Sunday, February 17, 2008



Reactionary Georgia Dems, Jim Marshall and his role model, Zell Miller

Last Wednesday Martin Heinrich, the progressive Democrat running for Congress in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area, did a guest post here at DWT, about the importance of lawmakers standing up to tyranny and protecting our basic constitutional rights against encroachment from above. Logically, he called for "more and better Democrats in Congress," a position that would once have been strongly echoed here at DWT. But I took the liberty of adding an update to Martin's post: "Forget More; Concentrate on Better.

Since Martin had brought up the FISA legislation being debated in the House, I took the opportunity to point out that the nearly two dozen Blue Dogs threatening to break with the Democratic House leadership and vote with Bush, Cheney and the radical right extreme of the GOP to push through warrantless wiretapping and retroactive immunity, were all-- every one without exception-- recipients of substantial bribes (in the form of campaign contributions) from the telecom companies for whom Bush and Cheney were demanding the retroactive immunity.

Is this one particular enough of a reason to withdraw support from a congressman-- a Democratic congressman likely to be replaced not by a progressive Democrat but by an even more reactionary, more corrupt right-wing Republican? Not for in my opinion. Instead, what an instance like this is, is an opportunity to check for patterns in voting records and see if this awful instance is the exception or the rule. When I was much younger I would have to spend untold hours of difficult research in a musty library to be able to access the very difficult to find information to help me come to any conclusions about how hundreds of congressmembers tend to behave. Now the information is just a click or two away!

Last April the founder of ProgressivePunch, Joshua Grossman, came and answered questions about his goals and methodology at Firedoglake. Here at DWT we spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out-- and keep track of-- the members of Congress who are true to the progressive values that are at the foundation of the Democratic Party... and of the ones who aren't. One of the tools that has been most helpful is ProgressivePunch which has done its best to keep score. Looking at votes going back to 1991, they've developed an algorithm that can be used to rank every member based on how progressive he or she is-- or how reactionary. They explain the over-all progressive scoring here. Their newest measurement, called "When the Chips Are Down, is "a subset of the overall votes that qualify according to the Progressive Punch algorithm... They show the impact that even a small number of Democrats have when they defect from the progressive position. These are votes where either progressives lost or where the progressive victory was narrow and could have been changed by a small group of Democrats voting differently... Narrow progressive victories are defined as votes in which progressives won by 20 votes or fewer in the House (so a shift of 10 votes from one side to the other would have changed the result) or by 6 votes or fewer in the Senate (so a shift of 3 votes from one side to the other would have changed the result). Due to a programming error, “Chips Are Down” scores for Democrats displayed on Progressive Punch prior to February 13, 2008 were previously inflated. The programming was incorrectly set at a margin of 40 votes instead of 20 for progressive victories to qualify. Because this was a brand new category of votes for us and the initial percentages seemed plausible, we didn’t spot the error right away. The percentage scores ARE NOW CORRECTED."

I'm glad they corrected the programming error and that the algorithm is spitting out more accurate data. In light of that, I decided to take another look at the House and see which Democrats have been the ones who have been most consistent in teaming up with the Bush Regime to cause all the setbacks-- in issues from SCHIP to Iraq to civil liberties.

Here's the whole House ranked by "Chips Are Down" scores. I don't think any of the dozen worst Democrats will surprise you, although the corrected algorithm now shows something never seen before, 2 Republicans (Wayne Gilchrest and Ron Paul) with better scores than at least one Democrat. So who's that worst of all Democrats? You should be able to guess if you're a regular DWT reader: Georgia arch-reactionary Jim Marshall, who Blue America has tried to cure of his evil ways. He sits between Bush rubber stamp Republicans Chris Shays and Wayne Gilchrest. The bottom of the barrel (from bad to worse):
Zach Space (OH)
Gene Taylor (MS)
Chris Carney (PA)
Jim Matheson (UT)
Heath Shuler (NC)
Jason Altmire (PA)
Brad Ellsworth (IN)
Nick Lampson (TX)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
John Barrow (GA)
Dan Boren (OK)
Jim Marshall (GA)

These 12 Democrats have voted again and again and again to thwart a progresisve agenda and push Bush's and Cheney's policies and programs. We talk about "more and better Democrats" a lot here. These 12 are part of the "more" and as far as you can be from the "better." In some ways Barrow is the worst of the lot because his district-- though recently gerrymandered-- isn't all that Republican. Altmire and Donnelly are also in districts that do not necessarily favor Republicans by wide enough margins to justify their horrible and treacherous voting records. Their apologists still excuse their dreadful voting records by claiming that if they didn't vote like radical right Republicans they might lose their seats. So? Are we supposed to support people so they can advance their careers at the expense of our values and even our constitutional rights? Today Ted Rall made the case for tough electoral decisions in a thought-provoking essay called There Should Be Blood: Liberal Democrats Left Out in the Cold. Although I personally came to a different conclusion he-- and thousands of other progressives -- did, it's very much worth reading.

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