Archives for posts with tag: infoviz

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was  going to examine how Republican leadership in the house is something of a reflection of the pattern seen on the Democratic side, where the Progressive Caucus counts among it’s members every major Democratic legislative leader.  I was too hasty in making this assumption, however. On the Republican side, the Tea Party Caucus in fact does not count the Republican legislative heavyweights among its ranks.  Check out the image below (click for a larger image).

tea party caucus highlighted

Tea Party Leaders

In the image above I’ve highlighted all the members of the Tea Party Caucus who show up above the mid-leadership line. As expected they are also all concentrated to the far right.  While these few representatives have established themselves as leaders of  a small, partisan portion of the House, the true legislative leaders within the party are not members of the Tea Party Caucus and have actually attracted quite a bit of bipartisan support with their legislation. Check this out:

The two legislative leaders, Eric Cantor and Jim Gerlach, have garnered large amounts of bipartisan support for their legislation.  Because of this, they have risen to the top.  Now, it’s important to remember that Republicans in the House should not need any Democratic support to pass legislation due to their significant majority.  So why is this bipartisanship occuring? I have a few ideas.

First Idea: When in the majority, legislators will have more of a tendency to attract bipartisan support. If a bill is sponsored by the majority party it has a higher chance of passing.  As such, Democrats may be clinging onto legislation that is likely to pass, contains some good ideas, and is not overly offensive to their base.

Second Idea: Due to divisions within the Republican party, it has become necessary for Republicans to deal with Democrats in order to pass some important legislation.  For instance, the Tea Party, with its libertarian tendencies, has forced some close votes on what would have been relatively safe votes in the old GOP, such as the vote to extend the Patriot Act, which only passed with Democratic support.

Likely it’s some combination of these two ideas that is causing this bipartisan leadership pattern among Republicans, along with a dash of some other factors I’m missing.  Ultimately, this indicates that leadership from a less moderate caucus is possible when your party is in the minority, but it is hard to lead from a partisan caucus while in the majority.  As members of the majority, the legislative heavyweight are by the nature of their majority position likely to attract more bipartisan support. At the same time the broader diversity of ideologies within the majority party requires occasional bipartisan efforts in order to pass legislation.

The Tea Party may see value in their ideological, partisan pursuits, but that does not (and probably cannot) result in legislative leadership, especially from within the majority.

Hey y’all (currently in Atlanta, y’know?),

So the impression is that this blog is done and gone, and my work on the Clear Congress Project is also finished.  Not so! I’ve made a number of improvements over the past 2 months. I also want to explicitly outline some of the features I hope to implement soon!

Features Added

First I’ll talk about the passive interface elements I’ve added.  The most important is the legend on the right hand side, which provides some immediate explanation.  I also think it’s important to include some simple initial directions to the user, since it may be hard to determine that the scatter plot can be interacted with.  I will likely change the cursor CSS for the entire canvas to imply more interactivity.  In addition to this, I also added some middle lines across the chart to create quadrants.  I will likely add the option to add/remove these. In addition, I changed the background color to black.  I think it makes the details window pop more and makes the graphic a bit more dramatic.  I want to give the user the ability to change between black and white, and also provide a color-blind viewing option, which affects around 2% of people and almost 8% of all men.

On the interactive side of things, I implemented a few viewing options, such as a jitter/reset option, as well as the ability to show/hide labels and the network graph. I’m still having some performance issues when collision is enabled, particularly with Firefox. I also added the ability to capture an image of the current state of the graphic. I felt that it was necessary to add a time element at the top of the canvas to automatically place each captured image in a temporal context.  Currently it uses the user’s computer’s time, but I will probably make it standard Eastern time eventually.  I haven’t implemented any new filtering options yet, but that leads me into the next section

What’s To Come

First, let’s talk filters. I plan on cleaning up the interface, making each element buttons instead of form checkboxes.  This will be my first big change.  Then I plan on adding more filters. Lots more. So many I’ll need to divide them up accordion style. First I want to add some flexible sliding-bar filters for the derived attributes: the partisanship score and the leader-follower score.  I also want to add some sliding bars for experience in years as a legislator and for age. I’d also love to add income or wealth at some point, but that will require implementation of a new API, so this is likely a long-term goal. Finally, I’d like the ability to filter out all but those connected to the current revealed network.

Now, the largest feature I HAVE to implement is the ability to view changes through time. As one of the few people who check the view on a daily basis, the evolution over the past few months has been astonishing. Basically, the Republicans legislative stonewalling has forced the entire House more and more to the right, with a large number of Democrats now crossing the center partisanship line, some dramatically so. Being able to view these changes fluidly over time will have an incredible impact on the strength of the application, while at the same time creating a complete 365 image/year archive! Yes, I’m excited about this one. You should be too!  I hope to complete this by the end of the summer, maybe sooner if I get someone to help me out!


I plan on blogging regularly starting today, likely linking an image from Clear Congress Project to a something I’ve read or some relevant news story.  Just a head’s up.

Well, it’s one month later, and I’ve finished strong.  The defense of the project went well, and I got some great feedback.  Carl DiSalvo considered my ideology methodology a good first pass and suggested expanding upon it.  I hope to do this in the future, but part of the problem was that the ideology axis was actually more a measure of partisanship.  So I’ve changed that axis to partisanship.  I also changed my methodology for determining partisanship slightly but will discuss this in the soon to come Methodology section.

I’ve added a lot more viewing options, the ability to show or hide the network.  But I’ve realized that I need to reconsider the collision algorithm or just abandon it all together.  It just causes too large of performance hit, especially if you’re also drawing an extensive network and labels.  I’m going to instead consider a “jitter” function, which wound add some noise to each circle’s location with each button press.

But overall, the project has a very solid base.  In the next week, I will be migrating the project to it’s new home at  Posting might be limited this week, but look for the Methodology section and other updates to the structure of the blog.

A final thanks to my advisors on the project, Ian Bogost, Carl DiSalvo and Jannet Murray.  My experience in the DM program has been life altering and was good to have access to such great minds throughout this sometimes rocky process.

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