Pyrrhic Victories: DINO Retirements Mark Age of Homogeneous Parties
Ben Nelson retired from the Senate today. Huzzah. Ben Nelson’s retirement (paired with that of Dan Boren) may very well signify the complete denouement of the Fifth Party System. These two conservative legislators, were indeed, conservative Democrats. They have historically voted with Republicans just as often as Democrats; in 2011, Dan Boren voted with the Democrats 566 of 1,146 times (49.4%), while Nelson seemed to ironically get more with the program and voted with Democrats 182 of 229 times (79.5%). Nelson’s numbers are inflated because of the numerous votes on procedure in the Senate, which distorts areas of disagreement with opposition; unlike the House, the Senate still had moderates of both parties who could work with one another to win passage on some issues. A more filtered approach on the issues finds Nelson holds more conservative views than liberal ones. Boren might seemingly have a more conservative record, but that is due to his being in the House where his vote was simply not as necessary to propel the party agenda to fruition. On the one hand, I personally disagree with these people on most issues, and am happy to see them go; on the other, these seats are firmly Republican, so while the party becomes more ideologically pure, it does so at a negative electoral consequence. The Sixth Party System poses serious questions about bipartisan governance, and the increasingly dominant trend of party polarization. Either the voters pick a side and provide them with an extensive mandate, or legislative gridlock will be the norm.
Goodbye Senator Nelson and Representative Boren. You often voted against the party that you played an instrumental role in putting in power. What an odd feeling, knowing you helped an entity accomplish policy goals you did not favor. A special happy-to-see-you-go to Senator Nelson. You were a thorn in the side of progress. Your practice of quid pro quo politics for several major bills including the Stimulus and the PPACA showed you had little adherence to your ideology, since simply exempting your state from Medicare cuts was enough to override your beliefs and acquire your vote. Quite the enigma: Opposed the most imperative Health Care legislation since 1965, and yet his party identity was the reason it was able to pass.