In a transparent bid for attention, the Third Way-ers willfully misinterpreted Markos to conclude he'd somehow become a liberal tea partier, hell bent on placing purity ahead of victory at all costs, and rooting for moderates to lose. Markos eviscerated this nonsense and, among other things, pointed to all the moderate candidates Daily Kos has supported over the years, like Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.
But Daily Kos has endorsed close to 200 different campaigns over the last decade, so is there any way to measure just how big the Daily Kos tent actually is? It turns out there is. Thanks to an ideology measurement system developed by political scientists called "DW-Nominate," we can compare the lifetime voting record of every single person who ever served in either the House or Senate, along a scale that ranges from -1 (most liberal) to 1 (most conservative), though in practice, today's Democrats don't range past 0.
So while we can't evaluate every candidate we've ever endorsed, around 45 office-seekers Daily Kos has supported have either held or won a seat in Congress at some point (typically after our endorsement, since we seldom back incumbents). That means we can find out all of their ideology scores, to give us a sense of the range of candidates Daily Kos has gotten behind over the years. (A full list is here.)
We can also find scores for every Democrat currently serving on Capitol Hill today, so that we can compare "Daily Kos Democrats" to the party as a whole. (That dataset can be found here.) And that's just what we've done in the chart at the top of this post.
This sort of graph is known as a histogram, and it plots the number of individuals with a given ideology score at any point. Each bar represents an increment of .02 on the ideology scale, and the higher the bar, the more people who fall into that range. The entire 113th Congress is shown in gray, stretching from California Rep. Barbara Lee on the left (with a score of -0.722) to West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin on the right (-0.089). Daily Kos' endorsees, meanwhile, are depicted in orange.
As you can see, we've truly run the gamut when it comes to endorsements, from Rep. Donna Edwards, whom we helped win a dark blue seat in Maryland, to Rep. Patrick Murphy, a freshman who represents a seat Mitt Romney carried in South Florida. It would be hard to stretch your tent out much further than that.
And something else should pop out, too: that orange spike along the right side of the chart. Whereas the center of the full Democratic caucus is somewhere in the middle, Daily Kos' endorsed candidates lean to the right compared to Congress as a whole! No one tell Third Way! But seriously, what does that mean? We're obviously not a bunch of crypto right-wingers, so it turns out there are some interesting explanations for what's going on here.
First and foremost, as we alluded above, Daily Kos almost always endorses challengers, not incumbents, and we typically endorse in competitive, Republican-held seats. Because those kinds of districts and states tend to be much swingier (if not outright red), the Democrats who win them won't hew to the party line as often as someone sitting in a safely blue seat. In other words, the bluer the seat, the more reliably progressive the office-holder is likely to be—but accepting that sometimes it takes a more moderate Democrat to beat a Republican has always been a part of this site's ethos.
Our approach has changed over the years, though. Back during the Bush era, we readily supported almost anyone with a "(D)" after his or her name. Since then, we've adopted our mantra of "more and better Democrats," which has led us to be somewhat less heterodox in whom we endorse. So it's possible that were we to consider them today, some of the candidates depicted in orange, like ex-Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky or ex-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, wouldn't be a good fit for Daily Kos.
But even after we started asking potential endorsees a few core questions about their beliefs a number of years ago, we've never maintained any kind of strict litmus test, and we've always been open to a broad range of Democrats. That's why we've continued to get behind people like Murphy and Begich—both of whom beat notorious Republicans on difficult turf, and both of whom either get us closer to the majority or help keep us there.
Indeed, anyone who does even a little bit of research into Daily Kos' history would find us driving in stakes beneath almost every pole holding up the Democratic tent. We've always pushed for real progressive change, but we also know it takes a Democratic majority to make that possible. Whether the likes of Third Way understand that is irrelevant, though. What matters is that we understand it, because we still have lots of work to do. Let's get to it.