Measuring How Liberal the Candidates Are


My friend Dave Meyer — one of DC’s best political researchers and a co-conspirator on a number of projects with me — browsed through the scorecard that the National Journal used to produce the result that Senator Barack Obama was the most liberal member of the Senate in 2007.
Just for the record, I do think that Barack Obama is more liberal than Hillary Clinton — but that said, I don’t think that should be considered a negative.
However, Meyer discovered only two scored votes where Obama took the ‘liberal position’ and Clinton took the ‘conservative’.
As Meyer wrote to me:

The first was Joe Lieberman’s S.Amdt. 30 to S.Amdt. 3 to S.1 The Amendment was “To establish a Senate Office of Public Integrity.” Here’s the roll call of the 27-71 vote.
Joining Obama on the ‘liberal’ side — meaning the side in support of Joe Lieberman’s amendment — were Republicans Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe Chuck Grassley, and John McCain.
The second was Jeff Bingaman’s S.Amdt. 1267 to S.Amdt.1150 to S.1348, the Immigration Reform bill. The Amendment was “To remove the requirement that Y-1 nonimmigrant visa holders leave the United States before they are able to renew their visa.” Here’s the roll call of the 41-57 vote (60 votes needed to pass, so it failed by 19).
Joining Obama on the ‘liberal’ side were Richard Shelby, Chuck Hagel, and Tom Coburn.

What is interesting and not highlighted by Dave Meyer is that Hillary Clinton had a vote on the Bingaman amendment that would have put her at odds with the Hispanic vote — and Obama in line with the generally pro-immigrant Hispanic voters. That’s a bit of a switch.
— Steve Clemons


15 comments on “Measuring How Liberal the Candidates Are

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  2. TokyoTom says:

    POA, we have the government we deserve, but if we want better, then we’d all better start being advocates for revived federalism and stronger states. Otherwise, we have one big pot and one central lawmaker, and are much more easily manipulated to benefit elites.
    We should be telling our states to say NO to the surrender of authority in exchange for federal blandishments.


  3. TonyForesta says:

    A thousand thanks for the reading suggestions, David N. And I agree with you that “this is not new.” What is new however, and what is unprecedented, and what does demand our immediate attention is the extremity and anabated success of the corporitazion of America, the nazification of America, and the dismantling and reengineering of the Constitution. These issues have sadly reared thier heads in previous moments of America bloody and storied history, – but where before there was always a restoration of equilibrium, and return to the Constitition as the final abiter of America’s various conflicts and policies. Now, there is no restoration, and no return, and noendinsight to reengineering of America. The fascists in the Bush government are extreme, the toxic culmination of decades work by fascists circles to glean and entrench wealth, power, and control. Somewhere along the line the fascists in the Bush government rewrote the Constititution, and are now majikally immune from from accountability, accountable to no one, and operate ruthlessly beyond, outside, and in total disdain of the rule of law, our core principles, and the constitution. No leadership has ever had so much control of the media and the message. These are unprecedented times, and extreme individuals, who are redefining America without the peoples consent, or review, and with absolutely no avenue for the people to seek recourse. The people no longer have the right to “…petition the government for redress of grievances. Your dismissing of these converging crisis as “…nothing new” is cold comfort from my perspective, because we either evolve as a people and a nation beyond these malignancies, and right our wayward course, – or we suffer the certain and terrible consequences for our ignorance, apathy, acqueisance, and dismissiveness.
    “Deliver us from evil!”


  4. David N says:

    Lots to respond to here:
    Last goes first: Wordie, the Prez proved yesterday that whether such amendments are passed or not makes no difference. Once he gets his pot of money, Dubya’s going to do whatever he feels like with it, and since no one is stopping him, who the hell cares what the laws and appropriation bills say?
    As for you, Mr. Fascist-basher, TonyForesta, hell, we all know that the only, truly significant conflict of our time is that between the corporate interests and the defenders of mere human beings. Read /The Shock Doctrine\, /What’s the Matter with Kansas\, /Screwed\ and about a dozen other books gathering dust in everyone’s libraries. This is not new.
    What would be new are: Someone besides KO saying boo about it in the corporate lickspittle media. And people paying attention to the simple fact outlined in /The Origin of Wealth\ that the linear equations in neoclassical, Chicago school economics not only do not describe reality, but are being used as justification for the exploitation and impoverishment of everyone on Earth.
    That’s all.


  5. Wordie says:

    Steve: There’s one other telling vote that you missed. It happened back in September of 2006, and was a simple and straightforward amendment to the defense appropriations bill that year. The Feinstein-Leahy amendment was to prevent funds from being spent on the purchase, use or transfer of cluster munitions unless the Defense Department ensured that the weapons would not be used in or near any civilian areas.
    Clinton voted Nay; Obama voted Yea.
    The amendment failed by a 70-30 vote, which is a sad commentary on the humanity of those Senators who voted against it.


  6. Carroll says:

    I always said people shouldn’t vote their “feelings”…..but who the hell can tell what any of the dems candidates would do once in office.
    If you vote for a repub you know what you are getting cause they stick to pandering to a certain mind set…the dem’s pandering blows one way one day and the other way the next day and is all over the place.
    I give up. My dream team of Edwards as Pres. and Hagel as VP for the perfect pairing of domestic and foreign policy problems will never come to pass.
    The establishment, the media and politics as usual has done it again.
    I have the “feeling” the dems could lose another election. The last thing we needed at this time was to put up a rock star and a controversial woman. If we had a pairing like Edwards-Hagel or something similar the media would have to be talking about what we should be talking about instead of race, revivals and Clinton scandals.


  7. Mr.Murder says:

    ‘Liberal’ has become a term worthy of defamation compensation.
    So much for the Sons of Liberty.
    Wes Clark was the only candidate who would unabashedly say he was proud to be called liberal during the 2004 debates.
    Glad Kerry corrected us of that foolish assumption and led America to a new era of bipart-
    say, is Sen.Kennedy’s next pick for potus doing well with that bipartisanship campaign?


  8. TonyForesta says:

    Gripping commentary TokyoTom
    The grim reality POA is that the people need and welcome government, – a sound and democratic government, wherein the authority of the government is derived from the consent of the governed. It is delicate work to both constrain the government, and support the goodwork and necessary industry and support structures that advance, defend, and protect the best interests of the American people, (not the superrich, or the fascists, or the oligarchs), and most importantly – abide by, and honor the Constitution. The fascist in the Bush government have raped the Constitution and perverted and betrayed every principle that formally defined America. We are in the eyes of the rest of the world lawless, reckless, obdurate, belligerent, criminal, pathological liars, wanton profiteers, warmongers, greedmongers, accountable to no one, brutal, heartless, devoid of honor or ethic, or any code of justice beyond control, domination, and otherwordly profits. This is the sad and terrible image we project to the world. And yet despite all this clanking of metal, and puffing of chests, – America is no closer to eliminating the evildoers (excuse me while I laugh my ass off) then we were in 2001. Our enemies are born nutured, armed, financed, coddled, perverted, and sent on their murderous ways in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. These are the real fronts of the socalled neverendingwaronterror, and Iraq is a catastophic distraction, and epic failure of leadership, and rank tyranny masked as liberation, and imperialist colonialism masquarading as democracy, and a puppet government imposed, and a nations resources marauded, and hundreds of thousands of that nations innocent civilians slaughtered, maimed, millions displaced, – and all at the tip of the terrible swift sword of America’s hypersuperior military.
    Obviously, the fascist in the Bush government will reap obscene personal fortunes executing and extending the unaccounted for, noendinsight horrorshow mission in Iraq, – but the rest of America will be forced to hazard and endure the terrible costs in blood, treasure, and lost credibility from the Iraq misadventure, and the costbenefit analysis’ bode ill for most Americans.
    The fascists in the Bush government are wasting our military fighting the wrong muslims, or the wrong field, and ignoring, and woefully under appreciating the gathering storms emerging in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Tokyo Tom….
    Actually, in a perfect Republic, you’d be right. But why don’t you ask Californians how much weight their concensus carries with these bastards in Washington on a state level? Remember prop 182? If the feds want drivers licenses for the illegals, then by golly they will make it happen, and screw the concensus of the various state’s populace. Just ask this EPA asshole Johnson how much regard the Federal Government has for the rights of the individual states.


  10. TokyoTom says:

    I agree that “conservative” and “liberal” labels tell us nothing about love of country and are used mainly for partisan purposes. This game masks the deeper truth that our country is running off the rails because the federal government is getting too big, and is more an more being manipulated to favor privileged insiders who rather make money by either directly sucking off of tax dollars (or credit) or by changing rules to hamper competitors. Our politicians find it very difficult to resist the temptation simply to be gatekeepers of public pork, for the highest bidder.
    Lew Rockwell, Jr. “Are Conservatives Crazy?”:
    Lew Rockwell, Jr., “The Great Conservative Hoax.”:
    POA, you are entitled to your view about what rights illegal immigrants should have. But you forget that it’s up to the feds to control the borders, and the states not only have to deal with the facts/feet on the ground, but the prerogative to provide drivers’ licenses. The fed has no authority to regulate the states in this area.


  11. TonyForesta says:

    A greater problem David N is that these terms are misued and shapeshifted into pseudo-intellectual trigger words to slime dems/liberals, or glorify repubs/conservatives.
    The fascists in the Bush government, and the complicit parrots in the socalled MSM have redefined the terms liberal and conservative in two equally false and repugnant lights.
    Liberals according to the fascists in the Bush government, the MSM and redneck America are unpatriotic, anti-american, spawn of the devil, lunatics giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
    Conservatives – a partiotic, intelligent adults, working for the worker, who love thebabyjesus.
    Conservatives and the gop, (and any cursory perusal of history will prove the point) do not support or defend in anyway working American. Rather, conservatives and the gop historically support and defend the interests of mega industries, mega lobbies, and certain key oligarchs exclusively.
    Democrats and liberals are our fellow American who fight wars when necessary and end wars that should never have been initiated in the first place. Under democratic leadership, (and any cursory perusal of history will prove the point) a much larger, far more diverse population of American benefit.
    Liberals are not evil. Rednecks and fascists pimping this disinformation ARE evil, wildly mistaken, and it is they who represent in word and deed the real anti-American, unpatriotic, spawn of the devil, and it is they who are in fact giving aid and comfort to the enemy, in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran.
    Sans all the babel, Iran won Iraq. A $80 – 100 dollars a barrel, Iran is benefiting enormously in the global community as oil producer. Further on political and strategic terms Iran has (as a direct result of the failures, incompetence, abuses, deceptions, malfeasance, fascist tryannical policies, and wanton profiteering in Iraq) emerged as a regional power. Iran Shi’it leaders are certain to have at least as much influence in the new Iraq as America, and much more than the Sunni majority who formally ruled.
    The sooner Americans realize that liberals and democrats love, cherish, and respect America as much if not more that conservatives and republican, and that liberals and democrats want our enemies defeated, and are committed to hunting, capturing, or killing every jihadist massmurderer and all those who aid and abet them, – and the democrats and liberals are the only party that truly, (as in the advance of actual policies and deeds) that advance and defend working American, – the sooner there will be some sanity restored to political discourse.
    I know I am marginalized, but from my pedestrian perspective, it is conservatives and republicans who are pathological liars, fascists, corporatist cronies, and actual practical enemies of the working people of America.
    Bytheway, thebabyjesus was liberal. Allah be praised.
    “Deliver us from evil!”


  12. Jason says:

    While these surveys are usually misleading and the methodology flawed, that’s besides the point in a way. Both Obama and Clinton will get tarred with inflammatory labels like “tax and spend liberal” and “supports socialized health care” if they get nominated, and if the National Journal didn’t do this voting guide, some Republican operative would have got the Department of Silly Statistics to release a study with the same conclusion and it would be quoted just as often in television ads with the same effect.
    The Democratic nominee either needs to create a political atmosphere that makes these attacks less effective (Obama’s strength) or come up with a response effective enough so those attacks don’t take hold (Clinton’s strength).
    My point is that it doesn’t matter how silly these surveys or studies are. Their validity or relevance is often disconnected with their effectiveness. What matters is a candidate’s ability to effectively deal with labels intended to pigeonhole them and limit their appeal.


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Barack Obama Promises Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Aliens
    January 31, 2008 01:06 PM EST
    Barack Obama easily won the African American vote in South Carolina, but to woo California Latinos, where he is running 3-to-1 behind rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, he is taking a giant risk: spotlighting his support for the red-hot issue of granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
    It’s a huge issue for Latinos, who want them. It’s also a huge issue for the general electorate, which most vehemently does not. Obama’s stand could come back to haunt him not only in a general election, but with other voters in California, where driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants helped undo former Gov. Gray Davis.
    Clinton stumbled into that minefield in a debate last fall and quickly backed off. First she suggested a New York proposal for driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants might be reasonable. Then she denied endorsing the idea, and later came out against them.
    Asked directly about the issue now, her California campaign spokesman said Clinton “believes the solution is to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
    “Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.”
    Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration. Both have adopted the standard Democratic approach of favoring tougher enforcement along with earned legalization.
    continues at….
    Bottom line? Right? Left? It doesn’t matter, these bastards stopped caring about what you and I want a loooooong time ago.


  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Never mind that these SOBs are totally ignoring the FACT that the majority of their constituency, both right AND left, are strongly opposed to giving rights to CRIMINAL ILLEGAL aliens.
    I’m a little curious…..
    Why do we pay taxes? So these pieces of excrement can refuse to represent us? Seems to me I vaquely remember some old canard about “taxation without representation”.
    And, uh, does it strike anyone else as being just more than a little weird that the two candidates that are the most disdainful of the American public’s sentiment about illegal immigration, McCain and Obama, are supposedly two of the frontrunners?
    What an effin’ joke. This election charade, and the cartoon characters starring in it, disgrace everything this nation once stood for.


  15. David N says:

    All your story shows in the truth of what I’ve been saying for years.
    The labels ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are meaningless.
    They are shorthand labels used by media and pseudo-intellectuals to substitute for real information.


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