It’s natural in the wake of an electoral defeat for progressives to argue that Democrats would have done better had they been more progressive, while “centrists” argue that Democrats would have done better had they been less progressive. The reality is that Democrats would have done better had the economy been in better shape. And the most important fine-grained analysis you’ll get will comes from John Sides who shows that far and away the most important factor in determining who got re-elected was the underlying partisanship of the district:
In all 402 contested House elections, the 2008 presidential vote in that district would explain 83% of the variation in the Democratic House candidate’s vote share. Nothing else in our dataset comes close.
Honestly if there’s one thing this blog could accomplish, I would love to increase the level of awareness on the Hill of this fact and of the importance of the macroeconomy. The fact of the matter is that members of congress should vote their conscience on issues of significance. The political importance of issue positioning is dwarfed by the political importance of objective reality, and the political impact of votes on legislation is dwarfed by the substantive impact of votes on legislation. If staffers and members of congress cut the time they spend thinking about “strategy” by fifty percent and reallocated it to learning about the issues on the merits the world would be a much better place and the electoral outcomes would be extremely similar.