Monday, July 26, 2004

Meaningless Labels

Today's Times presents an editorial, the authors of which purport to have ranked the political candidates according to their full voting history.
Assertions that the Democrats' presumptive nominees are extreme liberals fall flat. True, Mr. Kerry's voting history places him to the left of today's median Senate Democrat (Tom Daschle of South Dakota). But he is closer to the center of the Democratic Party than he is to the most liberal senators, including Mr. Kennedy. John Edwards falls just to the right of the median Democrat. In fact, he is nearly indistinguishable from Mr. Lieberman, the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in 2000.

On the other side of the partisan divide, Mr. Bush - like Mr. Kerry - is more extreme than his party's median senator (Richard Shelby of Alabama). He is also noticeably more conservative than his primary challenger in 2000, John McCain. So any assertion that the Democratic candidates are out of the mainstream might easily be applied to the Republicans as well. In fact, if any of the four candidates on the national party tickets this year is out of the mainstream, it is Mr. Cheney, who in his last full term in the House was on the right flank of roughly 90 percent of his Republican colleagues.
So Bush is "noticeably more conservative" than McCain? Does this inspire anybody but me to wonder, "How in the world are they defining 'conservative'?" McCain appears to believe in small government, balanced budgets, responsible spending, removing protectionist barriers from imports from the developing world, and seems wary of discretionary warfare and nation-building. Apart from his campaign promises, Bush has seemingly rejected at all of those values. By what definitioin is Bush more conservative?

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