On the Issues: Mapping out the positions of elected officials

Lexicon | Politics
Can’t tell the politicians without a scorecard? Looking for a free online equivalent of the Elias Sports Bureau of American politics? Check out On the Issues, a website which made its debut in the 2000 Election and has continued keeping its data updated to reflect recent votes. It has vote details and issue grids for each national poltician, governor, as well as those for many challenging candidates.

Here, for example, is where On the Issues maps the major primary nominees-to-be for the 2004 election:

To put Bush and Kerry in perspective, I’ve added a number of Senators from both parties to the map below. (On the Issues does not offer this at the present time, so I manually assembled this in my graphics editor). Note that I’ve made a few changes to reflect the “Common Political Grid”, an update of the “Nolan Chart,” the popularity of which is limited to Libertarian circles. First, I provided a more suitable movement for the bottom quadrant– Communitarian. Second, I tried to neutralize the labels of the axes by removing the % and simply calling it an index.

Notes on the data selection:
I drew from Kerry’s possible VP nominees, as well as some of the key leadership positions. I also made an effort to find some of the more unorthodox positions. If we added more Senators, we’d start getting many duplicate positions. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) share the same point here, as do John McCain (R-AZ) and Zell Miller (D-GA). I left this dot red, I don’t think Miller would really mind… Also, two Senators have a first initial in order so that gentle reader may not confuse them with their longer-serving political husbands.

This chart illustrates some conventional wisdom about today’s Senate:

  1. Miller (D-GA) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) cross party lines but generally fit in with the prevailing ideologies of their respective regions. Or Miller is just a turncoat in the eyes of his fellow Democrats– he’s already endorsed Bush.
  2. Senators fall within the main left-right belt, though it tilts a little upwards on the right. This points out that libertarianism and communitarianism are political suicide (Representatives are likely more spread out; Ron Paul, R-TX, is firmly in the libertarian section).
  3. John Edwards (D-NC) and Bill Frist (R-TN, Majority Leader) are the centers of their respective parties, and are merely a handshake away from the wings.
  4. Along with Robert Byrd (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN) anchors the communitarian quadrant– no surprise here as he is the chair of the centrist DLC. He may be an ideological balance for Kerry. John McCain (R-AZ), the Democrats’ favorite Republican, is clearly a couple of hops more conservative than Bayh.
  5. Kerry is not the most liberal member of the Senate here– when he wants to turn left, he just turns to neighbor Pat Leahy of Vermont. Likewise, Bush is hardly a right-wing ideologue, and is nowhwere near libertarianism.