Lieberman’s right-wing shift (and other data points from the Senate rankings)

Robert Farley (building on Peter Beinart) makes the entirely plausible claim that Sen. Joe Lieberman has shifted to the right since 2006 out of some mix of personal animosity towards the progressive base of the Democratic Party (which ousted him as Democratic candidate in the 2006 primary only to see him win reelection as an independent) and responsiveness to his new electoral coalition (which leaned well to the right given that Ned Lamont was the left-leaning Democrat in the general election race).

There is only one thing wrong with this analysis: It is false.

According to the scaling of roll-call votes for each Senate at Keith Poole’s Vote View, here is where Lieberman has ranked so far in the 111th Senate, and going back in time to the 107th (2002, before the Iraq invasion and also before Lieberman’s presidential bid). The lower the rank, the farther the Senator is to the left within that Senate.

111: 28
110: 34.5
109: 30.5
108: 33
107: 32

Not much movement there. But what movement there is, has been to the left, particularly since Barack Obama became President.

Additionally, Keith asked the question some years ago about which Senator had moved more in his voting from the 105th to 107th Senates, Lieberman or John McCain.

Senator McCain shifted 14 (out of a total of 126 ranks [from 85 to 71]) ranks to the left during 2000 – 2002 while Senator Lieberman shifted 16 ranks [from 56 to 40]. In contrast, Senator Jeffords shifted 48 ranks — from rank 65 to rank 17 after he switched to being an independent.

So, Joe Lieberman used to be a relatively conservative Democratic Senator. But for many years now he has been just a bit to the left of his party’s median.

How about that shift by Jeffords? Far more dramatic than a more recent party-switcher, Arlen Specter:

111 (since switch): 45
111 (before switch): 62
110: 56
109: 50
108: 52
107: 54

While we are looking at ranks, it is also noteworthy that Kirsten Gillibrand, the Blue Dog House member whom progressives disdained as too conservative when she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacated seat, has been the 12th most liberal Senator in the 111th.* Now, that is shifting to represent one’s new electoral coalition.

Back to Lieberman: he may not be especially liberal and he may take personal enjoyment from occasionally annoying progressives, but there is no evidence that he has made any shift towards the right-leaning electoral coalition that returned him to the Senate in 2006.

A final aside: The 108th was the last Senate in which there was a D amidst the Rs (or vice versa): Zel Miller was 59th, to the right of 11 Republicans!

* Clinton had been 18th in the 110th.

One thought on “Lieberman’s right-wing shift (and other data points from the Senate rankings)

  1. From the Beinart article:

    “For close to a decade, he got nearly perfect scores from the American Public Health Association, which backs a single-payer health-care system, and in lieu of that, the “public option.” Now, all of a sudden, he’s so outraged by a public option that he’s threatening to filibuster any bill that contains it.”

    I see lots of people explaining that with resentment. Coupled with the issues Nate Silver bring up here:

    it does seem that Lieberman’s reasons are a bit … opaque.

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