Following the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, it looked for a time as is if the passage of the recent Health Care Reform legislation was unlikely. The most common arguments aimed at moderate Democrats in the House during this time period were as follows:
1) That the Health Care reform bill would become more popular after it had passed.
2) That given widespread voter ignorance, it was unlikely that this particular vote would have much effect on any individual House member’s re-election campaign.
The first argument has long since been proven false. And now it appears the second was incorrect also:
Out of the original 50 districts, only 41 had members who cast a vote on health care reform and are running for reelection. If we just divide these members based on their health care votes, those who voted for health reform are running 2.7 percentage points behind those who voted against it. But, of course, we should control for other things, especially district conservatism, since those from the more conservative districts voted almost uniformly against reform. I also included the members’ DW-NOMINATE scores to distinguish the health care vote from the members’ overall voting records.
What I found was that Democratic supporters of health care reform are running 3.2 percentage points behind Democratic opponents. (This is statistically significant at the p≤.05 level.) That’s a three percentage-point penalty resulting from a single roll call vote. I would describe that number as large. Most members of Congress win by much greater margins than that, of course, but for Democratic incumbents from conservative districts in a distinctly anti-Democratic year, three points is serious business. Indeed, of the 41 Democrats I examined, only six are currently forecast to win by more than three points (and none of those voted for health care reform).
For those who supported the (ironically titled) “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” I suppose this will simply confirm that, in politics at least, no good deed goes unpunished. However, for those, like myself, who are very skeptical of the financial feasibility of the bill (or, more accurately, convinced the bill was financially irresponsible), this is a somewhat encouraging example of democratic accountability. In either case, however, it illustrates the dangers inherent in trusting the self-serving narratives of the technocratic class.
h/t: Matt Yglesias