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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Explaining the Democratic “No” Votes

Amidst the understandable relief among Democrats at the passage of health care reform by the House, there’s been relatively little talk about the Democrats who still voted “no.” But 34 of them did, and fortunately, Nate Silver of 538.com took a close look at factors that might have explained the residual defections.
Nate concludes that Obama’s 2008 share of the vote in each Members’ district, their general ideology, and their views on abortion, were the variables most highly correlated with a “no” vote. Variables that didn’t make as much difference include the competitiveness of the Members’ own races, the number of unisured in their districts, and campaign contributions by insurance industry lobbyists.
It’s not that surprising that all 12 House Democrats representing districts where Obama won less than 40% of the vote in 2008 voted “no,” or that 61 of the 63 representing districts where Obama won over 60% voted “yea.” But 13 of the 30 from districts where Obama won more than 40% but less than a majority voted “no.”
Despite Bart Stupak’s decision to support the bill at the last minute, it’s significant that 24 of the 34 “no” votes in the House were Members who voted for the original Stupak Amendment. Putting it another way, supporters of the Stupak Amendment split 37-24 in favor of the bill, while opponents split 182-10.
Ideologically, Nate uses the Poole-Rosenthal system to break down Democrats, and shows that “roughly the 110 most liberal Democrats voted for the health care bill.” That’s pretty amazing when you consider the unhappiness over the bill expressed by so many self-conscious progressives once the public option dropped out. Those categorized as “mainline Democrats” in the Poole-Rosenthal typology went for the bill 48-2, and “mainline-moderates” voted for it 44-7. In the most rightward category–“moderate-conservative”–Members split right down the middle, 25-25.
All the other variables don’t quite have the salience of Obama vote share, ideology, or abortion position. That should be at least mildly comforting to those Democrats who feared that pure political self-protection or insurance industry money were the major motivating factors for those voting “no.” And it’s very clear that the Democratic Left’s decision to support the bill despite concerns over its composition was absolutely crucial.

One comment on “Explaining the Democratic “No” Votes

  1. ducdebrabant on

    It will be interesting to see now whether the White House stops insulting progressives for their supposed intransigence and lack of realism, or whether its treatment of them breathes contempt for how easily they can be played. Gratitude, I confidently predict, will not be conspicuous.


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