Rather than trying to explain this, I want to demonstrate it. The idea is that voting records of office holders do not matter.
Let’s take two Senators, say Tester and Daines from my former home state of Montana, one a Democrat and one a Republican. Lets assume that there are ten pieces of important legislation, and that Tester and Daines voted as indicated:
- 1. A bill to designate certain areas of Montana wilderness. (DEFEATED 27-73) Tester votes Yeah, Daines Nay.
- 2. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code to index the floor over which Social Security benefits are taxed. (DEFEATED 46-54) Tester votes Y, Daines N
- 3. A bill to release highway funds for portions of the Montana Interstate badly in need of repair. (PASSES 95-5) Tester votes Y, Daines votes N
- 4. A bill to remove marijuana from the banned substances list. (DEFEATED 96-4) Tester voted N, Daines voted N.
- 5. A bill to protect endangered species by re-listing wolves as a protected species. (DEFEATED 60-40) Tester voted Y, Daines voted N
- 6. A vote to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. (Approved 67-33) Tester voted Y, Daines voted Y)
- 7. A bill to authorize funding for forest fire fighters for the coming fiscal year (PASSED 61-39) Tester voted Y, Daines voted N)
- 8. A bill to overturn portions of the Affordable Health Care Act regarding mandatory payment of premiums to private corporations. (DEFEATED 57-43) Tester voted N, Daines voted Y
- 9. A bill to override presidential veto of approval of the Keystone Pipeline (PASSED 67-33) Tester voted Y, Daines voted Y
- 10. A bill to approve the weapons budget for the coming year. (PASSED 98-0) Tester voted Y, Daines voted Y
Looking over the voting record, the Conservation Voters, based on votes 1, 5 and 7, gave Jon tester a 100% approval record, and Steve Daines a 0% approval rating.
Based on 8,9 and 10, the American Conservative Union gave Jon Tester a 67% approval rating, and Steve Daines a 100% rating.
AARP issues a favorable scorecard to Tester based on 2 and 8, and Daines a negative.
Now, go back to the list above, and reverse the votes. Change every Tester Y to a N, and the same for Daines. Note that in doing this, nothing changes except two very critical bills – TPP and Keystone. On those votes, their votes would have made a difference, and they both voted with the Republican majority.
However, each will have a completely different voting record to present to voters and to the groups that tally votes.
Voting records do not matter. They can be and are tailored to suit the needs of the office holder.
- Most votes are lopsided, so a senator can vote either way without affecting the outcome.
- Senators agree in advance on who is allowed to be for or against certain bills, often based on election cycles.
- Some bills, like TPP and Keystone, are supported by powerful interest groups, and so transcend parties and always receive just enough support to pass.
Tester could easily present himself as a Republican, Daines as a Democrat, without affecting the outcome of legislation, and voters would support them based on party affiliation.
Voting records are completely meaningless.