Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reflections on a stalemate

By Carol Gee

Senator Barack Obama D-IL, and Senator John McCain R-AZ, will have their legislative records exposed during the 2008 Presidential campaign. And it will be their Senate records that will be compared. Each of them has served only in the Senate, never in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, since the Democrats have gained control (?) of the Senate, it has remained almost in a state of stalemate. That is because Senate rules are allowing "the tyranny of the minority." Those rules were originally instituted to protect the rights of the minority against "the tyranny of the majority." But that has now been turned on its head by an obstructionist Republican cohort unprecedented in history, combined with a weak Democratic majority leader.

I will not discuss Senator Hillary Clinton's legislative record because I doubt she will be competing in the general election. So the comparisons, if made at all, will be between McCain and Obama. What would such a comparison look like on this primary election day in West Virginia? Which candidate should have to run on his record in the general election? Which record is superior. Which Senator acted in good faith, given the majority/minority distortions currently in play? Did Republican obstruction hurt Democrats ability to make a record?

A quick scan of Senator McCain's long voting record (1986-present) at Project Vote Smart reveals that Senator McCain misses a lot of votes ("NV") when he is running for president. Another useful tool at this site is the "Interest Group Ratings" page that scores the candidates on their voting records. A scan of these lists, compiled by issue, reveals that Senator McCain is really very far to the right on many issues. There is further evidence of this in the excellent voting records section (summary) at the Washington Post. This WaPo website also does the homework for you on Key Votes, Missed Votes (since 1991), Voting with the Party (or against his party since 1991), and Latest Votes (on summary page).

A quick scan of Senator Obama's legislative and voting record in the U.S. Senate since 2004 at Project Vote Smart also reveals Senator Obama's, naturally more limited because of his short tenure, missed votes record, his "Interest Group Ratings" page scores relatively liberal, as well as his "Issue Positions" (refused Political Courage Test). At the Washington Post website, you can see Obama's records on Key Votes, Missed Votes, Voting with his party (96.7% of the time), and Latest Votes (on summary page).

The facts of a candidate's' legislative and voting history alone can, on the face of it, be deceiving. For example, Senator Obama has a very short tenure in the U.S. Senate, but served for some time in the Illinois legislature. Should that record "be a part of the record" upon which he is judged as a leader? Is Senator McCain really a maverick, and with which issues is he out of step with his own party? Can a very long legislative record be a sign of legislative quality. What if it flies in the face of most of what you believe, philosophically? Does Hillary Clinton's lackluster legislative history mean she cannot be a good Majority leader? Does McCain deserve to become the peoples' choice merely on 20+ years experience vs. Obama's mere four years, two under Republican leadership.

I ask these questions because the media does not. It will take some digging -- following the above links -- but the results will be worth your time when you are in the voting booth in November.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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