Wednesday :: Oct 10, 2007

Is Hillary Clinton a "Corporate Democrat?" - Part 3


by eriposte

[NOTE: Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here].

One of the joys of blogging is that you always find some thoughtful commenters who take the time to read your post or analysis carefully and respond rationally. In response to my first post on this subject, one such thoughtful reader Joejoejoe wrote [emphasis mine]:

2) I saw Sen. Lieberman use these scorecards to great effect in the '06 Senate race to "prove" he's a good Democrat. On issues from Social Security protection to abortion rights Sen. Lieberman has a solid voting record but his efforts up until the actual vote has always been to diminish and dilute progressive initiatives. I'm not saying Sen. Clinton is or is not guilty of this behavior -- I'm saying take these scorecard ratings with a grain of salt. Sen. Lieberman got a perfect score on some progressive legal and choice scorecards for voting against Alito for SCOTUS, scorecards that ignored Lieberman's central role in making the Gang of 14 deal and vote for cloture on the Alito nomination. Things aren't always as they appear in these scorecards.

3) Sen. Obama has a much broader small donor base than Sen. Clinton. You can indirectly argue this discrepancy relates to corporate support.

Let's kill two birds - or many birds - with one stone.

First, let's compare the Progressive Punch, ADA, AFL-CIO and SEIU progressive scores of Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Chris Dodd, and Sen. John Edwards to see how they stack up against each other. Looking at a multitude of different ratings for these Senators provides a better picture than looking at ratings from just one group, because each group has some limitations based on the unique methodology they use. Through this comparison, regardless of their donor base, let's ask who the real "Corporate Democrat" is between them. After all, just because a member of Congress has a large donor base of small contributors, that doesn't automatically guarantee that the member would overwhelmingly vote against corporatist interests.

Second, let's specifically add Sen. Joe Lieberman's Progressive Punch score to the mix and compare him to the other Senators, especially Sen. Clinton. Recall that Progressive Punch has a somewhat unique approach to scoring politicians. They only consider votes in which the majority of the most progressive Democrats in their list voted against the majority of the entire GOP caucus, and they rate each member of Congress on how well they vote together with the former against the latter. In other words, a very high Progressive Punch score means that the member of Congress mostly voted in sync with the most progressive Democrats against the GOP. A very low Progressive Punch score means the opposite - the member largely abandoned the most progressive members of the Democratic party to vote with the GOP. This is a great way to understand who is abandoning the most progressive members of Congress and simultaneously assess:

(a) Whether it is indeed true, as Joejoejoe believes, that Sen. Lieberman can be considered to have a solid progressive voting record on many issues if we purely looked at his voting patterns &

(b) Whether Sen. Clinton's voting record is anything like Sen. Lieberman's

Follow me below the fold for the results.

The results and discussion are divided into the following sections.

1. Progressive Punch

2. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)

3. AFL-CIO

4. SEIU

5. Conclusions


1. Progressive Punch

I have summarized the progressive scores for the aforementioned Democratic candidates below (except Sen. Edwards for whom no data was available), with the scores for Sen. Lieberman added as a reference. I've included topics unrelated to corporatism as well, just to provide a more complete picture.

Let me explain the color coding, which I've added to enable you to visually and easily grasp the significance of the results. In each row of the table, the highest score is colored green, the lowest score is colored red and intermediate scores are colored yellow. My comments on the results are captured below the table.

Table I. Progressive Punch Progressive Score Comparison Table

Category/Issue
Sen. Edwards
Overall Progressive Score
92%
90%
Not Av
87%
77%
Aid to Less Advantaged People at Home and Abroad
98%
97%
Not Av
95%
81%
Corporate Subsidies
100%
Not Av
Not Av
67%
67%
Education, Humanities and the Arts
88%
100%
Not Av
100%
100%
Environment
92%
100%
Not Av
92%
72%
Fair Taxation
97%
100%
Not Av
97%
88%
Family Planning
88%
80%
Not Av
94%
88%
Government Checks on Corporate Power
95%
97%
Not Av
87%
82%
Healthcare
98%
94%
Not Av
97%
73%
Housing
100%
100%
Not Av
100%
100%
Human Rights & Civil Liberties
82%
77%
Not Av
73%
74%
Justice for All: Civil and Criminal
94%
91%
Not Av
83%
70%
Labor Rights
91%
91%
Not Av
96%
58%
Making Government Work for Everyone,
Not Just the Rich or Powerful
94%
90%
Not Av
89%
77%
War and Peace
80%
86%
Not Av
83%
48%

OBSERVATIONS:

1.1 Consistent with my observations (and caveats) in Part 1 of this series, outside of national security and war, Sen. Clinton gets high-to-very-high progressive scores almost across the board. In short, her voting history reflects a very high consistency of voting with a majority of the most progressive Senators in Congress across a multitude of issues - especially those concerning corporate interests. This does not, in any way, mean that she never voted badly - of course she has done so, but on the whole she voted far more in sync with the most progressive members of Congress than otherwise - contrary to the claim that I responded to in Part 2 of this series.

1.2 When we look at the overall Progressive Punch score for Sen. Clinton, it is apparent that on the whole, she voted more progressively and more in sync with the most progressive Democrats in the Senate (92%) than did Sen. Obama (90%) and Sen. Dodd (87%). Now, granted there is likely to be some noise in the data - so, let's be somewhat conservative in our assessment and say that she was at least as progressive overall in her voting pattern as Sen. Obama and Sen. Dodd.

1.3 Although the Far Right would love to try and make Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Clinton seem like twins separated at birth, Sen. Lieberman's voting record is nothing like Sen. Clinton's in the majority of categories. Sen. Lieberman broke with the most progressive Senators far more frequently than Sen. Clinton did and voted with the GOP far more frequently than Sen. Clinton did. Clearly, we can't look at his voting record and conclude that he has a "solid" progressive record overall. For example, on labor rights he is at 58% to Sen. Clinton's 91% progressive score according to Progressive Punch. On corporate subsidies he is at 67% to Sen. Clinton's 100% progressive score. On war and peace his progressive score is at an abysmal 48% (more than 1 in 2 votes with the GOP and against the most progressive Democrats!) compared to Sen. Clinton's 80% - which in turn is just slightly lower than Sen. Obama's (86%) or Sen. Dodd's (83%) scores on war and peace. Indeed, on human rights and civil liberties, Sen. Clinton has the highest score at 82%, slightly ahead of Sen. Obama (77%) and Sen. Dodd (73%).

1.4 If Sen. Clinton's voting record is assumed to be that of a "Corporate Democrat", then surely, Sen. Obama's and Sen. Dodd's voting records are equally those of "Corporate Democrats". Although Sen. Edwards' scores are unavailable at Progressive Punch, we can take a good guess that his record is unlikely to be much better than Sen. Obama's - hence, if Sen. Clinton is a "Corporate Democrat", then Sen. Edwards is also a "Corporate Democrat". In reality, of course, the voting patterns of Sen. Clinton and that of Sen. Obama are not consistent with those of a "Corporate Democrat". Ergo my conclusion in Part 1.

P.S. Not that this matters, but this is a point that needs to be made. Sen. Obama had the luxury of not being in Congress during the crucial 2001-2003 time period (just as Sen. Edwards had the luxury of not being in Congress during 2005-2006). It is easier to oppose anti-progressive provisions of Bills in theory when you don't have to actually vote on very specific, constraining language in the Bills handed to you by a GOP majority that contain some progressive provisions along with anti-progressive provisions. When you combine that with Sen. Obama's tendency to reach out to Republicans ever so often, it is not unreasonable to assume that Sen. Obama's score (above) is likely more progressive than it might have been if he had actually been in the Senate starting in 2001.


2. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)

The list of ADA progressive scores for the time period 2001-2006 is provided in the table below.

No discernible difference is evident between Sen. Clinton's scores and that of Sen. Obama and Sen. Dodd. Since Sen. Edwards missed a number of votes, it is hard to say what his ADA record would have been like overall.

Table II. ADA Progressive Score Comparison Table

Year
Sen. Clinton
Sen. Obama
Sen. Edwards
Sen. Dodd
95%
n/a
95%
95%
95%
n/a
70%
80% [1]
95%
n/a
See [2]
95%
95%
n/a
See [3]
100%
100%
100%
n/a
100%
95%
95%
n/a
95%

FOOTNOTES

[1] Sen. Dodd missed 2/20 votes and further, voted against the ADA position on 2/20 votes. Hence, the 80% score.

[2] In 2003, Sen. Edwards missed 7/20 critical votes and was assigned a 65% rating as a result. Presumably he was on the Presidential campaign trail in 2003 and he voted with the ADA on the remaining votes. So I am giving him benefit of the doubt and not reflecting a rating.

[3] In 2004, Sen. Edwards missed 8/20 critical votes and was assigned a 60% rating as a result. Presumably he was on the Presidential campaign trail in 2004 and he voted with the ADA on the remaining votes. So I am giving him benefit of the doubt and not reflecting a rating.


3. AFL-CIO

The list of AFL-CIO pro-labor voting scores for the time period 2001-2006 and the lifetime scores are provided in the table below. Scores below 90% are called out using yellow colored cells. I discuss the results below the table.

Table III. AFL-CIO Pro-Labor Voting Score Comparison Table

Year
2001
100%
n/a
100%
94%
2002
92%
n/a
100%
100%
2003
85%
n/a
100%
100%
2004
100%
n/a
100%
100%
2005
86%
100%
n/a
79%
2006
93%
93%
n/a
100%
Lifetime
93%
96%
97%
91%

OBSERVATIONS:

3.1 Sen. Clinton shows a dip below 90% in her scores in 2003 and 2005. The dip in 2003 was due to her votes for the trade agreements with Singapore and Chile - something I mentioned in Part 2 of this series. The dip in 2005 was due to her votes for the Energy Appropriations Bill and the 2006 Budget with tax cuts included for high income earners. That said, her lifetime score of 93% is very high and compares favorably with the lifetime scores for Sen. Edwards, Sen. Obama and Sen. Dodd.

3.2 Sen. Dodd has the lowest lifetime score but it is still pretty high at 91%. The reason for the dip in his 2005 score was because he voted for the so called "Class Action Fairness Act", the Energy Appropriations Bill and in favor of confirming John Roberts to the Supreme Court (something that Sen. Joe Lieberman also did, unlike Sen. Clinton).

3.2 Sen. Edwards had the best AFL-CIO rating - which is not very surprising.


4. SEIU

The list of SEIU pro-labor voting scores for the time period 2003-2007 are provided in the table below. I discuss the results below the table.

Table IV. SEIU Pro-Labor Voting Score Comparison Table

Progressive Score Comparison Table (2007 includes votes to-date)

Year
Sen. Clinton
Sen. Obama
Sen. Edwards
Sen. Dodd
100%
n/a
100%
100%
100%
n/a
100%
100%
100%
92%
n/a
79%
94%
94%
n/a
94%
90%
70%*
n/a
70%*

*Missed 2 votes, voted wrong on 1 vote

OBSERVATIONS:

Different labor unions sometimes have different votes that they consider important depending on the nature of their industry. From a service industry perspective, it is not entirely surprising to see Sen. Clinton score high on the SEIU's scorecard and compare favorably to Sen. Edwards.


CONCLUSIONS

(a) Consistent with my observations (and caveats) in Part 1 of this series, outside of national security and war, Sen. Clinton gets high-to-very-high progressive scores almost across the board. In short, her voting history reflects a very high consistency of voting with a majority of the most progressive Senators in Congress across a multitude of issues - especially those concerning corporate interests. This does not, in any way, mean that she never voted badly - of course she has done so, but on the whole she voted far more in sync with the most progressive members of Congress than otherwise - contrary to the claim that I responded to in Part 2 of this series.

  • No discernible difference is evident between Sen. Clinton's ADA scores and that of Sen. Obama and Sen. Dodd. Since Sen. Edwards missed a number of votes, it is hard to say what his ADA record would have been like overall.

  • These scores are meaningful and do catch anomalous votes fairly effectively. For instance, Sen. Clinton shows a dip below 90% in her AFL-CIO scores in 2003 and 2005. The dip in 2003 was due to her votes for the trade agreements with Singapore and Chile - something I mentioned in Part 2 of this series. The dip in 2005 was due to her votes for the Energy Appropriations Bill and the 2006 Budget with tax cuts included for high income earners. That said, her lifetime score of 93% is very high and compares favorably with the lifetime scores for Sen. Edwards, Sen. Obama and Sen. Dodd. Sen. Edwards had the best AFL-CIO rating - which is not very surprising.

  • Different labor unions sometimes have different votes that they consider important depending on the nature of their industry. From a service industry perspective, it is not entirely surprising to see Sen. Clinton score high on the SEIU's scorecard and compare favorably to Sen. Edwards.

(b) When we look at the overall Progressive Punch score for Sen. Clinton, it is apparent that on the whole, she voted more progressively and more in sync with the most progressive Democrats in the Senate (92%) than did Sen. Obama (90%) and Sen. Dodd (87%). Now, granted there is likely to be some noise in the data - so, let's be somewhat conservative in our assessment and say that she was at least as progressive overall in her voting as Sen. Obama and Sen. Dodd.

(c) Although the Far Right would love to try and make Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Clinton seem like twins separated at birth, Sen. Lieberman's voting record is nothing like Sen. Clinton's in the majority of categories. Sen. Lieberman broke with the most progressive Senators far more frequently than Sen. Clinton did and voted with the GOP far more frequently than Sen. Clinton did. Clearly, we can't look at his voting record and conclude that he has a "solid" progressive record overall. For example, on labor rights he is at 58% to Sen. Clinton's 91% progressive score according to Progressive Punch. On corporate subsidies he is at 67% to Sen. Clinton's 100% progressive score. On war and peace his progressive score is at an abysmal 48% (more than 1 in 2 votes with the GOP and against the most progressive Democrats!) compared to Sen. Clinton's 80% - which in turn is just slightly lower than Sen. Obama's (86%) or Sen. Dodd's (83%) scores on war and peace. Indeed, on human rights and civil liberties, Sen. Clinton has the highest score at 82%, slightly ahead of Sen. Obama (77%) and Sen. Dodd (73%).

(d) If Sen. Clinton's voting record is assumed to be that of a "Corporate Democrat", then surely, Sen. Obama's and Sen. Dodd's voting records are equally those of "Corporate Democrats". Although Sen. Edwards' scores are unavailable at Progressive Punch, we can take a good guess that his record is unlikely to be much better than Sen. Obama's - hence, if Sen. Clinton is a "Corporate Democrat", then Sen. Edwards is also a "Corporate Democrat". In reality, of course, the voting records of Sen. Clinton and that of Sen. Obama are not consistent with those of a "Corporate Democrat". Ergo my conclusion in Part 1.

eriposte :: 6:41 AM :: Comments (20) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!