Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

April 19, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

WHO'S THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?....Ezra Klein thinks John McCain is a real conservative. Jon Chait thinks he's more liberal than Ezra lets on. I'm more on Ezra's side than Jon's and I think Ezra's case would have been even stronger if he'd taken into account McCain's relentless hawkishness but I was interested in this passing comment from Jon over at The Plank:

Ezra cites McCain's ACU ratings. But I think that, especially in recent years, those ratings do a lousy job of showing who's liberal and who's conservative. Don't they show Hillary Clinton to be one of the most liberal Senators? There's an article to be done debunking those ratings, but I'm guessing that the changing partisan dynamics of the current era has rendered the old system worthless.

The same thought has crossed my mind too, though I've never mustered the energy to really investigate it. But I think there's something to this. We're now living in an era in which liberals have pretty much all sorted themselves into the Democratic Party and conservatives into the Republican Party, and party discipline has increased to the point that we largely live under a de facto parliamentary system: most of the time, you just vote with your party. Opportunities to jump ship are increasingly few and far between.

This doesn't mean the rankings are useless, but I'll bet they're getting pretty close. I have a feeling somebody ought to be looking at a different way of determining just who the most liberal and conservative members of Congress are.

Kevin Drum 12:13 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Eh. Read this:

http://www.mydd.com/story/2005/4/28/152434/381

Democrats aren't as unified or as Left as we'd like to think.

Posted by: Martin on April 19, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

But... Clinton IS the definition of liberal. What's the problem?

Posted by: Judy Miller on April 19, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

Keith Poole's and Howard Rosenthal's Nominate scores at voteview.com are pretty much the gold standard in ideology scores. McCain has a 0.591 W-Nominate first dimension (Most liberal = -1, Most conservative = +1). For the current Congress that's a rather moderate score.

Posted by: ogmb on April 19, 2006 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

McCain "embraced" Bush at the 2004 Convention.

Everything else is window dressing and not worth arguing about. Move along, Nothing else to see here.

Posted by: gs on April 19, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

I have a feeling somebody ought to be looking at a different way of determining just who the most liberal and conservative members of Congress are.

I have a feeling we ought to be looking at shucking these ridiculous anachronistic labels once and forever.

They don't work anymore.
They may never have worked.

Their only value these days is for pitching insults.
(And Lord knows I love to hurl.)

Crikey... I've got more fiscal restraint than any so-called conservative in Congress.
Those blokes all act like drunk frat boys at a rave with Daddy's credit card...
They live only for the moment.
They have no lasting values.

If my children ever spree-spent like republican congressional conseratives do...
I'd kick 'em out on the street and tell them to go get a job.

They are shameful sots.
Dispicable swine.

Obviously... we need to get beyond those old labels.
They are as tired and false as the creatures (rodents and snakes) that cling to them.

Posted by: Happy hipster on April 19, 2006 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

How would you judge liberalness or conservativeness if not by voting record? Favorite foods? Sexual history?

Plus, if everyone really is going to simply vote the party line, then in a real sense, it makes no damn difference how liberal or conservative an individual politician is. Unless they are a governor or president, of course.

Posted by: craigie on April 19, 2006 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

But... Clinton!

Posted by: IOKIYAR on April 19, 2006 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

I thought *KERRY* was The. Most. Liberal. Senator?

Convenient.

Posted by: Phobos Deimos on April 19, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see a bullshit rating system implemented. Like when Lieberman votes to end debate on Alito and then commits a meaningless vote against him.

Posted by: enozinho on April 19, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Why, again, were we taking anything Jon Chait says seriously?

Posted by: cerebrocrat on April 19, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

I think the filibuster-v.-confirmation issue is much less vital than it seemed at the time, and I say that as someone who supported the filibuster.

The problem with judging Senators by their vote on the filibuster is, there was no way we were going to keep Alito off the SCOTUS. The minute the filibuster ended, Alito would've been confirmed. In order to be effective - "effective" meaning, "keep Alito from being confirmed" - the filibuster would've had to last until everyone went home on recess, and that's just not possible.

So I'm less inclined than I was to excoriate the Senators who voted to end the debate but also voted against confirmation.

Posted by: CaseyL on April 19, 2006 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

You know, I wonder, after the damage and disgrace brought to this country by the true blue conservatives, do Americans continue to disdain liberals?

This may well turn out to be a transformative time.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 19, 2006 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't an easier way just to poll each politician's constituents? They do basically choose their voters, after all.

Posted by: msmackle on April 19, 2006 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

The right-wing wurlitzer's got its own system. The most liberal is whoever needs to be most liberal at that moment.

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 19, 2006 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

Liberal Democrat in America is centre right in most other places.

Is the judgement of liberal/conservative criterion based? If it is then it's not particularly useful, because most people make such judgements in a comparative sense.

"Politician A is the most liberal Senator in the Senate", or "Candidate B is more conservative than Candidate A".

Posted by: floopmeister on April 19, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

there was no way we were going to keep Alito off the SCOTUS

True enough. And yet, Lindsay Graham and Mrs. Alito still did their kabuki dance at the confirmation hearings. All the Republicans on the committee spent their allotted time praising alito, when they could have just sat there polishing silver. They played to win even though it was a foregone conclusion.

Is it so much to ask for the opposition party to earn their paychecks once in a while?

Posted by: enozinho on April 19, 2006 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

As someone above noted, after the bear hug, everything else became irrelevant. If someone wants to be President so bad, clearly he does not deserve to be.

McCain is an opportunist who just talks a good talk.

Posted by: lib on April 19, 2006 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

More to the point: McCain doesn't matter.

He'll be two years older in 2008 than Reagan in 1980. The power of his generation peaked in the 1980s and 1990s, and by 08 the boomers will be nearing their big climax.

Even more important: the GOP base dislikes him. In a recent hypothetical mathcup (by the Hotline) against the eminently more charistmatic (and centrist) Giuliani the Republican base (Bush loyalists) picked Giuliani by a significant margin.

McCain is given to gaffes that alienate the base, and is terrible at fronting a national campaign (as evidenced by his 2000 bid).

Whether he is a good man or not or a maverick or not or a conservative or not is beside the point. He ain't runnin in 08 and if he does he'll be finished off like the last time.

Posted by: The Blue Nomad on April 19, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think McCain knows if he's liberal or conservative.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 19, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think McCain knows if he's liberal or conservative.

Close, but not quite right. I think he doesn't care - he'd be a Trotskyist if that put him in the White House.

Posted by: craigie on April 19, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

Using birds of a feather benchmarks, anyone who teams up with Ted Kennedy is a liberal. Bush on education gave himself away (not to mention he is the King of Spenders), and McCain on immigration. Actually I would consider McCain more of a traitor than a liberal considering his support of the invasion.

Posted by: Myron on April 19, 2006 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain will be elected President by a landslide in 2008 unless the hard right is stupid enough to put the kibosh on his nomination. But I don't think they are stupid. Evil, definitely, but you have to give the devil himself his due in terms of political success. McCain is more electable by half than anyone the right wing would prefer.

Moreover, the political landscape in 2008 is unlikely to look much different from today, and thus the strategic position of the right will be more like 1996, when they grudgingly supported Dole. Only this time McCain is personally far more popular than Dole was, and McCain won't be facing the Clinton with the mad political skills.

It's kind of depressing when you look at it closely and realize how inevitable it probably is.

Posted by: kth on April 19, 2006 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: I have a feeling somebody ought to be looking at a different way of determining just who the most liberal and conservative members of Congress are.

Why?

Posted by: Dave on April 19, 2006 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

Enozinho: "I'd like to see a bullshit rating system implemented. Like when Lieberman votes to end debate on Alito and then commits a meaningless vote against him."

In baseball, there is the "empty net RBI". (For example, the home run in the 9th when you are already winning by 6 runs.)
So we need an "empty net vote" index.
Actually, what we need is a new set of pipelines passing detailed information from people paying (too) close attention to those who would like the info but have a life too. Hopefully, this will evolve from the blogs we have now.
OK, actually the most critical need is for a much larger part of our population to want such information.

Posted by: Kevin on April 19, 2006 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

"how inevitable it probably is.
Posted by: kth on April 19, 2006 at 2:25 AM"

Are you willing to bet on this? Heck, I'll even give odds.
The Repuke base LOATHES McC, and will not do as the Dem's thought they were doing in '04 -- accepting & then unifying behind someone they normally would not, for the sake of "electability." Go visit (if you can stand the stench long enough) the freepers. Loathe, revile, abhor, despise -- a thesaurus worth of bile for McCain awaits you there. They STILL think he was addled by his stay in the Hanoi Hilton, and don't trust him. And a good thing for us, too -- he'd clean EVERY Dem's clock, doubly so if we go with Hillary.

Posted by: smartalek on April 19, 2006 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. McCain had the unique political opportunity to do right by his fellow Ammericans in the 2004 presidential elections, and either join John Kerry in a "national unity" ticket as his running mate or actively campaign against the bush/Cheney ticket for the sake of the country.

Instead, he chose to put his own political ambitions first and campaign for the continued fleecig of our country at the hands of the current regime, just so that the 2008 election would take place without an incumbent in the White House running for re-election.

Fuck John McCain. His Straight Talk Express has become nothing mmore than an exercise in ice-cold political calculation, accompanied by a gratuitous helping of some very twisted geopolitical logic.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 19, 2006 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK

McCain is certifiable. I don't trust his judgment one iota. I hope Americans are not stupid enough to substitute one psychopath for another, but they probably are.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on April 19, 2006 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

Close, but not quite right. I think he doesn't care - he'd be a Trotskyist if that put him in the White House.

He'd be in the white house now if he didn't care about things. He's not stupid, he knows he pisses off the repub right wing base. He also knows that he needs them to get the nomination, but not too much to avoid losing the election, and that finally, you have to win the national election before you can get to be president. I think a lot of people around here forget that last one.

It sucks that the evangelicals own the repub base and moveon.org owns the dem base. What's a centrist to do?

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 19, 2006 at 7:25 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. McCain had the unique political opportunity to do right by his fellow Ammericans in the 2004 presidential elections, and either join John Kerry in a "national unity" ticket...

Can't they just dig up Benedict Arnold's rotting carcass instead? That way you don't have to deal with Theresa Heinz Kerry.

Heh.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 19, 2006 at 7:27 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

"liberals have pretty much all sorted themselves into the Democratic Party and conservatives into the Republican Party"

This does not mean that liberals control the Democratic Party like conservatives control the Republican Party. You have to go back 40 years to find an instance where someone won a presidential election by running as a liberal, and ever since 1972, every Democratic nominee has run away from the l-word. Liberals haven't controlled the Democratic Party for a long time.

Posted by: dan on April 19, 2006 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

Since I have the ADA ratings for every senator handily tattooed right here on my thigh, let's have no more talk about new criteria for determining how liberal or conservative someone is. You guys know I'm no good at research.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on April 19, 2006 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

McCain is neither liberal nor conservative. He's a whore. Always has been, always will be. Straight Talk Express is just a moree successful version of a Karl Rove campaign to hide the obvious.

Posted by: anonymous on April 19, 2006 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

I can't see McCain winning the Republican nomination--and I say that as someone who follows ground-level Republican politics closely. He is HATED for McCain-Feingold--hated by every grasssroots group there is. K Street likes him, the media likes him--the grassroots activists, who can't run ads on their pet issues anymore, hate him.

Posted by: SamChevre on April 19, 2006 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

McCain won't get the nomination. So who will?

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: "I have a feeling somebody ought to be looking at a different way of determining just who the most liberal and conservative members of Congress are.

Maybe we should just dump labels like "liberal" and "conservative" altogether and find 21st century labels connected to real world outcomes and philosophies of governing.

Personally, I'm weighing "competent public servant" versus "Radical uncompromising ideologue who lives in an fantasy bubble and embraces policies destructive to America's future and ideals of equality and opportunity." The latter is a bit long, so I'm also considering the shorter "spawn of hell." In theory, what are now called "conservatives" and "liberals" might fall in either category, but in reality Bushco & his supporters have captured all the variance on "spawn of hell."

By this more useful labeling system, McCain, though conservative, is a "competent public servant" so it is easy to predict that the "spawn of hell" won't endorse him.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 19, 2006 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Good stuff, PTate.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to imagine McCain actually running anything - like our government, for example.

As far as liberal/conservative labels go, consider the recent campaign assistance given to Ralph Reed by - hold on - Rudy Giuliani! Does that make Giuliani more "conservative?" Or does it make Reed more "liberal?"

Posted by: Jack Lindahl on April 19, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Does that make Giuliani more "conservative?" Or does it make Reed more "liberal?"

It makes the entire Republican party willing to prostitute its every principle to hold onto power. These guys get each others' backs, I'll give them that.

Meanwhile, we'll keep forming committees to consider the implications of the potential nuances of point 370 on item 32 on our short list of 475 messages, and reconvene in six months' time to consider in subcommittee whether more discussions should take place.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to imagine McCain actually running anything - like our government, for example.

Why not? He's actually held command. After returning from Pow-land, he kept flying in the Navy and commanded a squadron. Well.

But I agree with folks who say he won't get the repub nomination. He's not a right wing kool-aid drinker, and that's the death sentence at the moment. Or maybe not. It's going to be fun to watch.

Same for the party of moveon.org.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 19, 2006 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

You have to be one of the three to be successful in the Republican Party: racist, rich/bushlicker, religious extremist. If you are none of those you are a democrat.

McCain is a Bushlicker.

Posted by: lib on April 19, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK
most of the time, you just vote with your party.
Unless of course you're a Democrat who supports the bankruptcy bill or estate tax repeal.

And McCain is just as slimy as any of the Rovian bunch we have now.

Posted by: KCinDC on April 19, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

PTate in Minnesota (anywhere near LeSueur County, my old turf?):

Label away. Keep in mind something the Democrats seem to have forgotten: Most voters will prefer almost any characteristic in a candidate over "crazy."

Democrats in Washington are approaching the level of obsession with Bush. They've made some attempts to actually put out policy statements, but most have been feeble at best, and have dropped off the radar in days.

Seen it before. Republicans were damn lucky to keep the Congress after the Clinton impeachment zoo.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 19, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry about that...typing and yakking on phone at same time.

As I was saying: Little Scotty McClellan just resigned.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: "Democrats in Washington are approaching the level of obsession with Bush. They've made some attempts to actually put out policy statements, but most have been feeble at best, and have dropped off the radar in days."

I don't know that I would assign the Democratic leadership in DC to the category "competent public servants." I agree that their policy statements have been feeble, at best. They still haven't figured out that the agenda of the nation has changed. They need to relook at the problems facing the nation and, since solutions are determined by how the problem is defined, then propose solutions. Metaphorically, they are like people who talk louder and LOUDER to communicate with someone who doesn't speak English.

On the other hand, if you aren't outraged by the Bush administration, you aren't paying attention. But I agree that no good policies will flow from defining the problem as GWB.

I'm in Ramsey county, about 60 miles from LeSueur. So right next door, really, if you look from a satellite.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 19, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

I'm in Ramsey county, about 60 miles from LeSueur. So right next door, really, if you look from a satellite.

About one million years ago while in college, I spent a summer away from VA working for the Green Giant Company as a pea combine mechanic, renting a room in Le Sueur. Fond memories...

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 19, 2006 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

We need a suckup index. Lieberman (as the Wurlitzer waltzes to us) is way-high on ADA and 100% with the League of Conservation Voters.

And yet he's a despicable pile of inner tubes and ineffectual flatulent scolding ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 19, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike:

Oooh, did you wear an all-green uniform with sprigs in yer hard hat? :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on April 19, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz,

Yeah, the difference is that people actually liked Clinton.

Bush, not so much.

Posted by: DR on April 19, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I consider myself pretty conservative, and on the three issues I care most about, John McCain is right on only one: national security, taxes and freedom of speech. Yes, I would trust him as Commander in Chief. No, I don't trust him on taxes. No, I don't trust him to respect the first amendment. But if he were nominated, I can't imagine the Democrats nominating anyone for whom I would prefer to vote.

Posted by: DBL on April 19, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK
We're now living in an era in which liberals have pretty much all sorted themselves into the Democratic Party and conservatives into the Republican Party, and party discipline has increased to the point that we largely live under a de facto parliamentary system: most of the time, you just vote with your party.

Having a high correlation between political party affiliation and voting behavior isn't enough to constitute a de facto parliamentary system.

Its just having meaningful political parties.

That being said, most ratings by lobby groups are really just a measure of how people voted on a few of the most salient bills for that lobbying group, and they are often unweighted measures. So they aren't really a good basis for the kind of broad conclusions that are often drawn from them.

This doesn't mean the rankings are useless, but I'll bet they're getting pretty close. I have a feeling somebody ought to be looking at a different way of determining just who the most liberal and conservative members of Congress are.

Why? Its a pretty much meaningless question, for a lot of reasons, so there isn't much value in answering it, even if there was a coherent right answer. Its not merely the measure that is useless (nor is it new that it is useless), the question itself is fundamentally useless and there is no useful answer to it, no matter what measure you use.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 19, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

McCain's no saint, but he is a thoughtful, if ambitious, person. He's conservative but not brain-dead. He would have been 1000 times better than GWB as prez (who wouldn't), and I don't know how exactly he would have handled Saddam Hussein but I'd bet a mill it wouldn't have been the way this prez "handled" (or muffed) it.

I liked McCain in 2000, but I'm over it now. Times are different. We don't need a straight-talkin' Repub now, we need a completely new team. Moreover, the last 6 years have taught me at least there's no such thing as a "moderate" Republican--they can't be trusted one iota with power, not as long as Frist, the neocons and Delay's proteges are still calling the shots.

My vote for 2008--my senator, Russ Feingold, a Democratic "straight shooter"!

Posted by: The Germinator on April 19, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Ezra Klein and Jon Chait. The New Republic? Why?

Seems the only changing party dynamics relevant to these two warmongering "liberals" would be the support for Bush's Wars coming from that micro-population of the "serious" thinkers on the left, that take "seriously" the Muslim Menace.

As with the Right wing circle-jerking blogs that think that libertarians are relevant to US politics (they aren't) - leftie "thinkers" (oh you muscular liberals!) that fantasized about "cleaning up the middle east" and "take seriously the nexus of weapons of mass destruction, failed states and Islamic terrorists" (per Yglesias) are a dime a dozen in blogland, but thankfully irrelevant to US electoral politics. The base thinks you're schmucks, and the main middle doesn't read.

Posted by: luci on April 19, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike: ...I spent a summer away from VA working for the Green Giant Company as a pea combine mechanic, renting a room in Le Sueur."

Does everyone who posts on Washington Monthly have a some kind of Minnesota connection? Not that we think we're special, because we're not.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 19, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is too looney to be classified. He probably had too many blows to the head while he was in the Hanoi Hilton.

Doesn't matter--he's too old to run for President.

Posted by: raj on April 20, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

movie,电影
电影大片下载
影片下载,免费
download movies, china star
movie,电影
电影大片下载
影片下载,免费
download movies, china star

Posted by: lala on April 21, 2006 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly