Kerry-Kennedy liberalism I
Published August 2, 2004
During his one-term stint in the Senate (1981-86), the late Republican Sen. John East of North Carolina was such a stalwart conservative that wags began referring to fellow Tar Heel state Republican Jesse Helms as "the liberal senator from North Carolina." Analogously, based on the lifetime voting ratings that Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry have received from Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), Mr. Kennedy could be characterized as "the conservative senator from Massachusetts." Indeed, according to the 20 "most important" votes selected by the ADA each year, Mr. Kennedy has earned a lifetime rating of 90 percent, two percentage points below Mr. Kerry's lifetime ADA rating of 92 percent. It's quite a feat, considering that Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America notes that Mr. Kennedy, "[a]s he begins his fifth decade in the Senate," remains "as much of an anchor as ever for his party's liberal base."
In so many ways, in fact, Mr. Kerry's 20-year Senate record is a carbon copy of Mr. Kennedy's during that time. So much so that a vote for John Kerry for president virtually constitutes a de facto vote for Mr. Kennedy's liberal agenda. Consider:
• Among the ADA's 200 key votes throughout the 1990s, Mr. Kennedy voted the ADA way 191 times, compared to 190 times for Mr. Kerry.
• On the political continuum, the American Conservative Union (ACU) resides at the opposite end from ADA. Mr. Kerry has compiled a lifetime ACU voting rating of 5 percent, not much different from the 3 percent Mr. Kennedy has achieved over the same period.
• Mr. Kerry has compiled a 90 percent rating from the AFL-CIO, virtually indistinguishable from Mr. Kennedy's 93 percent over the same period.
• The ACLU grades senators for each two-year Congress. From the 99th Congress (1985-86) through the 107th (2001-02), Mr. Kerry's average ACLU rating is 78 percent; Mr. Kennedy's is 80 percent.
• From 1985 through 2002, the League of Conservation Voters, the self-styled "political voice of the environmental movement," has given Mr. Kerry an average rating of 96 percent per year, including 10 years of perfect voting records. Over the same period, Mr. Kennedy's average annual rating has been 87 percent.
• The Concord Coalition describes itself as a "nonpartisan, grassroots organization advocating fiscal responsibility, while ensuring Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are secure for all generations." Annual voting ratings from 1993 to 2002 have averaged 37 percent for Mr. Kerry and 36 percent for Mr. Kennedy. It is worth recalling that when Mr. Kerry received his first Concord rating of 29 percent for 1993, he blew his stack. He complained that Concord's scorecard was "irresponsible" because it did not reflect "my support for a 50-cent increase in the gas tax."
• Even under the grade-inflated standards of the National Taxpayers Union, which passes lawmakers if they score as low as 26 percent, Messrs. Kerry and Kennedy have received a grade of F during each of the past seven years.
• The Christian Coalition has given an average rating of 8 percent to both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Kerry since 1991.
Nearly a quarter-century after Democrats rejected the liberalism of Ted Kennedy at their 1980 national convention, they have now nominated his clone.