The other day I pointed out that stem-cell funding had picked up about half as many votes in the House as the Democrats did, and added that this fact suggested that the political power of the funding issue isn’t what its advocates have made it out to be.
Neil Sinhababu writes: “What actually happened here is that a substantial portion of Democratic gains came from defeating moderate Republicans — for example, Rob Simmons, Jim Leach, Nancy Johnson, and the guys from New Hampshire — who were voting for stem cell research before.”
I love that “actually,” as though Sinhababu’s pointing out the obvious somehow refutes my point. Sure, pro-funding Democrats replaced pro-funding Republicans. But if the issue were as powerful as we’ve been led to believe, we would have seen some other things happen, too.
Pro-funding Republicans would have replaced anti-funding Republicans in open seats; ditto for Democrats; all else being equal, pro-funding Republicans would have done better in the elections than anti-funding Republicans; a lot of professional politicians, surveying the wreckage, would have abandoned the anti-funding position; these factors would have combined so that the issue did better than the party. It didn’t happen.