Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some Tools

I've been going on and on, here and elsewhere, about how we as citizens can't just expect that after the votes have been counted our jobs are done. NTodd keeps reminding us that this is when the real work starts, and he is absolutely right.

The problem as I see it is that we don't actually know just what it is our Congress critters are up to at any point, and we certainly can't depend on the mainstream press to keep us informed. Fortunately, the internet is filled with all sorts of resources, including emails from groups that have the resources to keep track of things, to blogs which deal with progressive issues, to web sites which carefully analyze each congressional vote.

Some wag at Eschaton yesterday linked to this site over at Congressional Quarterly. It's a dandy. It summarizes how each Congress critter in the 110th Congress voted in terms of acceding to the Unitard's will, party unity, and just showing up to vote. The charts are easy to navigate (the whole page is) and is very informative. Here are the explanatories:

The three principal studies involve:

The frequency with which lawmakers vote with the president when he clearly indicates his preferences (Presidential Support).

The frequency with which they vote with their party, on occasions when a majority of Republicans oppose a majority of Democrats (Party Unity).

And the frequency with which they show up and cast "yea" or "nay" votes (Voting Participation).

OK. I started off by asking for the chart for the Senate, and then I checked out my two Senators:

Barbara Boxer: Presidential Support-30% Party Unity-99% Participation-99%

Dianne Feinstein: Presidential Support-39% Party Unity-91% Participation-99%

No surprises there.

Now for some other Democratic senators:

Daniel Inouye: Presidential Support:46% Party Unity-83% Participation-88%

(No surprise, but certainly disappointing.)

Claire McCaskill: Presidential Support-45% Party Unity-81% Participation-94%

(WTF? I contributed to her campaign!)

Here, however, is the biggie:

Harry Reid: Presidential Support-43% Party Unity-85% Participation-99%

For crying out loud, Harry Reid is the freakin' Senate Majority Leader and he only voted 85% of the time for the Democratic position? And voted 43% to give the GOP President what he wanted? There is something dreadfully wrong with this picture.

Now if you really want to get steamed, check out Joe Lieberman's record. He's listed as an Independent, but because he caucuses with the Democrats, his Party Unity score is configured that way. And the Democratic leadership let him keep his prestigious committee chairmanship. Sweet, eh?

OK, I've done some deep breathing.

Here's what I suggest. Check out your reps, regardless of party, and start targeting them if you are unhappy. Let them know how unhappy you are with their records and advise them you will be shopping elsewhere in the next two to six years if they don't shape up. Then keep at it with every important bill that comes up.

In the coming months, I'll try to locate and post other resources to keep us up to speed. I will, of course, be very grateful for any suggestions, either via comments or an email.

Oh, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May the New Year be better for all of us.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

My, my, my, aren't YOU the "idealist," Diane! Expecting partisan political leaders to actually act as if they weren't in the pay of their CorpoRat masters, and to vote according to some principle?

Wow! Just WOW!


congrats on the monkeyfist! well-deserved!
and Jolly Holidays!!!

to ya both...


5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Harry Reid's "funky" votes are those he changes in order to keep the process open, if I'm not mistaken. I wonder if the database distinguishes procedural votes....

Otherwise, I'm in total agreement, and the sunlight that the database provides is very useful.

12:06 PM  

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