Friday, October 8, 2010

When is a Blue Dog only a Mirage?

We are less than a month away from the elections and in our congressional district we have a choice between a 10 year Democrat incumbent (Jim Matheson) and a Republican (Morgan Philpot) who was twice elected to the Utah house. Our current congressman is member of the "Blue Dog Coalition", a group the claims to promote fiscally conservative policies.

A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribute has the headline "Matheson not among Blue Dogs in jeopardy". I'm not sure where they got this headline as the article itself cites no polls that indicate which way the race is headed and only really discusses the voting record of Matheson as presented by his challenger Morgan Philpot and rebutted by Matheson.
Morgan points out that Matheson voted with Nancy Pelosi 92.3% of the time in his most recent term while "Matheson rejects Philpot’s criticism of Blue Dogs and warns that those vote percentages are misleading. 'A lot of rhetoric and political accusations start to fly at this time of year,' he said. 'Voters take this with a grain of salt.'"

After reading this article I decided to do some homework. I looked at the votes Matheson's cast which were in opposition to his party (according to the Washington Post) and I wanted to see if any of the votes he cast against a Democratic bill were meaningful (i.e. was the vote close in the case where the Republican position prevailed). Here is what I found:
  • Since Jan 2009 congress has voted 1,556 times
  • Matheson voted 1,532 times (98.6%), he only missed 22 votes
  • He voted against his party 118 times (7.7%)
  • The Democratic position won anyway 94 times
  • The Republican position prevailed 23 times. This is where he could have made a difference.
Looking closer, the average margin of victory by the Republicans for those 23 votes was 95. That means that at least 86 other Democrat voted for the Republican position (if 100% of the Republics voted with their party) and that there was really no chance that the Democrat position would have prevailed..Net, net even when Matheson voted against his party  and the Republicans won, it didn't really matter because his party was destined to lose.  I don't see any courage here. In only one case the Republican position won by only 8 votes. The next closed margins was 30, 38, and 41. The 8 margin vote was for a bill (HR 2200) that directed the Transportation Security Administration on certain policy decisions. I read through a summary  of HR 2200. In it Congress directed the TSA to be more stringent in monitoring passengers and cargo. I’m not sure why anyone would oppose this unless they thought that some of the policies might infringe on privacy or that the measures were not cost effective. So I guess, Jim gets some small measure of credit here for the 1 vote out of 1,532 where he cast a vote that "defied" the will of his party.
Well, I did my homework rather than take any criticism of Jim with a grain of salt and guess what I'm not sure that you can really say that he took any tough stances against the liberal democrats based the his performance in this last session of congress. Yes, Jim did say that the Bush tax cuts should be extended but when the vote was cast to postpone any vote on that matter until after the election, when his vote really mattered, guess what he voted with his party and by a 1 vote margin the vote was postponed. Does anyone think that in a lame duck session the Democrats won't get their way especially if they've already been voted out of office and have nothing to lose?
The Blue Dogs are supposed to be fiscally conservative but how does a voting record that includes voting for cash for clunkers, the stimulus bills, and increasing the debt ceiling line up with that principle? How is that fiscally conservative?
Utah, it is time for a change. Let's give someone else a chance to show us what they are made of. For me, 10 years is enough. Morgan Philpot, whom I know personally, is the kind of person I want to represent us in Washington. Someone, who I believe, will put principle over party. In two years time we'll have the chance to decide if he's represented us or himself. But for me Jim's had his chance. I think I know who he represents and it sure isn't me.
Note, I've uploaded the voting history I compiled to Google docs (as a spreadsheet) and made this a public document. To access the information simply click here.

1 comment:

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding this post.