Arizona’s Extremist GOP


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
more extreme.


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.

Rank District Party Name Score
#434 District 6 R FLAKE 434.000
#433 District 2 R FRANKS 433.000
#421 District 3 R SHADEGG 421.000
#415 District 5 R HAYWORTH 415.500
#337 District 1 R RENZI 332.000
#281 District 8 R KOLBE 275.500
#46 District 4 D PASTOR 46.500
#18 District 7 D GRIJALVA 18.500

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?


  1. Well well done on your analysis and use of political science.

    I think a lot has to do with the fact that the Republican party feels very comfortable here and rather unchallenged frankly. I hope that this will change. When there is no real hope of your proposals being challenged, it is easy to be as conservative or extremist as you would like to be.

  2. To continue. Salmon endorsed Napolitano’s communications director for Corporation Commission. Napolitano was forced to nominate a Republican for the position, but rather than be honest, that pink-suited gorilla had her communications director switch parties so Napolitano could nominate her. How disgustingly underhanded. If a Republican governor had done that, the Democrats would have taken to the streets with rocks, bottles, and clubs. Again, no self-respecting conservative would have endorsed Chris Mayes for Corporation Commission. Salmon also tried to quell the party’s arguments against McCain. Would a conservative do this? No.

    Do I want John Shadegg, Jeff Flake, Trent Franks, and Jon Kyl respresenting me? Not just yes, HELL YES!! I wish the rest of Congress were just like them. You act if partisanship is a terrible thing. It’s not. When Republicans act like Democrats and cave-in on their principles, the electorate tends to vote for the professional socialsts…the Dems. If the Republicans want to stay in power, they need to start ACTING like Republicans. If there’s not a hard-right turn from the President and Congress, we can all count on the Republicans taking it in the shorts this November. Who knows. Maybe it’s for the best. Perhaps we need a good stiff loss to return us to our conservative roots.

  3. I came to the same conclusion before this study came out. It’s pretty awesome to see an RSC press conference with THREE (Flake, Shadegg, and Franks) of our 8 House members in attendance. I was proud of my State. That let me know that the Arizona Republicans are pretty conservative.

    Let me find fault with one of your premises. You said that the electorate is moderate, but the electoral process has been hijacked by conservatives. In fact, I belive that while the electorate may be starting to be 50-50 in terms of voter registration, I believe that those voters in Arizona that identify themselves as Republican are overwhelmingly conservative.

    While Mark Twain so eloquently stated that statistics can be made to say anything, I’m not going to find fault with the study’s methodology…it seems pretty accurate. However, I’ve got a bone or 2 to pick with the results. McCain is NOT a conservative. He CONSISTENTLY gets ratings from the ACU that shows that AT BEST, he BARELY qualifies as a conservative. Let me ask, if McCain is so conservative, why was he UNANIMOUSLY censured by the Arizona Republican Assembly and banned from speaking to at least one Republican District meeting? Check out how Rob Haney has attacked McCain, then try to tell me McCain is conservative. Finally, I do not believe Sununu is more conservative than Kyl. When I was interning at the American Conservative Union, I worked with our annual ratings of Congress. One vote that we threw out was to tax oil companies’ “windfall profits”, then redistribute the wealth to the poor for winter home heating. No self-respecting conservative would EVER support such heinous socialism. Sununu voted FOR that pro-class warfare bill.

    To belabor the point, while on the campaign trail for Salmon, I heard him promise a crowd full of hispanics that he’d try to reign in the interest rates on pay day loans. That was nothing but disgusting pandering and a betrayal of conservative ideals.

    I’ll have to write more later. Gotta give up this desk and return to my own.

  4. I noted on the Chart the same degree of Party separation in 1916, before World War I;and after 1931 as the Stock Market crashed, if one was to combine historical party facts related to a crisis in our country,we are in for Biblical Events that will test our will as a Nation! That year is 2010 as we face the fact our Government can not pay its bills,I don’t mean just borrow more money from China, I mean a point at which all the world economies combined can not sustain our debt load and a “World Recession,” begins! Combine that with a War and the seperation of wealth and power, we will have a class revolution around the world.