I got into a debate with someone about my blog posting on John McCain‘s choice for VP and the discussion quickly turned on my feeling that even though I thought it was a brilliant move, that I also felt it pushed me closer to voting for Barack Obama.
The other side pointed out a “statistic” that is often tossed out there by telling me that Obama “is on record as the most liberal member of the Senate, number 2 to (Ted) Kennedy and number 3 to (Joe) Biden.”
I keep hearing this on TV as well and my bullshit meter keeps going off every time I hear it. Why? Because in 2000, When Al Gore ran for the White House, the Right often would say, “When Gore was in the Senate he was on record as being the most liberal member of Congress.” Then in 2004 I kept hearing, “John Kerry is on record as being the most liberal member of Congress with John Edwards #2.”
What an amazing coincidence! How is that that every single Democratic nominee for President just happens to also be the most liberal member of Congress?
I also found it strange that suddenly, this year, no one was mentioning John Kerry. How could he have gone from first to not even mentioned? And Joe Biden, who was never mentioned in 2000 or 2004, is suddenly right at the top?
Then I looked at the stats. The ranking is usually taken mainly from the ADA, “Americans for Democratic Action”. They rank all members in Congress on their voting record on liberal issues. Each member receives an LQ rating or Liberal Quotient as a result.
First, it should be said that Fox News and other conservative groups often use the term “Congress” when really in this case it’s just the Senate. If you counted the House then none of those mentioned would be anywhere near the top. In 2007 53 members of the house had an LQ of 100% meaning they always voted for liberal issues.
The Senate list is interesting and quite telling:
LQ’s of 100%:
Casey, Klobuchar, Stabenow.
LQ’s of 95%
Akaka, Bayh, Brown, Brown, S, Cardin, Cantwell, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Leahy, Levin, Kohl, Menendez, Reed, Tester,Whitehouse, Wyden.
LQ’s of 90%
Bingaman, Feinstein, Inouye, Kerry, Lautenberg, McCaskill, Murray, Lincoln, Nelson, Schumer.
LQ’s of 85%
Dorgan, Carper, Mikulski, Kennedy, Reid, Rockefeller, Salazar, Webb.
LQ’s of 80%
Baucus, Byrd, Conrad, Landrieu.
LQ’s of 75%
Biden, Clinton, Nelson, Obama.
Tim Johnson, the Senator that had a stroke, got a 40% because he was absent for most of the year and unable to vote.
The list is striking. First, it shows that the Senate votes together on issues important to the party. Big surprise there right? Of 47 Democrats in the Senate in 2007 30 of them voted for liberal policies 90% of the time.
Now if a member was unable to vote because of campaigning, it hurts their LQ and that explains why Biden, Clinton and Obama are at the very bottom of the list. However, it also is still a statistic and it factors into the overal phrase, “Most liberal member of Congress”. You can’t just toss out 2007’s numbers simply because you don’t like them.
Furthermore, I found it hilarious that Ted Kennedy came in at LEAST 31st last year. Pretty interesting resting place for the supposed King of Liberals.
In 2006 Obama’s record was 95% (and at least 10th on the list) and in 2005 it was 100%. There’s simply no way that 43rd, 10th and 1st (again, those are all the highest in groups he could have been much lower in) comes out to a rating of 1st.
The bottom line is that stating Obama (or anyone else) is the most liberal member of Congress is not only wrong but about as useful as making a case against a single blade of grass for being the tallest one in your yard.