Reality-based writing


I’ve dramatically cut down the posts I do that are just pointing to something valuable (I use Twitter for that), but John Sides‘ regular pleas for journalists and columnists to actually use data, not anecdote or rough impressions, deserve shouting from the rooftops.  

Today brings a classic. The New York Times’ Gail Collins has a snarky piece about how it will remain difficult to get 60 votes even when there are 60 Democrats in the Senate. Those politicians just have no sense of unity, you see. Or do they:

I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again. In fact, I’ll shout it. THE PARTIES HAVE BECOME MORE UNIFIED. LOOKAT THE GRAPH, GAIL COLLINS.

Why? Because it’s easy to be unified when everyone agrees. And the parties have become more ideologically homogeneous and polarized in recent decades — even after the election of all those pesky Blue Dogs in 2006. See Nolan McCarty’s post.

Here are the 2006 and 2007 party unity data, courtesy of CQ. What percentage of the time did Ben Nelson vote with the Democrats in 2007? 70%. Evan Bayh? 79%. Joe Lieberman? 81%. And these guys are rabid guinea pigs? In a thunderstorm? 

Sides uses the table at the top of this post to make his point. Must be from some obscure political science journal, yes? It’s actually from an introductory textbook to American politics.

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