The Myth of Republican Conservatism

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The latest “Conservative Index” that has just been published by The New American, (a biweekly publication of The John Birch Society), is an eye-opener for those who think that the Republicans in Congress are “conservative.” The index once again refutes the myth, based on the voting records of Republicans in Congress, that the Republican Party is the party of “conservatism.”

The “Conservative Index,” according to The New American, “rates congressmen based on their adherence to constitutional principles of limited government, to fiscal responsibility, to national sovereignty, and to a traditional foreign policy of avoiding foreign entanglements.” The New American views conservatism as an ideology that believes in “preserving our Constitution, the freedoms it guarantees, and the moral bedrock on which it is based.”

This is the third time The New American has published a “Conservative Index” of the 108th Congress. For those who have forgotten their high school American Government class, the U.S. Congress meets for a two-year term, divided into two sessions of one year each. Every Congress since the first one to meet under the Constitution has a number. Thus, the 108th Congress is the 108th time in this country’s history that a new Congress has been elected. A new Congress begins its term in January of every odd year, after elections in November of every even year. After the election coming up in November of 2004, the 109th Congress will convene in January of 2005.

The purpose of this index is to present how all members of Congress have voted on certain key issues. This certainly makes it easier to see how members of Congress voted than calling their offices in Washington or checking the results of each bill on the Internet. To get an overall picture of the political philosophy of each congressman (their ideologies actually range from socialist to statist to interventionist to libertarian), the votes they cast on certain key issues are assigned a plus (good) or a minus (bad). Scores from 1 to 100 are determined by dividing a congressman’s plus votes by the total number of votes cast and multiplying by 100. Thus, the higher the number the stronger the degree of conservatism of the congressman.

If it be objected by libertarians that a congressman scoring a 100 — a “perfect” conservative score — is not necessarily something good, it should be pointed out that libertarian Ron Paul (R-TX) consistently scores 100 on this index. Therefore, this “Conservative Index” is a good indicator of how devoted members of Congress are to the philosophy of liberty.

Some of the House congressional votes that are counted in this particular index relate to extended unemployment benefits (H.R. 3030), child nutrition programs (H.R. 3873), transportation (H.R. 3550), abortion at military facilities (H.R. 4200), and job training (H.R. 444). Some of the Senate congressional votes relate to gun show background checks (S. 1805), transportation (S. 1072), assault weapons (S. 1805), extended unemployment benefits (S. 1637), and extending the Internet tax moratorium (S. 150).

As mentioned, this issue of The New American (July 12) is the third time a “Conservative Index” has been published. The other two were in the July 14 and December 29 issues in 2003. Each index used ten key votes from the House and the Senate. An added benefit this time is that an average score for all three indexes is also given to assess the overall philosophy of each member of Congress on a wide range of issues.

The results of the index are shocking. The average score in the House was only 46. The average score in the Senate was only 41. The high score in the House (100) was made by Ron Paul (R-TX). The high score in the Senate (80) was made by John Ensign (R-NV). The low score in the House (13) was made by Diane Watson (D-CA). The low score in the Senate (10) was made by two Republicans — John Chafee (R-RI) and George Voinovich (R-OH). The Democratic ticket of Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Edwards (D-NC) have no meaningful score since they were out campaigning so much that they hardly voted. Their overall scores are 15 for Kerry and 35 for Edwards.

So how does this index refute the myth that Republican Party is the party of “conservatism”? Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the only member of the House of Representatives who admits to being a socialist, scored an overall 47 — about average. Former Republican Jim Jeffords (I-VT) scored an overall 37. But 174 Republicans in the House (76%) and 23 Republicans in the Senate (45%) scored less than Sanders. Twenty-one Republicans in the Senate scored the same as or less than the 40 of Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. None of the Republican leadership in the House or the Senate managed to score over 50. House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) scored a 50. Senate president pro tempore Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) each scored a 40 — tying Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).

As should be obvious, the Republican Party is not the hope of America. Nothing has changed since George Wallace said that there was not a “dime’s worth of difference” between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. It is pro-lifers, grass-roots conservatives, the Christian Right, and the disciples of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity who are wasting their votes by voting Republican — not conservative and libertarian critics of the Republican Party who vote for a third party or not at all.

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