• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Obama and Biden: Merely Very Liberal, Not Ultra Liberal

Contra Fred Barnes and National Journal, Brendan Nyhan argues that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are not the 1st and 3rd most liberal Senators but only the 11th and 10th most liberal Senators.  By contrast, John McCain is either the 8th or 2nd most conservative Senator, depending on the year.

Considering that twice as many Americans identify themselves “conservative” as “liberal,” that’s a comparison McCain can probably live with.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Although both lean to the “liberal” side by Senate standards from the standpoint of the political spectrum in the country they’re both center-left. IMO simply being in the Senate (which means running for statewide election) is prima facie evidence of leaning at least a little towards the center. I don’t think there are any hard left Senators and if there’s a hard right Senator I don’t know who he or she is.

    Characterizing things otherwise is an unrealistic compression of the spectrum of views in the country. Lord knows the mainstream range of opinion here is pretty narrow but it’s not that narrow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Bithead says:

    I wonder a bit, james, at the way this post of yours leans, given what I see of the Barnes article:

    But what Mr. Obama has done is create an all-liberal ticket — a very, very liberal one, at that — in a nation whose electorate is still center-right. The political mood may be a bit more centrist today than it was in 2004, but it’s still far more conservative than liberal. And liberal Democratic presidential tickets usually lose, as John Kerry did with John Edwards as his running mate in 2004.

    I mean, count their relative positions, left to right as you will. But either way, what we have here is unquestionably “an all-liberal ticket — a very, very liberal one, at that”. Past that, there seems very little room to manuver.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. DMan says:

    I have no empirical evidence to prove this, but my guess is the reason twice as many Americans identify as conservative than liberal is because many liberals like to consider themselves moderates in an attempt to appear more open minded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. just me says:

    I don’t see much if any centrism in Obama. I think you can argue on some issue Biden leans towards the center, but I would hardly consider him to be the center left either.

    They may not be ultra liberal compared to liberals in other countries, but for the US I think both are pretty firmly well left of the center.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. sam says:

    I mean, count their relative positions, left to right as you will. But either way, what we have here is unquestionably “an all-liberal ticket — a very, very liberal one, at that”.

    And that’s a bad thing (if true) because? Look, given the severely diminished value of conservative Republican stock, I don’t think conjuring up the liberal boogeyman is going to work anymore (not that I’d expect Fred Barnes to cease holding on to the hope). And we should put these things in some perspective. As James has pointed out both of our parties would fit comfortably within the British Conservative Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Beldar says:

    I’m not particularly impressed by indices and rating schemes. But Obama himself is substantially to the left of Biden. Relevant examples: Obama champions income redistribution from the shareholders of energy companies via a confiscatory “windfall profits” tax and some sort of rebate to “lower- and middle-class taxpayers.” Biden championed a pro-business, pro-creditor, pro-credit card company reform to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 that made it substantially harder for consumers to discharge their debts (rather than “reorganizing” them, i.e., continuing to pay them off on long schedules under close court and bankruptcy trustee supervision). Obama said he would have voted against the Iraq War; Biden was one of the drafters of the authorization and voted for it.

    Biden’s plenty liberal, and he’s also very much a class-warrior, but sometimes he fights on the opposite side of the class wars from Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Triumph says:

    I don’t think there are any hard left Senators

    Have you ever heard of a socialist called, Bernie Sanders?

    if there’s a hard right Senator I don’t know who he or she is.

    Have you ever heard of a neanderthal called, James Inhofe?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    Yeah, Sanders is probably hard left. Is Inhofe hard right?

    My point remains that the Senate is by and large less ideologically skewed than, say, the House and even if you’re fairly far left by Senate standards it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re far left by national domestic policy standards.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Triumph says:

    I’m with you Dave–although Inhofe is pretty nuts. He is to the right of Bush on climate change and is a big “family values” guy.

    Remember, this is the guy who called a novelist to testify in Committee about science issues.

    On utter cluelessness, he is close to McCain. In his recent campaign ad, he claimed Iraq is in Africa!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Bithead says:

    I’m with you Dave–although Inhofe is pretty nuts. He is to the right of Bush on climate change and is a big “family values” guy.

    I suspect there’s more of you in this statement than you’d intended….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. anjin-san says:

    If McCain is the #2 most conservative Senator, how come conservatives are unhappy about him as nominee? They should be doing cartwheels…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Hal says:

    They should be doing cartwheels…

    Well, the guy has based his reputation on being a “maverick”. Not sure what the really means in the real world, but it apparently means the illusion of bucking his party. Not being a conservative, I can’t really say for sure, but they don’t seem to take too kindly to even the illusion of bucking the party. One thing you can say about conservatives is that they like things…. well, they like things conservative. And even the illusion of bucking is considered not just in bad taste, but tantamount to treason.

    “Stay on target” even if it means drilling into the ground.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Bithead says:

    And that’s a bad thing (if true) because? Look, given the severely diminished value of conservative Republican stock, I don’t think conjuring up the liberal boogeyman is going to work anymore (not that I’d expect Fred Barnes to cease holding on to the hope). And we should put these things in some perspective. As James has pointed out both of our parties would fit comfortably within the British Conservative Party.

    Heh. Well, a quick answer would be to break your statement out a little…

    And that’s a bad thing (if true) because…. as James has pointed out both of our parties would fit comfortably within the British Conservative Party….

    And given the relative state of England, these days, that’s not a harbinger of major problems?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Bithead says:

    If McCain is the #2 most conservative Senator, how come conservatives are unhappy about him as nominee?

    Mostly because he’s still substantially left of most of the party. He even comes down to the left of Bush who is at best, a centrist.

    Then again, you knew that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Hal says:

    Then again, you knew that.

    So, logically, all but one of the senators are to the left of McCain, and therefore to the left of Bush and therefore leftists.

    Score!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Bithead says:

    So, logically, all but one of the senators are to the left of McCain, and therefore to the left of Bush and therefore leftists.

    And that assesment bothers you, in some way?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Hal says:

    And that assesment bothers you, in some way?

    You’re free to have you’re own standards. I just wanted it on the record – so to speak – what you were implying by those standards.

    You seem to be pretty much so conservative that there’s literally no one in the government who satisfies your political views.

    Which I guess puts you so far out of the mainstream as to almost be unrecognizable as a political point of reference.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Bithead says:

    Nice try, Hal. What I’m were implying by those standards, is rather simple; I acually expect conservatives to (Gasp!) be CONSERVATIVES and not warmed over liberals.

    You like to tell us about how you voted for Reagan. Fine. Did you vote for him because he was a liberal wannabe?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Hal says:

    I acually expect conservatives to (Gasp!) be CONSERVATIVES and not warmed over liberals.

    Yes, that was quite clear. Again, what this means is that you believe “conservative” is way farther to the right of almost, if not all senators. That kind of measuring stick puts you way, way far to the right of pretty much everyone and thus, as I said, almost unrecognizable as a political point of reference. An outlier.

    Did you vote for him because he was a liberal wannabe?

    No. I had just turned 18 and was on my own, having grown up in a right wing evangelical family. At the time I considered myself to be a Libertarian of the Heinlein variety and Regan was my choice. The family hated Carter, so…

    But I’m not sure what the reason why I voted for Reagan has to do with the price of tea in China. You’re seeing those connecting threads in your mind which no one else sees, Dr. B. You’ll have to enlighten us po liberal folk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Bithead says:

    Ah.
    So, having done that, you’ve never outgrown your rebellious phase afterword, then.

    (knowing nod)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Hal says:

    ? My voting for Reagan wasn’t an act of rebellion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0