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August 04, 2004
KERRY THE "MOST LIBERAL SENATOR?" Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler thinks that the press is giving Republicans a free ride on this issue. He's probably right about that -- though he'd be more persuasive if he'd provide a list of senators that he thinks are to the left of Kerry.
UPDATE: A different take on the just how liberal is John Kerry question, from Stephen Bainbridge, who compares Kerry's record with Paul Wellstone's. "So if Kerry and Wellstone were so close in score, did that make Kerry a 'Wellstone liberal' or Wellstone a 'Kerry liberal'? Either way, they were both pretty far out of the mainstream."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Kastellec rises to the challenge, sending this:
I'm taking up your challenge to see how many senators are more liberal than Kerry. The following are NOMINATE ratings compiled by Professor Keith Poole (available at Link, along with a description of how they are calculated). While the method use to calculate them is complicated, they are basically measures of liberalism-conservatism based on a Congressman's entire career, not just on one Congress as the flawed National Journal ratings are. Because they incorporate all nonunaminous vote and are not biased by absention, NOMINATE scores are considered far superior to interest group ratings.
The scores range from -1 (most liberal) to 1 (most liberal). Below are ratings for all the senators of the 107th Congress (sorry for the poor formating), ranking from most liberal to most conservative. You can see that 15 Democrats are to the left of Kerry, which means that while he is by no means a conservative Democrat, he is not on the fringe of the party, and is clearly not the most liberal senator. Edwards, meannwhile, is well toward the moderate wing of the party, belying claims of his liberal extremism.
Click "more" for, er, more.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Oliver Willis -- earning his pay from David Brock -- sends this link, and this one, too. Gosh, you'd think that being "liberal" was bad or something!
And I still think Oliver belongs on TV.
Kastellec's data follow. I guess Kerry can sell himself with the slogan: "Slightly more liberal than Charles Schumer and Barbara Mikulski!"
I must say that I don't find this ranking transparent, but perhaps Professor Bainbridge or someone else with expertise will weigh in.
name NOMINATE SCORE
KENNEDY ED -0.586
LEVIN CARL -0.498
KERRY JOHN -0.464
NELSON CLA -0.373
GRAHAM BOB -0.339
BYRD ROBER -0.264
NELSON BEN -0.056
SMITH GORD 0.216
NICKLES DO 0.635
GRAMM PHIL 0.646
SMITH ROBE 0.798
By the way, if you've come here via a link from somewhere else, you should note that this post has been updated here.