MORE ELECTION WONKERY….So what happened in the midterm elections? Was it a great ideological reshuffling, like 1994? Was it a bunch of conservative Dems picking off liberal Republicans? Or what?
I’m not sure what the answer is, but the graph on the right provides some clues. It’s based on Keith Poole’s NOMINATE model of ideological sorting, with liberals on the left and conservatives on the right. The black bars show the House Republicans who lost their seats on Tuesday.
There are a couple of interesting things to note. First, even before the election there were essentially no centrist Republicans in the House. In the three bars closest to the center-right, there were a grand total of three Republican incumbents. So there were really no centrist Republicans to target.
Second, the Republican losses were pretty evenly spread. The absolute most conservative Republicans all survived, which isn’t surprising since they generally come from the absolute most conservative districts, but aside from that the losses came from across the spectrum of the Republican caucus. When you do the arithmetic, it turns out that the Republicans who kept their seats were slightly more conservative than those who lost their seats, and the end result is that the Republican caucus, which was already far more skewed to the right than the Democratic caucus was to the left, is now skewed even more to the right. But only slightly.
This is just one piece of raw data to noodle over, but I think it supports the notion that this election represented a broad-based revulsion against the war and the Republican Party, not any kind of serious ideological realignment. That’s too bad, but I guess I’ll take what I can get. After all, what I really wanted to see this year was some evidence that the American public will put up with only just so much in the way of corruption, extremism, and almost insane levels of incompetence before it revolts, and that’s what we got. With that out of the way, now we can spend the next couple of years persuading the public to move a few steps to the left.