Vulnerable Congressmen Doomed Bailout

Nate Silver compares the list of Representatives voting No on yesterday’s bailout bill with the list of swing districts — that is, those where the re-election of the incumbent is seriously in doubt — and finds a surprisingly strong correlation.

OTHER GOP = 62 YEAS, 116 NAYS (35%)

OTHER DEMS = 135 YEAS, 82 NAYS (62%)

OTHERS = 197 YEAS, 198 NAYS (50%)

Additionally, almost all the retiring Members voted in favor.

Like it or not, this is how the system is supposed to work. House Members, especially, are supposed to be held strictly accountable for carrying out the wishes on their constituents. They’re called “Representatives,” after all. Given that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to this “bailout,” it’s not surprising that those most in danger of losing their seats five weeks from today are voting with their people. It’s a tough economy, after all, not a great time to be out of work.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Congress, Economics and Business, US Politics, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brett says:

    Although I was upset that the bailout failed, I don’t blame them that much either. I remember NPR had a representative on who said that when he went in to his office in the morning, he had already received 900 calls, most vehemently against the bill. When you’re a representative, you just can’t afford to take that kind of risk unless you’ve been sitting in your seat for a long time.

  2. Tad says:

    Given that the public doesn’t understand why the bill is so important and how much damage could be done to them, this is hardly acting responsibly on their behalf…besides representatives aren’t supposed to represent our opinions they are supposed to represent our better interests. This isn’t a demo of how it’s supposed to work, its a demo of political cowardice and a failure to communicate risk.

    Not that this isn’t a demo of how the system actually works. That I agree with entirely.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    If you’ll check in my updates and comments in the posts below, you’ll see that that’s roughly what I said was happening. When you add ideological purists I think you’ll account for the total.

    There a tension among the several roles of a Congressman. Does a Congressman vote the way in which a majority of his or her constituency would have voted? Or in the best interests of his or her constituency? Or for the good of the country? The answer isn’t the same for every issue.

    If it’s the first, we don’t need Congressional representatives at all. Technology has made direct democracy feasible. The Founders certainly didn’t believe that was the primary role of Congressional representatives and I’m not sure we should, either.

  4. Anderson says:

    Mississippi’s 3 Democrats, all seeking re-election, voted nay; our 1 Repub, Chip Pickering (whose dad Judge Charles Pickering was a poster child in the judicial-nominations battle), who’s not running again, voted aye. Fits the pattern.

    (I have to remind myself that Miss. has a 3/4 Democratic delegation to the House. Weird.)

  5. JT says:

    While these politicians worry about their own jobs, regular citizens lose theirs. Nonsense like this causes crime to increase, destroys families and much more, all so these fearful individuals don’t have to take a stance.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Democracy in action…ain’t it sweet.

    What was it that H.L. Mencken said about democracy? Oh yeah,

    For if experience teaches us anything at all it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.


    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.


    Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.


    Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.


    Democracy is the pathetic belief in the wisdom of collective ignorance.