Wednesday, April 19, 2006

John Kerry: Laggard

Upon forced examination, John Kerry is a lot less progressive that we had assumed. We were surprised and disappointed.

A post on John Kerry's lame view of prison rehab brought two negative comments, one from Aaron and one from DynamicDems. [See edit below-4/20.] Regardless, he remains way off base on the issue at hand. However, DD did point out that his background as a prosecutor explains much of his attitude.

He still needs a serious attitude adjustment here...if we are to reverse the spiral of more incarcerated Americans, who generally emerge from jails more damaged and criminally inclined than they entered. He needs to join progressives who push for real rehab, not vengeance.

Regardless, the comments strongly supporting our junior senator sent me rechecking his overall scores. The short of it is that he is hit and miss, and much farther down the list than I recalled. He talks better than he votes.

There are several good sites that tally and analyze votes on liberal and progressive issues. We found the most comprehensive scores at ProgressivePunch, which covered votes from 1991. It ranks legislators in both U.S. houses on a broad range of votes. You can pick a topic or one legislator and tunnel down for big pictures or to specific votes.

For Massachusetts, Kerry falls far short of Ted Kennedy in the rankings. He is 24 to Kennedy's 3 in the Senate for progressive issues. That's still in good company, between Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden, but does not fit the image he holds up for himself.

A telling page compares the Massachusetts delegation. No wonder the conservatives rail against Kennedy more than Kerry.

You find that Kerry is great on housing, pretty good on environment, taxation and checking corporate power, but weak on such issues as corporate subsidies, family planning, health care and labor. Interestingly enough, with its 17 subcategories, he was weakest on his progressive votes on war and peace issues. He ranked 44 of 99 senators there with a 40.82% progressive score.

We were quite surprised and did tunnel down throughout his record. Why hadn't we heard that he supported the regressive, conservative side on so many issues?

In reality, he supported the Dark Side by his absence. It is shocking how many votes, particularly close votes, he missed. The single largest factor in his low scoring areas resulted from his not weighing in at all on progressive issues, time after time, year after year.

Perhaps his defenders can find excuses for hundreds of missed close votes. He wasn't campaigning for all of them. Kennedy managed to find his seat and either push his button or raise his voice vote. Kerry was MIA far too often.

We've all heard patronizing senators say, "You don't understand how laws are made." It could be that he cut a deal with a rightwinger and had the issue covered when they cancelled each other out. That is not a good way to run a government.

After looking at his missed votes, we have to conclude that he needs to put his skinny butt in his chair in the chamber more often. His presence alone should carry some influence.

It reminds me of what U.S. Senator Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) told me many years ago. He was staunchly anti-Vietnam War in a state whose voters had the opposite view. When I asked him about compromises and importance of being counted, he said, "Don't believe a thing a politician tells you if it doesn't square with his voting record."

Edit to 2nd graph: Sorry for the slur on the two commenters. I allow anonymous postin and originally wrote that they posted anonymously. This was my blunder by interpreting the Blogger moderated post emails no-response addresses in the commenters FROM. They were, in fact, posting logged in. If I had waited until these were fully moderated comments, I could have been able to click on the profile and verify that no one was using that domain name who was not entitled to do so. Live and learn, eh, or at least you hope so.

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Aaron said...

My only further point of contention is that you say his record does not fit "the image he holds up for himself." But he doesn't go around saying "I'm progressive," or "I'm liberal," he is what he is, and you can call it whatever you want. In any event, you can share your thoughts with the man himself this Saturday if you wish. I'll be there, we can shake hands and agree to disagree.

(He'll be at Faneuil Hall as detailed here.)

massmarrier said...

We're not going to be around this weekend. I wish I could and shall digest the reports.

I definitely should meet and chat with him.

As to your point, I hope my post made it plain that it was my perception that was wrong, both on how much his former life influences him and how left he is. One can hope, still.

Uncle said...

The Senator poses quite a problem for those of us who were Navy veterans during the same unpleasantness, also progressive (and maybe more so), but enlisted. I exempt the bozos who have solved the conundrum by grasping at right wing straws.

From the beginning of his career, it's seemed to me that Kerry to the left reflects the harrowing effect of our common experience. Kerry to the centre or--dare I say--right reflects the inevitable effects of privileged upbringing and further privilege as a Navy those days a rather privileged class.

I would feel much better about the man if he too had once spent a drunken night huddled in an East Side doorway, but I fear he never let go to that extent.

I still await the unexpected one for 2008. Pity we can't reincarnate Debs.