December 14, 2009


The Real Lessons of 1994: Voters punished Democrats for Hillarycare. They'll do the same for Obamacare (Jeffrey H. Anderson and Andy Wickersham, 12/21/2009, Weekly Standard)

What, then, really happened to Democrats in the 1994 election? We took liberal/conservative ratings from the American Conservative Union and divided congressional Democrats into ideological thirds: most conservative, typical, and most liberal. We then examined how each group of Democrats fared in seeking reelection in the wake of Hillarycare and compared those results with the reelection bids of Democrats in the congressional elections of the last 20 years.

The conclusions are clear, and they defy the notion that the worst thing that Democrats could do is nothing. In the other nine elections over the past 20 years, the typical (middle-third) Democrats have done far better than the more conservative Democrats. In fact, conservative Democrats have lost 67 percent more often than their party's typical members. In 1994, that turned around completely: That year, typical Democrats lost 56 percent more often than their more conservative colleagues.

In other words: Voters did punish Democrats for trying to pass Hillarycare, but they didn't punish them evenly--and they certainly didn't punish them for failing to pass it. Instead, voters went comparatively easy on the more conservative Democrats who opposed it.

Conservative Democrats generally do worse than their colleagues in seeking reelection because they usually run in contested districts that either party can realistically win. They are often running on Republican--or at least highly disputed--turf. Conversely, the most liberal Democrats usually run in Democratic strongholds. Over the last two decades--apart from 1994--more conservative Democrats have been twice as apt to lose as other members of their party. Given the districts or states in which they run, this is not at all surprising. But what is surprising is this: In 1994, the more conservative Democrats erased that disadvantage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 14, 2009 6:13 PM
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