More on The Divisions in House Republican Party (March 2016)

To recap: As we discussed in earlier posts, alpha-NOMINATE is a new form of NOMINATE that is fully Bayesian and is meant to replace W-NOMINATE which is now getting close to being 34 years old (the multidimensional version, written by Nolan McCarty and Keith Poole, is over 25 years old). NOMINATE was designed by Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal during 1982-1983. It used a random utility model with a Gaussian deterministic utility function (see pages 14 – 15 of the linked 1983 paper) and logistic error (random draws from the log of the inverse exponential). The Gaussian deterministic utility function is able to capture non-voting due to indifference and alienation.

Alpha-NOMINATE is a mixture model in which legislators’ utility functions are allowed to be a mixture of the two most commonly assumed utility functions: the quadratic function and the Gaussian function assumed by NOMINATE. The “Alpha” is a parameter estimated by Alpha-NOMINATE that varies from 0 (Quadratic Utility) to 1 (Gaussian Utility). Hence, in one dimension with Alpha = 0, Alpha-NOMINATE is identical to the popular IRT model. Thus Alpha-NOMINATE can actually test whether or not legislators’ utility functions are Quadratic or Gaussian.

Below we apply Alpha-NOMINATE to the the 114th House through mid-March 2016. There have been 834 total votes of which 718 are scalable (at least 2.5% in the minority; that is, votes that are 97-3 to 50-50). We used the R version of Alpha-NOMINATE to perform the analysis. We used 4000 samples from a slice sampler in one dimension with a burn-in of 1000. The first graph shows the Trace and Density plots for alpha.

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The mean of alpha is 0.99986 with a standard deviation of 0.00014 strongly indicating that the Representatives’ utility functions were Gaussian.

Below is a smoothed histogram of the 3000 configurations after burn-in. The divide between Democrats and Republicans is a very deep one.

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Of more interest, however, are the clear divisions in the Republican Party shown in the smoothed histogram. The gap between Speaker Ryan and the head of the Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan (R-OH) is very wide. Given the turmoil in the Republican Presidential Nominating process, it is growing harder and harder for Speaker Ryan to restore “regular order” and pass a budget. With Hillary Clinton leading both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the polls and the competition between Trump and Cruz to gain the 1237 delegates they need for the nomination likely to drag out until at least May and perhaps even to the convention in July, this is likely to paralyze the House Republican Party for some time. This potential paralysis has motivated one of the members of the Freedom Caucus, Paul Gosar (R-AZ), to lead an effort to stop any post-Presidential Election or “Lame Duck” session of Congress for fear that spending “deals” would be struck by the leaders of both Political Parties. Depending on the state of the Presidential race in September this issue could get entangled with Presidential campaign politics. (The House is scheduled to go into recess on September 30th.) All in all, it will not be a boring year!

The next five plots show the estimated ideal points for the 435 Members who served during the 114th through mid-March along with their 95% Credible Intervals. Furthest left is Grijalva (D-AZ) at -2.38 followed by Lee (D-CA) at -2.16. On the far right are Massie (R-KY) at 4.16, Amash (R-MI) at 4.52, and Jones (R-NC) at 5.73.

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The Heroin Epidemic

This past Wednesday, 2 March 2016, there was a procedural vote in the Senate to waive budget caps in order to appropriate more funds to fight the epidemic of Heroin and other Opioids (just search Google News for countless recent articles across the country on this). Sam Quinones in his book Dreamland details the origins of the recent epidemic in the widespread use of Oxycodone (OxyContin is the time released form of Oxycodone) and Black Tar Heroin from Mexico. The Opioid epidemic became an issue in the recent New Hampshire Primary but it is a nationwide problem. Atlanta’s Channel 11 television news just did a four part series on how widespread Heroin is in Atlanta’s affluent northern suburbs where packages of heroin are delivered to the front doors of users (the user leaves money under a doormat and the deliveryman takes the money and leaves the heroin).

Below we show the procedural vote on more funds to fight the Opioid epidemic using our Constant-Space DW-NOMINATE Scores. Five Republicans voted “Yea” — Ayotte (R-NH), Collins (R-ME), Graham (R-SC), Kirk (R-IL), and Portman (R-OH). The cutting line goes through the lower left portion of the Republican Party and there are only four “errors” on the roll call with a PRE of 0.91.

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Portman’s vote for addition funding is significant. Quinones starts his investigation of the twin epidemics in Portsmouth, Ohio, on the Ohio river. Southern Ohio has been hit hard by the Opioid epidemic and Governor Kasich expanded Medicaid under the ACA in part because of the impact of Oxycodone and Heroin in Ohio. His argument is that treatment and helping the addicted to regain their independence and hold jobs is better than incarceration. Hopefully his point of view will prevail.

The Presidential Contenders: 6 February 2016

Below we show a smoothed histogram of the 114th House (red and blue) and Senate (dark red and dark blue) using our Constant-Space DW-NOMINATE Scores. In the graph we show the current contenders for the Democrat and Republican Presidential Nomination along with some other legislators and President Obama (as a Senator) for reference. We cannot show Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, or Carly Fiorina because they never served in Congress.

Bob Dole, who was the Republican nominee in 1996, is almost at the same location as John Kasich who served in the House from 1983-2001. Both were moderates compared to current Republicans in both Chambers. Ted Cruz is very extreme and unless there was a multi-candidate election it is hard to see how he could win nationally.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton (as a Senator), Joe Biden (as a Senator), and President Obama (as a Senator) are practically indistinguishable. To their left is Bernie Sanders but anchoring the far Left of the Democrats is Elizabeth Warren.

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If Hillary Clinton were to exit the race, despite the enthusiasm of the Democratic base for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, clearly Vice President Biden would be more competitive nationally. But this is a strange year and we are a long way from November.

More on Polarization Through the 114th

A number of people have requested that we provide “regular” DW-NOMINATE scores for the House and Senate using the dynamic two-dimensional model through calendar 2015. We have computed these and will post them on our data for friends page this weekend.

Below we show the polarization series for the House and Senate separate scalings. This graph is almost identical to the one in our post a few weeks ago using the Weekly CS DW-NOMINATE scores. As we noted in that post, the impact of the last three elections — 2010, 2012, and 2014 — on the Republican Party seems to have been the large influx of “Ted Cruz” Republicans. Polarization has jumped sharply from the first two years of President Obama’s first term. Polarization in the House may have leveled off (see below) but the Senate increase is much larger than the House.

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The figures below show the means of the two parties in each Chamber on both dimensions over time. The House Republicans actually moderated very slightly in the first session of the 114th while the House Democrats show absolutely no difference between North and South and the two have converged. The slight uptick in polarization in the House is due to the leftward movement of the Democrats being slightly greater than the leftward movement of the Republicans.

The Senate for the most part tracks the House on the first dimension. The main difference is that there are still three Senators from the South (the eleven states of the Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma [CQ’s definition]). Those three [Nelson (D-FL), Kaine (D-VA), and Warner (D-VA)] are more moderate than their Northern counterparts. Nonetheless, the Senate Democrats are moving to the left and the Senate Republicans are moving to the right thereby increasing polarization in the Senate at a faster rate than in the House.

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The Second Dimension at one time picked up conflict over Civil Rights for African Americans but, beginning in the early 1970s until the early 2000s “Social Issues” such as abortion and gun control (see Poole and Rosenthal, 1997; McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal, February 2016). The Second Dimension has faded to insignificance but could make a come back with a possible split in the Republican Party during the 2016 elections.

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The Divisions in the House Republican Party

(Clarifications made 0020UCT 9 January 2016)

To recap: As we discussed in earlier posts, alpha-NOMINATE is a new form of NOMINATE that is fully Bayesian and is meant to replace W-NOMINATE which is now about 33 years old (the multidimensional version, written by Nolan McCarty and Keith Poole, is almost 25 years old). NOMINATE was designed by Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal during 1982-1983. It used a random utility model with a Gaussian deterministic utility function (see pages 14 – 15 of the linked 1983 paper) and logistic error (random draws from the log of the inverse exponential). The Gaussian deterministic utility function is able to capture non-voting due to indifference and alienation.

Alpha-NOMINATE is a mixture model in which legislators’ utility functions are allowed to be a mixture of the two most commonly assumed utility functions: the quadratic function and the Gaussian function assumed by NOMINATE. The “Alpha” is a parameter estimated by Alpha-NOMINATE that varies from 0 (Quadratic Utility) to 1 (Gaussian Utility). Hence, in one dimension with Alpha = 0, Alpha-NOMINATE is identical to the popular IRT model. Thus Alpha-NOMINATE can actually test whether or not legislators’ utility functions are Quadratic or Gaussian.

Below we apply Alpha-NOMINATE to the first Session of the 114th House. There were 705 total votes in the during the first Session of which 614 are scalable (at least 2.5% in the minority; that is, votes that are 97-3 to 50-50). We used the R version of Alpha-NOMINATE to perform the analysis. We used 4000 samples from a slice sampler in one dimension with a burn-in of 1000. The first graph shows the Trace and Density plots for alpha.

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The mean of alpha is 0.99986 with a standard deviation of 0.000014 strongly indicating that the Representatives’ utility functions were Gaussian.

Below is a smoothed histogram of the 3000 configurations after burn-in. The divide between Democrats and Republicans is a very deep one.

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Of more interest, however, are the clear divisions in the Republican Party shown in the smoothed histogram. Ryan Lizza in a recent article in the New Yorker, 14 December 2015, discusses these divisions in a particularly lucid fashion. He quotes Charlie Dent (R-PA, CS DWNOM Score of 0.243 on the first dimension) that there are 70-100 Republicans like himself that will vote with the Democrats to pass the Omnibus bills to keep the government running, 70-80 “hope yes, vote no’ Republicans, who voted against those bills but secretly hoped they would pass; and the the 40-60 members of the rejectionist wing, dominated by the Freedom Caucus, who voted against everything and considered government shutdowns a routine part of negotiating with Obama” (p. 37). The Rejectionist wing’s de facto leader is Ted Cruz (R-TX, CS DWNOM Score of 0.975).

Fueled by talk radio the Rejectionists would shut the government down until their demands are met no matter what the cost. Essentially, the House Republicans are being held hostage by these extreme True Believers. Cruz is running a sophisticated campaign for the Republican nomination and it is conceivable that he could win. Cruz suffers from the same delusion as Barry Goldwater in 1964. Out “there” are millions of dissatisfied voters who suddenly will flock to the polls when a “true” conservative is nominated (see, Converse, Clausen and Miller, 1965. “Electoral Myth and Reality: The 1964 Election.” American Political Science Review, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Jun., 1965), pp. 321-336). The first page of that 1965 article is eerie because it could easily be read as a description of the current debate within the Republican Party.

The reality is that there are not millions of Republicans who will flock to the polls to vote for either Ted Cruz (the most despised Man in the Senate) or Donald Trump. As Bret Stephens advises Wall Street Journal readers in his Global View column on 22 December 2015 “Let’s Elect Hillary Now,” he sees the Republican Party losing on the scale of 1972. If so, there will be a decisive turn towards European style Social Democracy (i.e., a vast increase in social programs and greatly increased taxation) under Hillary Clinton (CS DWNOM Score of -0.373 as Senator from New York). However, to make things even more complicated, Bernie Sanders (I-VT, CS DWNOM Score of -0.513) may very well upset Clinton in Iowa and win New Hampshire. Clinton is the overwhelming favorite but is widely distrusted by the public (for example, Bill Clinton’s escapades are beginning to resurface — a particularly toxic one is the Juanita Broaddrick rape allegation). Nevertheless, the smart money is on Clinton and a crackup of the Republican Party.

Polarization Continues Through 2015

The first session of the 114th Congress was slightly more polarized than the 113th Congress. However, what is important about the polarization graph below is the impact of the last three elections 2010, 2012, and 2014, on the Republican Party. The large influx of “Ted Cruz” Republicans has caused polarization to jump sharply from the first two years of President Obama’s first term. Polarization in the House may have leveled off (see below) but the Senate increase is much larger than the House. These results are from our final set of Weekly CS DW-NOMINATE Scores where the House and Senate are scaled together and each unique member of Congress receives a single score on the first and second dimensions.

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The figure below shows the means of the two parties in each Chamber over time. For the most part the Senate means are more to the interior than the House means (the bright blue and bright red lines) but not always. In the last two elections, the Republican caucus in the Senate has become as conservative as the Republican caucus in the House. In contrast, Democratic Senators are clearly more moderate than their House counterparts.

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Given how extreme Republican primary voters have evidently become (the base of the Party), it should be no surprise that a steady movement to the Right by Republicans coupled with the emergence of talk radio and now various social media platforms, that the Presidential nominating process has been “hijacked” by the extremes. In short, we may finally becoming to the end of the polarization that began in the 1970s simply because the Republican Party may fracture in 2016.

No Child Left Behind is Left Behind

On 10 December 2015 President Obama signed a major re-write of the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001. No Child Left Behind had become controversial because of its mandatory standardized testing with aid to school districts tied to the testing results. The Obama administration also wanted to tie incentive pay to teachers based on the testing results. The bill also prohibits the Federal Government from imposing Common Core which is widely opposed by Conservatives and allows States great flexibility in imposing education standards. The new law passed by very large margins in both the House and Senate because it made Democrats and Labor Unions and most Republicans happy.

Only the extreme Conservatives in the House and Senate opposed the Act. In the House there were 64 No votes all from Republicans. Although the PRE is only 0.28 most of the “errors” are close to the cutting line:

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In the Senate there were only 12 No votes, and again, all from Republicans. The PRE is 0.33 and the “errors” are all close to the cutting line:

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