The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, February 26, 2005
 

Harry Byrd's linear progression to the extreme


The Voteview and DW-NOMINATE material just invites tinkering.

So, I find myself looking at the record of the King of Virginia, Harry Byrd (aka Harry Flood Byrd) whose statewide machine invites comparison with those of the likes of Edward Crump of Memphis and Frank Hague of Jersey City [1].

Taking care to distinguish Byrd from his son - who took over from him - and erstwhile Klansman Robert Byrd, one finds that, in every Congress in which he sat (73rd to 89th), his DW-NOMINATE 2nd Coordinate - the one that measures the racial dimension of Congressional ideology - was higher than the one before.

In the 73rd, he had a rating of -0.25, the 70th least 'racist' [2]; by the 80th, there were still 31 senators with a higher 2nd coordinate than his. In the 86th and subsequent Congresses, he scored higher than +1 [3], topping off at 1.306 in the 89th - in which he was beaten to top spot only by Richard Russell with 1.456!

The danger with these stats is, of course, gee whiz overload.

(Too late. Ed)

My impression is that whilst professional users of these stats are comfortable explaining the meaning of results for the 1st coordinate (which provides a liberal-conservative scale), they're less happy with the 2nd coordinate.

Me too. The stat should explain something not otherwise apparent - such as the hotting up of race-related issues over the period 1933-1965 - but seems to do no more than reflect the obvious.

More tinkering required, I suspect.

  1. I'm rusty on my machines; but my recollection is that both Crump and Hague controlled their states, whilst Tom Pendergast ruled in Kansas City, but had no sway in St Louis or rural Missouri. It's a distinction to observe, at any rate.

  2. An inspection of those with higher 2nd coordinates suggests that the stat was unreliable at the time as a measure of 'racism': Glass (VA) rates -0.921 whilst LaFollette (WI) turns in a monster 1.019! Other Western insurgents - Nye, Frazier, Shipstead, Wheeler - all return scores in the top ten. A similar pattern in the 74th-76th. By the 79th, the expected pattern - Confederate states at the top end - finally emerges (though Shipstead, LaFollette and Wheeler are still in the top ten).

    The 80th saw the Sons of the Wild Jackass finally relinquish the top ten to the South - but perhaps only because they had left the building.

  3. Nominally, the range is supposed to be from -1 (as liberal as buggery) to +1 (bring back slavery), but results in excess of 1 are apparently possible.


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