heller (R-NV) He has been there since 2011 appointed to replace John Ensign who resigned. That seat was won by a Republican in 2010 though.
Richard Burr (R-NC)
John Hoeven (R-ND)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
John Thune (R-SD)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Lama Alexander (R-TN)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
John Barasso (R-WY)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)

Why did I bother typing them out? To show you there was no surprise here. Of the 52 Republicans in the Senate, 33 of them have been there (or were elected in) 2010 when Obamacare repeal became the central GOP campaign issue. None of the new Republicans were a surprise for McConnell. Collins, McCain and Murkowski have all been there for longer than Obamacare has existed. Both McCain and Collins have been there since before McConnell became leader. We KNOW that Collins and Murkowski won’t vote for bills that defund Planned Parenthood. We KNOW McCain is a loose cannon and his vote depends largely who he aims anger at (which I think is the president this time). McConnell KNEW he could only lose three votes and he immediately pissed on two of them with the PP defunding.

Look at these DW Nominate ideology scores for members of the Senate in the previous Congress. Lower scores mean the senator is more liberal. Higher scores mean they are more conservative. There are two dimensions to this data which are theoretically economic and social. Healthcare intersects these: it is both expensive and important for the welfare of humanity. I have labelled the three GOP senators who voted no today, and drawn lines so you can see their scores more clearly (Murkowski is red, Collins is yellow, McCain is green).


It is quite clear that Collins, Murkowski and McCain are three of the chamber’s most moderate members – hell, on the second dimension Collins and McCain have lower scores than almost every Democrat (conceivably a function of the issues they voted on this Congress). And on the first dimension, Collins is way out in front with  Murkowski second and McCain kind of in the lowest quartile.

The point I am making here is that McConnall CANNOT have been surprised by their votes, or what they wanted and needed in a bill. DW Nominate scores come from the roll call which means these are the positions that senators want their citizens to know they are taking.


In the last Congress (2015-2017) Republicans had control of both chambers and repealed Obamacare multiple times, knowing the president would veto it. There is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for not having ironed out wrinkles then. Considering hardly anything happened in the previous Congress there was time to hold hearings and put together the skeleton for what the GOP planned to do for the healthcare of Americans considering their seven year strong stance against Obamacare which is basically farting against the thunder of problems in the American healthcare system anyway, but happens to be better than both i) nothing and ii) a tax break for rich people dressed up as health reform.

In terms of significant legislation, this is piss easy compared to what tax reform will be like. I am not saying that it won’t happen, but I am saying it is a far heavier lift than taking one vote on something the party has been promising to do for ages, ably supported by its many interest groups, who, when it comes to taxes, are going to fragment like you just got to the end of a shrine in Zelda.

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 8.20.13 AM.png

Oh, there’s also the issue of the budget, and Collins and Murkowski are going to probably vote against PP defunding again.

Even under the best circumstances, legislating is bloody difficult. But when you have unified control and you have all been singing from the same songsheet for many years and multiple campaigns, this is pure and object failure. There were no surprises here, and yet the Republican Party tripped over its shoelaces.

Can we stop pretending all differences are political?

I am terribly sad that Congressman Steve Scalise was shot alongside three others yesterday. I don’t think anyone should be shot. And I am terribly sorry for the families of the people who were shot – they carry this pain too. I hope everyone recovers.

But this hand-wringing for the last 24 hours pretending that the only difference between Democrats and Republicans is “political disagreements” must end. I am not going to speak on behalf of any groups or anyone but this is how it is for me. There are many Republicans that want me dead, like for example this guy who GOP Senator Ted Cruz hung out with during the 2016 campaign.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tried to stop LGBT people being able to see each other in the hospital. Me and my husband have been together 7 years. If he has a car accident and needs decisions made on his behalf, under Walker’s preference I would not be able to make those decisions for him. If he was dying, I would not be allowed to see him during his final hours.

During the 2012 primary campaign, NOT ONE SINGLE Republican candidate (all of whom were on a debate stage) said anything when a crowd booed a gay soldier who was serving his country in Iraq. NOT ONE SAID ANYTHING about a US soldier BEING BOOED!

During this most recent legislative session in Georgia, an effort was made to streamline the state’s orphan and adoption laws, which was wrecked when a whole lot of anti-LGBT stuff was shoved into the law by some rabid gay haters, who hate gays more than they love orphaned children. They would rather kids be in orphanages than adopted.

Republican Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, cancelled ALL domestic benefits to ALL partners in the National Guard at facilities in her state because she didn’t want to have to do it for gay couples.

This is on top of all the fucking anti-same sex marriage legislation that sloshed around the House of Representatives since Republicans won control of it in 2010. And a lack of ENDA which means LGBT people can be kicked out of jobs, houses and so on because employers/landlords hate LGBT people.

These are not merely philosophical disagreements. What Steve Scalise thinks of my life is not just a political disagreement; it affects how I can live my own life day to day. Me and Steve Scalise disagree on the efficacy of the free market, and about welfare reform, and about charter schools, and about publicly funded infrastructure, and what the level of government spending should be, and whether right to work laws are good or bad, and the NEA, and term limits. These are all political differences.

My ability to pay the same taxes as straight people, to visit my dying spouse in hospital, to have my friends in the military receive the correct benefits (or any!) and respect, to be able to raise children instead of leaving them at the mercy of the state, and to be able to not be killed are not just political differences. So stop fucking saying they are. We don’t just disagree. When elected officials get to tangibly fuck my life around, that is far more than a political disagreement.

Neoliberal and left. Oil and water.

This morning I saw someone on Twitter share a projection seats for the next French parliament that showed the Socialists were en route to 20-35 seats. That’s a bit of a drop from the 280 they won in 2012, just after Francois Hollande became the Prime Minister. I don’t study French elections so I have no idea if those sorts of swings are normal, but one cannot deny that in a 577-seat chamber, that’s a fucking hammering. In contract, En Marche, the political movement of recently elected centrist Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, is projected to win 370-something.

I observed this on Twitter as another step in the slow capitulation of what I called the “neoliberal left”. Note, those two words go together. I am not mourning the death of neoliberalism because its death hasn’t happened yet. But as the world moves forward, neoliberalism and the left are becoming apparently less compatible.

A few examples from my own general knowledge (which admittedly is basically Europe and where I am from):

  • Hillary Clinton, a centrist lefty, was beaten by Donald Trump.
  • The British Labour party of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown was thrown out of government in 2010, and then in the following election in 2015 received an absolute pummeling as Ed Miliband tried to balance both wings – the centrist Blairite and more traditional left – and found himself out of a job as the Conservatives did better than the polls suggested, and sailed into the Houses of Parliament with a large majority as Labor lost even more seats.
  • In Spain, this is how the last four elections have gone for the the center-left PSOE: 2008 – 44% with 164 seats. 2011 – 29% with 110 seats. 2015 – 22% with 90 seats. 2016 – 22% with 85 seats.
  • In the Netherlands earlier this year the Dutch Labour Party, which governed with the leading conservative party, fell from 38 seats in a 110-seat chamber to 9, as their vote share went from 25% to 9%.
  • Granted, Greece is a bit of a unique case, but PASOK, the center left party of Greece has seen a decline of vote share from 43% and 160 seats in 2009, to 6% and 17 seats in the 300-seat chamber in 2015. And that’s an improvement upon an earlier election in 2015 when they were on 4% and 13%.
  • In Denmark, which again is a peculiar case because coalitions of very small parties, the 2015 elections saw the removal of a left minority government (even though the largest party’s seat share increased) that had overseen the sale of public entities and passed a tax cut for the wealthy.
  • Labor in Australia went from a majority government in 2007 (83 seats) to a minority government in 2010 (72 seats) to opposition in 2013 (55 seats). They have scrambled back some seats but remain in opposition as of the 2016 election.
  • In South Africa the center-left African National Congress received a pummeling at the 2016 local elections where it lost control of most of South Africa’s major cities. Comparing local elections to local elections in 2011, the party fell from an overall vote of 61% to 53%. In the 2014 general election the party received 62% of the vote. Comparing apples with apples, the party fell 8 points. Comparing apples with oranges, it fell 9 points.

There may be students of comparative politics who know more about this than I do. But at face value, left-leaning neoliberal parties are seemingly not having a great run of it. In one party (South Africa) and two-party democracies (US, Australia), the vote share remains high because of a lack of democratic maturation, or because there are only two options. In coalition governments across Europe, center left parties are being hammered. The one exception to the European rule could perhaps be the British Labour Party that is contesting an election right now, led by someone who is certainly not a neoliberal, Jeremy Corbyn, which looks to be increasing its voteshare according to polls, although we will only see whether that is the case next week.

Neoliberalism may not be dead (eg. En Marche). But its presence on the left is not being treated with enthusiasm.

Race was a factor in Michigan

I won’t be able to explain to you why (we can theorize, of course), but whiter counties were more predisposed to changing their votes from Democratic to something else. I put together the raw vote totals for Democrats for both the 2012 and 2016 elections and worked out the difference (Clinton vote minus Obama vote), and then used that as a percentage on Obama votes in 2012. In other words, how Clinton did compared to Obama by county in percentage terms. The counties are arbitrary borders for this sort of measurement but it does help us break down whether or not there was an effect. My dependent variable was the percentage I just explained and my independent variable was the percentage in every county in Michigan than is white, which ranged from 52.3 in Wayne County to 98.5 in Keweenaw County.


If you haven’t studied statistics, what this garbage in the table above means is that a) we can be confident our results are not arbitrary, and b) that the number on the bottom left, the “-0.20653” indicates that for every percentage point whiter a county  is, Clinton lost 0.2% more of Obama’s share of the vote.

I didn’t control for anything because I spent a total of one afternoon putting this together, and I have known how to do this sort of work for something like 6 months, but found significance in my results. Here is this idea graphed (the charts are the same – one just has the county names).


This doesn’t explain too much – from this data I can’t tell you why counties that were happy to vote for Obama left Clinton for Trump or 3rd parties, but my results suggest that the whiter the county is, the more people changed their vote from Democrat to either Republican or 3rd party.

At some point I will do this for other states and look for data to back up a theoretical explanation. Don’t read too much into this. It just means there is something there. I cannot empirically tell you what it is. For better results it might be worth looking at party registration by county (if Michigan has that) and income, and how these counties have voted in other elections, and if anyone can come up with a measure of sexism, or white grievance, in a variable of numbers that would be just dandy.




Here is the chart for Pennsylvania. I found significance here too, and the result is more severe. For every 1-point increase in the white population, Clinton lost 0.7% in relation to Obama’s vote total in 2012.


Again, this doesn’t say why. Just that there does seem to be a relationship. As I say above, more data would be useful about each county, but we have enough here to begin theorizing. I would imagine Wisconsin looks similar.

Why I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump

I can’t vote, and I am not really sure what to add to the conversation but I am going to undertake this self-sycophantic exhibition because, really, everyone is having a go. A minute does not go by without someone on Facebook telling you why their person should be president, ignoring all their weaknesses, and focusing solely on the weaknesses of their opponent.

From the outset: I don’t think Hillary Clinton will make a good president, for numerous reasons, but all of them pale into comparison to the simple observations that we have all had opportunity to make about Donald Trump when he has power.

Donald Trump cannot cope with power. He simply cannot. He has abused it at every turn in his life, and making him one of the most powerful people on earth is a mistake America should not make. Money in most countries means power, and it certainly does in the US. Donald Trump used his power to forbid black people from renting his apartments. He wasn’t alone in this, but he had power, and that is one of the things he did with it.

Donald Trump did not pay his workers and contractors properly. He had money, but preferred to throw the people he hired into the money-sucking jaws of the court-system instead of paying them, because he knew he had the leverage through his wealth. Any rich person can do this. Those of us who can’t afford lawyers and are easily intimidated by needing one could be at the end of this in any given way, but most rich people don’t do that; most workers and contractors are paid. Donald Trump wasn’t a person who used his wealth to pay the people he employed. He quite literally used his power to get out of paying people much poorer than him.

He has also used the court system and his gargantuan wealth to shut down minor critics of him. He sued a guy in New York for saying Macy’s shouldn’t stock his ties anymore. That guy had to go out and find himself a pro-bono lawyer to avoid some innumerate (to the normal income) value of damages. A billionaire giving the faintest shit about some irritating tweets, to the point where our irascible protagonist tries to financially bully the guy into the ground sounds, and is, absolutely insane.

(To put that into perspective, one of my favorite things to do when bored is go and tweet insults at @HotlineJosh, by far the worst pundit who is taken seriously. Do you know how many times he has responded to me? Zero. Because if he cared about everyone who tweeted shit at him he would die of finger-tapping exhaustion.)

Further to Trump using his power to force other people to do things… the way society is set up, it is easy to intimidate women into getting what you want out of them. Again, this is not Trump alone. But Trump is one of the few people in the world who has enough money, enough heft, and owns enough things, to be able to intimidate women into allowing them to be groped. What he boasted about on the bus to Billy Bush is a very real and present phenomenon in this world. People like Trump CAN intimidate others into complying with being groped. Groping someone without their consent is sexual assault. Intimidating them into going along with your groping is manipulation. Trump used his power to manipulate women into acceding to being touched by him.

He has used his platform – again, the audience he manages to reach is part of his power – to rile up hate against marginalized groups in America: Muslims and Hispanics. While the GOP often speaks out of the side of their mouths to lock in the racist vote, Trump has used his foghorn to let them all out of hiding, and endorsed their behavior. He has used his power to make racism socially acceptable in many parts of the country. Jewish journalists are now routinely hounded on social media. Anti-feminism has had a steroid shot to the balls. And racism has become less embarrassing for the racist than it was before he rode down that escalator.

There is absolutely no indication that Trump has any idea what to do with power. He is quite obviously deeply insecure, and has no temperament. That combination with his inability to rein himself in from abusing power makes him a non-starter.

There is no little guy too important for Trump to go and trash on a whim. There is no critic who won’t have a very real fear of government blowback under President Trump. There are no protesters who can believe they will remain safe. There is no knee-jerk foreign policy that we can rule out under power-drunk President Trump. There will never be a consequence that he cares about. It is not that he will make bad decisions that set him apart: it is that he doesn’t care if the decisions are bad, because they will NEVER be bad. There will never be an internal voice telling him to stop what he is doing.

It isn’t speculation. We have seen it. He cannot – CANNOT – be given any more power than he already has. Which he has used, demonstrably, terribly.