What Caused 1994

Interesting article from Real Clear Politics, about how passing Obamacare won’t save Democrats, but it does have this tidbit:

There were two controversial pieces of legislation that defined the Clinton Administration for Republican-leaning voters: the assault weapons ban and the first Clinton budget (a.k.a. the tax hike). If we look at the fifteen Democrats who voted against both pieces of legislation, only one lost (she represented a district that gave Bush a 15-point win in 1992). In fact, about half of them saw their share of the vote increase or stay roughly the same from 1992!

Let’s move on to Democratic incumbents who represented Republican-leaning districts who voted for only one of these two pieces of legislation. There were thirty-seven such Democrats. The casualty rate here is a little higher; thirteen of them, or thirty-five percent of them, lost. And of the twenty-two Democrats from Republican-leaning districts who voted for both pieces of controversial legislation, ten of them (45%) lost.

In other words, the problem for Democrats in 1994 was not that they didn’t support Clinton’s agenda enough. It was that they got too far out in front of their conservative-leaning districts and supported the President too much.

We can use a more quantitative approach. I constructed a simple regression model to try to measure what factors played a role in Democrats’ downfall in 1994. If you want the nitty gritty of the model, you can click this footnote [2]. But the bottom line is that, holding all other things equal, a Democrat in a Republican district who voted for the assault weapons ban lost 4.2 percentage points off of his 1992 numbers. If the same Democrat voted for the Clinton budget, she lost 3.7 points. In other words, these two votes alone could take a Democrat who won a comfortable election with 56 percent of the vote in 1992, and turn her into a loser in 1994.

No doubt our opponents will argue this is just another flak perpetuating the myth that the NRA has any political power, and there’s nothing to lose by voting for gun control. We’re hearing that swan song once again, with the Luntz poll pushed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. It would behoove politicians to remember that public polling in the mid 90s showed the same numbers that their agenda shows today. People had no idea what an assault weapon was. When they found out, they were pissed.

One thought on “What Caused 1994”

  1. I voted for every Libertarian on the Arizona ballot in 2008 (and don’t regret it). Even so I am somewhat sentimental about the federal budgets of yesteryear before the tax way more, spend way more and borrow way more Democrats took the majority.

    I still think that the war mongering Republicans (such as John McCain) deserved to lose and could lose 2010 again if they can’t reign in their desire to plant US soldiers and US bombs in new countries.

    The three Democratic newbies in Arizona (Mitchell/Giffords/Kirkpatrick) each only won with 53-56% of the vote in 2008.

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