How progressive are Washington State’s members of Congress?

Govtrack.us has a useful chart that purports to show where each member of Congress stands on a continuum from liberal to conservative.

The chart is based on co-sponsorship relationships between members of Congress: how often they cosponsored each other’s bills. Lawmakers who cosponsored another lawmaker’s legislation are placed close together. The X axis measures ideology (from progressive on the left to conservative on the right). The Y axis measures leadership: how often the lawmaker sponsored bills.

Click this link to explore the data interactively. I have copied the image here and marked Democrats with arrows and names:

Ideological positions of Washington State Congressional Democrats, from govtrack.us

A surprising thing about their analysis is that it puts Adam Smith to the left of Primila Jayapal. This seems wrong. I will redo their analyses using my own data science skills.

The govtrack pages for each candidate show scores from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters, Human Rights Campaign, NORML, and various right wing advocacy groups, such as Freedom Works, the Chamber of Commerce and Club for Growth.  See

Another scorecard they should probably have shown is the Social-Economic Justice Scorecard from the AFL-CIO: https://aflcio.org/what-unions-do/social-economic-justice/advocacy/scorecard/us-house-scorecard . According to that scorecard, all Democratic Washington State Reps score pretty high. Again, Smith scores higher than Jayapal or anyone else.

District Name Party 2015 (%) 2016 (%) 2017 (%) Lifetime (%)
WA 1 DelBene D 92 100 92 94
WA 2 Larsen D 88 100 95 91
WA 3 Herrera Beutler R 14 50 18 17
WA 4 Newhouse R 17 13 24 20
WA 5 McMorris Rodgers R 13 13 11 10
WA 6 Kilmer D 92 100 95 94
WA 7 Jayapal D 97 97
WA 8 Reichert R 42 63 37 41
WA 9 Smith D 100 100 95 90
WA 10 Heck D 96 100 95 95

I am curious about their votes on taxation and military issues. Are there scorecards covering those fields?

Here’s govtrack’s image for all Senators (Click to see bigger version):

U.S. Senator ideology

And for all House members (Click to see bigger version):

U.S. House member ideology

Republican lies about deficit spending

On The Deficit, GOP Has Been Playing Us All For Suckers

“Think about this. The same congressional Republicans who over the previous eight years wanted everyone to believe they were fiscal conservatives hell-bent on balancing the budget and not increasing the national debt, sponsored, passed and then danced around the fire because of legislation that will result in a permanent $1 trillion deficit and a debt that will soar to close to 100 percent of GDP by 2028.”

And most voters couldn’t care less. They will continue to believe the talking point that the Dems are “tax and spend liberals” and the Republicans are fiscally responsible. Facts do not matter.

Review of Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain

Subtitled “Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising,” Joshua Green’s book about the 2016 election explains how Trump pulled off an upset. Green interviewed Bannon and other major players. The journalism and writing are of highest quality, like what you can read in publications such as the New Yorker. I like that the writing doesn’t draw attention to itself but flows well.

I have a greater appreciation now for how Trump won and for the role Bannon and other nationalists played in his victory.

Trump won by

  1. Appealing to nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and economic populism;
  2. Relentlessly attacking Hillary and Bill Clinton as corrupt;
  3. Saying outrageous things that generated free publicity;
  4. Firing Paul Manafort in late August of 2016, hiring Steve Bannon, and listening to advice from the Mercer family;
  5. Concentrating on the swing states; (A week before the election, Hillary was campaigning in Arizona.)
  6. Getting a lot of help from the Mercer family and Cambridge Analytics;
  7. Getting a lot of help from millions of angry, young white males who spend time on the Internet as trolls and in the Dark Web of right-wing hate groups;
  8. Getting a lot of help from Jame’s Comey’s announcement about email investigations a week before the election;
  9. Riding the wave of populist, anti-establishment anger related to the Tea Party; (The Mercers at first supported Ted Cruz, another outsider who wanted to overthrow the establishment.)
  10. Repeating many of the populist themes of Bernie Sanders’ campaign; (One of Trump’s videos sounds almost exactly like a Sanders video: attacking the corrupt corporations and political elites.)
  11. Taking advantage of solid opposition research that appeared in the book Clinton Cash, which exposed apparent corruption in the Clinton Foundation and which resulted in headlines in the New York Times and other legitimate media outlets.

Though Steve Bannon was an extremist, and though he later was kicked out of the White House, he was smart (a former Goldman Sachs executive) and played a large role in many of these strategies.

In fact, Green is convinced that Bannon departure from the White House in August of 2017 was largely due to Trump’s annoyance at being overshadowed by Bannon.  Some people called Bannon Trump’s Karl Rove.   Trump wanted people to believe that he is a self-made man. In a tweet, Trump ridiculed Bannon and said he played a small role in his win.    Green suggests otherwise.

It’s easy to ridicule Trump as being dumb. In some ways he is. In other ways, he’s rather a genius. He is skilled at insulting and tearing down opponents. He beat Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christi and the other Republican candidates and then pulled off an upset win against Hillary. His repeated attacks against “Crooked Hillary” stuck. He had a knack for self-promotion and for appealing to voters’ primal views.

But he also appealed to economic concerns of the middle class. Green quotes Steve Bannon on Trump’s victory:

“Trump,” Bannon proclaimed, “is the leader of a populist uprising…. What Trump represents is a restoration—a restoration of true American capitalism and a revolution against state-sponsored socialism. Elites have taken all the upside for themselves and pushed the downside to the working- and middle-class Americans.” Bernie Sanders had tried to warn them, but the Democrats hadn’t listened, and didn’t break free of crony capitalism. “Trump saw this,” Bannon said. “The American people saw this. And they have risen up to smash it.”

Of course, as Green says, this spin is belied by the fact that Trump’s economic policies have favored the rich and have led to a dismantling of regulations that protect the public from predatory capitalism.   Bannon was more anti-establishment and more anti-Wall Street than Trump turned out to be. Bannon and his cohorts hated the corrupt GOP establishment and wanted Trump to overturn it.

Several times during the election, Trump campaign staff and Republican operatives were convinced Trump was in serious trouble. Trump’s attacks on Megyn Kelly for her aggressive questioning at Republican debates led to a quarrel with Fox News owner Robert Murdoch; but Breitbart News and other far-right groups were able to come to Trump’s defense and attack Megyn as a traitor to the cause. The Access Hollywood tape (“Grab’em by the pussy”) almost ended Trump’s campaign, but WikiLeaks released DNC emails, and Trump pivoted to attacking the Clintons about Bill’s infidelities and apparent corruption in the Clinton Foundation.

Trump was the Teflon Don.

Up until election night, Republicans were expecting to lose, though their polls showed the race tightening after Comey’s announcement.

After Trump clinched the election, a reporter asked Bannon if the outcome was worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Without missing a beat, Bannon shot back with a reply worthy of his favorite vintage star, Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High.

“Brother,” he said, “Hollywood doesn’t make movies where the bad guys win.”

(The book has many such gems.)

Despite Trump’s relationship with Bannon and other nationalists, Green writes, “Trump doesn’t believe in nationalism or in any other political philosophy — he’s fundamentally a creature of his own ego.” Green predicts that Trump will disappoint most of his supporters, just as he disappointed and betrayed most of his business associates over the years. Green says that Trump’s presidency has mostly been chaos and failed policy initiatives.

Green seems wrong on two points. Trump’s anti-immigration policies are having a real, damaging effect. And he has launched an anti-globalist trade war with China. (This happened after Green wrote the book.)

42% of Americans still support Trump, according to some polls. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins re-election in 2020.

Loving sociopaths

At my previous job, there was a coworker who was amicable and technically smart. Though he and his wife combined earned over $300K a year, he complained a lot about taxes. He’s a white Christian. He is skeptical about climate change and evolution. He watches Fox News and listens to Rush Limbaugh. He hates Dems and voted for Trump (he said he chose the lesser of two evils).

But, really, he’s (otherwise) a nice guy, with a self-deprecating sense of humor, and quite smart. I liked him, he liked me, and we enjoyed chatting. In our discussions, I told him that a pro-life Christian should be in favor of medical care for all — at least, surely, medical care for children, elderly, and poor people. He reluctantly agreed that basic medical care should be guaranteed. He told this to his (Chinese) wife, who is even more conservative than he is.

He kept trying to convert me to Christianity, to no avail.

After I left that job, he tried to reach out to me. But I rebuffed his efforts, even though I like him, because I am repulsed by his political views. After all, he voted for politicians who lie frequently and promote destructive policies: giving even more money to the rich and the Pentagon; deregulating Wall Street; gutting the EPA and other regulatory agencies; under-funding the IRS so tax cheats aren’t audited; making it harder for minorities and poor people to vote; separating parents and children at the border; allowing billionaires to buy elections and set policy; denying climate science; favoring corporations over unions; making it easy to buy military-style guns and ammunition; suppressing rights of women and gay people; etc, etc.

Are the GOP politicians he supports sociopaths? I think many of them are.  Some of the politicians probably regret being forced to support radical positions; this is probably why many Republican politicians are quitting.

Does my friend’s support for these politicians make him a sociopath too  — “a sociopath-by-proxy”?  I’m not sure.

In fairness to my coworker and to other Republicans, many Trump voters disliked Trump and voted for him only because they thought Hillary was even worse.    Still, Trump was obviously corrupt, stupid, racist, crude, dishonest, and misogynistic.   Though I disliked Hillary’s hawkishness and her friendliness to Wall Street, she was clearly more qualified, more honest, and less destructive than Trump.  The email scandal which Trump and others made such a big deal about was minor compared to all the scandals involving Trump.  How is it possible for an intelligent, decent person to vote for Trump over Hillary?

I know a progressive woman who became estranged from her sister because the sister joined the NRA in response to the Parkland shooting and the protests that followed from it.

The country is so deeply divided.

It’s hard to believe that all Republican voters are sociopaths.  I rather believe they’ve been brainwashed, by Fox News, AM talk radio, Breitbart News, and other conservative media.

I can forgive uneducated, poorly informed people for voting for Trump and other Republicans. I cannot forgive my friend, who is too smart to fall for their lies and distortions.

The phrase “banality of evil” is often used to describe why seemingly decent people can support or do horrible things. I’m sure many Nazis were good family men; they got caught up in a system of extreme evil. Likewise, I’m sure that George W. Bush is an amicable, likable guy in person. This might explain why Michelle Obama was able to cuddle him in this rather disturbing photo.

Michelle Obama hugging George W Bush

The photo is disturbing because George W. Bush is basically a war criminal — aside from all the other damage he and his cohorts did to America and the world.

With the photo and the story of my coworker in mind, I can now explain the three interpretations for the title of this essay.

    1. Some sociopaths, such as, say, George W. Bush, are kind, loving people in person. They are loving sociopaths.
    2. Some people, such as my Republican coworker, vote for sociopaths. They love sociopaths.
    3. In America today, it often happens that a dear friend, coworker, or family member votes Republican and we find ourselves loving a sociopath-by-proxy.

I fear for the future. I won’t be surprised if the Republicans do well in the midterms or if Trump wins re-election in 2020. Trump said, “I could stand in the middle Of Fifth Avenue And shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Not quite true, but about 42% of Americans support him still, and his support has been increasing. It boggles the mind. But this article gives a hint about why people voted for Trump and about the need for Democrats to improve their messaging.