Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kirsten Gillibrand: Generic Democrat

I know this bit of news is about two hundred years old in blog time, but for all the caterwauling about the selection of Kirsten Gillibrand, it's worth pointing out that her voting record was actually slightly to the left of her district. Gillibrand's district is the 242nd most liberal district in the country. But her voting record is the 219th most liberal. This puts her voting behavior, as measured by the distance from her district, almost exactly in line with the party as a whole. Here's a chart showing how all of Congress shakes out. I've taken the 435 Congressmen and ranked them by both their district's Cook Partisan Voting Index and their DW-NOMINATE rankings, where low numbers in each case represent a more liberal Congressmen or district. Then I just took the difference between those two numbers. A negative number (PVI > DW-NOMINATE) means the Representative is probably more liberal than the district; a positive number means their more conservative. If you then throw all the Congressmen into buckets 25-slots wide (all Congressmen with a DW-NOMINATE - pvi between 25 and 50, etc), and plot the results, you get something like this.

The median Democrat is 4 slots to the left of their district, and the average Democrat is just over 16 slots away, so by almost measure she's just a tick to more liberal than she "ought" to be. Since Gillibrand's constituents now include New York City, its suburbs and other, more Democratic-leaning areas of the upstate region, if she continues to vote in a way that represents her constituents views she'll be a fine Senator. Of course, if her voting patterns don't change at all, she will be a total waste of a blue-state politician.
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