Women, Not a "Liberal Tea Party," are Changing the Democratic Party

Sep. 9, 2018

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Before her upset victory in Massachusetts’s Seventh Congressional District last week, outlets pointed to Ayanna Pressley’s candidacy as a symptom of a larger, liberal movement in the Democratic party. Though some analysts have pinpointed what I think is the more probable cause, it evidently warrants repeating: women are setting records for how well they’re doing in Democratic Party politics today, and voters on the left are favoring representation by fresh new faces. I also write this to dispel a popular idea that progressives are somehow waging their own “Liberal Tea Party”. As far as I’m concerned, Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins have efficiently dispelled that myth.

Here’s the graph showing that ideological differences between the incumbent candidates in either district provide a compelling refutation of the flank-them-from-the-left hypothesis. Pressley’s victory could only be one from the left if Capuano was moderate-ish, like Crowley. But he’s a very liberal lawmaker!

Rather, what Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez have in common is that they are both minority women. In the current politics of the Democratic Party, I think that younger voters favoring fresh new multicultural faces is as compelling an answer as we can get with a basic analysis.

source("~/setup_elliott.R")
dwnom <- read.csv("../../static/post/2018-09-09-cortez-pressley/H115_members.csv") # from voteview.com

dwnom <- dwnom %>% 
  filter(party_code==100) %>%
  select("Name"=bioname,
         "Dim1"=nominate_dim1,
         "Party" = party_code)

capuano <- dwnom[which(dwnom$Name=="CAPUANO, Michael Everett"),]$Dim1
crowley <- dwnom[which(dwnom$Name=="CROWLEY, Joseph"),]$Dim1


gg <- ggplot(dwnom,aes(x=Dim1)) +
  geom_density(aes(col=as.character(Party),
                   fill=as.character(Party),
                   group=as.character(Party)),
               alpha=0.5,col=NA) +
  scale_fill_manual(values=c("100"="blue","200"="red")) +
  scale_color_manual(values=c("100"="blue","200"="red")) +
  geom_vline(xintercept=capuano) +
  geom_text(aes(x=capuano+0.01,y=3,label=paste0('Capuano: ',round(capuano,2))),angle=90) +
  geom_vline(xintercept=crowley) +
  geom_text(aes(x=crowley+0.01,y=3,label=paste0('Crowley: ',round(crowley,2))),angle=90)  +
  labs(title = "Capuano's Voting History is Much More Liberal Than Crowley's",
       subtitle = "Ocasio-Cortez's victory was one for the left, while Pressley's was one for nonwhite women",
       x = "DW-NOMINATE (Roll Call \"Ideology\")\nLeft is More Liberal",
       caption="Source: VoteView.com")
plot_elliott(gg,width=2800,height=1800,unit='px',res=340,debug=T,
             themearg = theme(axis.title.y = element_blank(),
                              axis.text.y = element_blank(),
                              axis.ticks.y=element_blank()))
A density plot of DW-NOMINATE ideology scores for Democratic lawmakers in the 115th congress.

Figure 1: A density plot of DW-NOMINATE ideology scores for Democratic lawmakers in the 115th congress.


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