How Republicans and Democrats voted on military spending during the Trump administration
Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°66 | 28 January 2021
I graded 428 House members from last Congress based on how they voted on 8 military budget bills (NDAAs from FY18-21) and 1 amendment to reduce DOD spending (Rep. Pocan’s amendment, introduced in July).
So there’s a maximum of 9 votes I’m looking at. From there, I divided how many good votes they had (No on NDAAs; Yes on Pocan’s amdt.) by the total votes they cast to get a percentage. Then I compared those scores to the amount of campaign cash received from military contractors (2017-20).
House Democrats voted well 24 percent of the time (437 good votes/1820 total cast by the members I looked at); House Republicans, 21 percent of the time (320/1546). Some other findings:
Average amount received by Democrats who voted well at least 50 percent of the time: $22,461
Average amount received by Democrats who voted well less than half the time: $79,035
Average amount received by Republicans who voted well at least 50 percent of the time: $11,897
Average amount received by Republicans who voted well less than half the time: $98,536
So for Democrats, bad voters get 3.5x more war industry cash than the (relatively) OK-to-good ones. For Republicans, it’s 8.3x. Regular readers won’t be surprised that this is the case for Democrats, given that I’ve gone on and on (and on) about it for the last couple weeks. But this is the first time I applied my theory (or whatever) to Republicans — is anyone else surprised it played out the way it did?
The top recipients of war industry cash are among the worst voters, regardless of party affiliation
The two vertical bands below show what my research looks like if you zoomed out a lot from the spreadsheet I was working in/on. What’s important are the colors (you won’t be able to read the text anyways).
On the left I sorted all House members from most to least campaign cash received from military contractors since 2017 (top = a lot; bottom = hardly any). Then I color-coded each based on party affiliation (red = Republican).
On the right is the same thing, except I grayed out the members who cast more bad votes than good. If campaign finance didn’t matter, it wouldn’t look like this. You have to go down 103 rows (members) to find someone who voted well at least half the time.
^The top 20 percent of war industry cash recipients in the House hauled in $265,315 on average and voted well less than 9 percent of the time. Members in the bottom 20 percent took an average of $3,869 and voted well more than 33 percent of the time. If we’re going to get more good votes on military spending, they’re going to come from the bottom. The members at the top are probably irreconcilable.
Moving military spending into the discourse on inequality
Military spending’s about inequality. It’s also a story about class and corruption, as many drivers of inequality are. But military contractors aren’t regularly featured in conversations about exorbitant CEO pay (even though they get about the same as Big Pharma executives) or investigations into congressional stock holdings (excluding Sludge). They also elide the popular outrage against corporations that don’t pay federal taxes, even though military contractors receive billions in federal tax dollars every year ($404 billion in FY19).
We’re up against an unholy trinity of militarism, money, and masculinity. We need a mass movement. I don’t know or care whether this fight’s more or less challenging than those fought by GND or M4A activists, but I do know that both those movements are now massive and have not been shy about talking about situating their respective causes within the broader context of inequality and class and corruption.
The antiwar advocacy community needs to decide whether this should be our route, too, or if we should continue pretending that ordinary folks will give us the time of day after we say shit like ‘statecraft’ and ‘transpartisan.’
Thanks for your time,