Political science professors Poole and Rosenthal
analyze the political behavior of Congress over time using Roll Call
votes to determine the relative position of representatives on a basic
liberal-moderate-conservative scale. The results of the their study
confirm what many would intuit; that American politics is becoming
increasingly polarized, and the views of elected officials have become
The data sorts officials by a single score reflecting their voting
patterns. The lower a score, the more liberal the official; the higher,
the more conservative. This ranking
separates the parties with perfect accuracy, except for a few outliers
who persist in marginally hostile districts. For Arizona in the 109th
Congress, the data shows that several of Arizona’s representative are
among the most extremely conservative in the nation – I would contend
far more conservative than the mainstream of even the Republican
electorate. The Arizona Delegation is ranked here, with #1 being the
most liberal member of the House, and #435 being the most conservative.
Flake and Franks are just shy of being the most conservative representatives in the nation. Shadegg and Hayworth come in not far behind. Renzi appears to be somewhat moderate in comparison, but the GOP has perfected the practice of letting members in swing districts depart from the party line on safe votes (when the whip count indicated a few votes weren’t needed to squeeze the bill through) to make themselves appear more moderate. This, more than ideology, accounts for Renzi’s score. Kolbe, as the right wing of the GOP has always contended, and voters concluded so frequently, was a fairly moderate Republican – to extremists like the other members of the delegation, he was indeed a RINO.
Despite a moderate electorate, the Arizona Congressional delegation, like the Arizona Legislature, has been hijacked by extremists.
Our Senators are not any better, either. Kyl is ranked #99 out of 100; only Sununu of New Hampshire is more extreme.
One might expect that a Senator who brands himself as, and is so widely considered, a maverick in his party to be somewhat toward the center of the spectrum – you would be disappointed. Senator McCain is, in fact, ranked #98 – right on the heels of the extreme Senator Kyl. Far from being a moderate or a reformer, McCain talks a good game, but his votes speak louder than words. He is as extreme as they come, except, of course for Jon Kyl, Mr. #99.
Kyl is facing re-election and a challenge from moderate Democrat Jim Pederson, so the electorate has an opportunity to reject Kyl’s extremism. McCain, however, clearly has his sights set on the Presidency. He’ll run as a ‘reformer with results’ on the ‘straight talk express’ but the truth of McCain’s politics is reflected in the cold, hard numbers. He, too, is an extremist who does not deserve the support of moderates and is out of step with the values of mainstream Americans.
Even more disturbing than the extremism of the Arizona delegation in comparison to the rest of our current Congress is how they measure up to all of the officials (3320 of them) who have served in the House or Senate since 1937. Jeff Flake scores a whopping #3317. He is one of a tiny group of the most extreme ideologues to serve in Congress since 1937! For a little context, the certifiably insane Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who advocates the death penalty for abortions, is only #3310.
Bob Stump, whom Shadegg replaced in 2002, came in at #3298. Shadegg is falling short of his predecessor, coming in at only #3288. Of course, Shadegg’s career is not over yet; he can still aspire to leave an even more extreme mark on history.
Matt Salmon also has a place in the annals of extremism for his service in the House, being ranked an impressive #3270. Many say that Arizona voters sensed that Salmon was an out-of-touch ideologue and chose Janet as a sensible moderate alternative. It seems the voters intuited correctly, and now Salmon is spreading his extremist ideology via his Chairmanship of the AZ GOP. Of course, Salmon falls short of the mark in comparison to one of Arizona’s most famous, or infamous, native sons: Barry Goldwater. The Senator racked up a ranking of #3271, just edging out Salmon, despite the latter’s best efforts.
In comparison to these paragons of right-wing extremism Jon Kyl ranks only #3208. J.D. Hayworth likely feels embarrassed to be ranked only #3185, but both Hayworth and Kyl can feel good that they handily beat out John Ashcroft, who comes in at only #3177. In fact, they make their own party leadership look quite moderate by comparison: Majority Leader John Boehner is at #3065; Speaker Dennis Hastert is at #2993; Senate Majority leader Bill Frist is merely #2265; and right-wing bêtes-noir, Senators Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback, are #2674 and #3028, respectively.
Even when looked at in a historical context and in comparison to some of the worst extremists in contemporary politics, Arizona’s GOP delegates are some the most extreme ideologues in the history of our country. Is that who Arizonans really want representing them in our nation’s capital?