In most cases, these various analyses tend to focus on the leadership and their machinations. I want to look a little more closely at the rank and file of the House and what the vote there may indicate.
I've been studying the interactive map at the New York Times, counting up not just how many votes were cast by which party members, but also at geographic distribution. After all, November is not a national election day. It is a day of elections across the nation. Variations between states and regions of states matters.
First let's start with the observation that 19 seats is what the Republicans need to gain to take back the House. As noted by Lambert, there are 31 contested seats in the House this year (not all held by Democrats, of course) and this vote was pretty damn important to the millions of extremely engaged citizens keeping tabs of on the proceedings. There were a truckload of nervous Congress critters on both sides of the aisle this morning.
I took numbers off the NYT map (and I'm having a little problem getting my numbers to add up exactly from the map count. I have one too many Dem yes votes, 2 too few Rep yes votes, 1 too few Dem no votes and one too many Rep no votes) to look at the information from various perspectives.
Of the four regions, only the Northeast (CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT) with 72% of their representatives being Democratic voted more than 50% for the measure, voting 65% yes and 35% no (I'm rounding).
The table shows the % of representative by regions by party affilaition, the total percentage of yes and no votes for that region, then the percent of each party what voted yes or no.
|Region||Dem||Rep||Yes||No||%Dem Yes||%Dem No||%Rep Yes||%Rep No|
The Northeast Democrats held their percentages best with the least vote defections. This makes sense given the dominance of the New York delegation. What is perhaps suprising given the hatred the Unity Democrats have for Southerners, the Southern Democratic delegation held its numbers next highest, though 13% below the Northeast delegation. In the Midwest, the Democrats saw a greater decline among their numbers compared to the South than did the Republicans. This says to me that Democratic support in the Midwest is softer than support in the South, and representatives feel a greater need to cater to constituents than do Southern representatives. The shocking defections were in the West, where Republican opposition was only a few percentages higher than in the Northeast, while Democratic defections were 26% higher than their Northeastern counterparts. The majority of Western Democratic representatives voted against the measure.
The take away from this data for me is that Democrats in the Midwest and West are vulnerable and feel a need to shore up support. Any perusal of the comment threads on econoblogs show a significant percentage of posters declaring that they will vote against critters who voted "Yes". As I pointed out in the debate post a few days ago, these are mostly Independent white male voters, the kind who are supposed to provide the margin of victory in elections.
What this tells me is that the Democratic leadership is risking losing their majority in the House by forcing such an unpopular and incendiary measure to a vote 5 weeks before the election. The bill will be kept in the public eye with votes for at least another week, and it will be the single most salient issue in the final campaign push nationwide. People are very aware of the connection between the big banks and the foreclosure epidemic. In San Diego, foreclosures and short sales dominate the housing market. The rental market is also affected as landlords lose the houses to foreclosures and renters face a contracting pool of available units. The mortgage meltdown is real, is hurting a lot of people who are not necessarily home owners (anybody whose income depended on home sales), and is going to motivate voters more than culture clash issues.
Simply put, when I'm going broke, I don't like the people who ripped me off to get bailed out.
If the Harry and Barney and Hank and Nancy movie insists on forcing senators to cast a vote on this bill, they are asking for trouble. A "Yes" vote by a Senator facing an election might cause a voter backlash. A "No" vote is a no confidence vote against the leadership, though it might please constituents. A "No" vote for a Republican in a contested seat is a no-brainer - there is virtually no downside and a potentially huge upside if it can garner them just a few percentage points at the polls. What Lambert calls a vacuum at the top is actually some fairly cagey behavior by The Precious to kiss his Wall Street patrons' collective ass by handing them bags of money but be able to claim plausible deniability for the shit sandwich being prepared in the Congressional dining hall. The Democratic leadership is firmly behind Hank Paulson (Bush is a complete non-entity at this point) and the question is how to create a bill with enough lettuce and tomato between the bread and the shit that enough Democrats can be convinced that "organic" is good for them (Yay Whole Foods Nation!); much better to buy prepackaged than to try to assemble the meal themselves in such a short period of time.
Then there is this conference call between Treasury and Wall Street types that the great unwashed was not supposed to hear about. It pretty much confirms that the concessions "won" by the leadership are intentionally toothless, mere formalitieis to manuever around. What happens to candidates who have voted "Yes" based on leadership assurances and then find out it was all a farce and it is just as much a power grab as it was before? Paul Krugman may be assured that Obama will benefit at McCain's exspence with the crisis, but what if the bullshit and kissing up cost the Dems their control of Congress? What policies can we expect to see in that case? Is Mr. Bipartisan going to cave to the High Borderists and give in on more deals, sucha s keeping Hank around to "transition" the job?
It is more than the Republicans playing Lucy and yanking away the football from the hapless Democrats. It is that the Democratic leadership has willingly walked into a situation where cooperation means cooptation and where the populace is united in opposition to the proposed plan. They have cavalierly placed their downticket people at risk to avoid offending the Village rather than driving a real bargain (including delay of everything possbile until Hank has cleaned out his desk and departed in January) that would rebound to the Dems election efforts. Oh, and actually do some good for us peons.
The irony that the Dem majority may be maintained because of the recalcitrance of some whacko Republicans would be funny if it were not such an indictment of the ineffective and demoralizing behavior of our so-called leadership, right up to the guy at the top who doesn't even want to be a Democrat.