9 GOP senators are more conservative than socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is liberal

Vote View’s analysis of the 112th Congress and projections of the 113th Congress are out, and there are a few interesting things in the results.

As has been pointed out before, GOP extremism in the Congress doesn’t have a Democratic analog.

While Democrats have kinda moved to the left over the years; Republicans have lurched to the right.

What’s more, polarization is expected to increase slightly over the next two years as compared with the last two.

Some examples of just how conservative the Republicans are compared to the Democrats:

  • In the 112th Congress, Nancy Pelosi was as liberal as John Culberson (who?) was conservative.
  • What’s more, you have to add Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Henry Waxman together to get a liberal counterpart to Ron Paul’s conservatism.

It’s okay to be extreme in the Senate, but only if you’re a Republican.

tea party

Tea Party rally (Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com)

Senators are generally expected to be more moderate than House members due to their broader, and therefore more ideologically diverse, constituencies. In the 112th Congress, this was true only for those in the Democratic caucus.

The most liberal member of the Senate, Bernie Sanders, was more conservative than 38 members of the House. Furthermore, nine Republican senators were more conservative than Sanders was liberal. By contrast, only three members of the House were more conservative than Rand Paul (one was Ron Paul, go figure) and no representative came close to being as liberal as Paul was conservative.

Some additional findings…

Shelley Moore Capito is toast.

She is the most liberal Republican to hail from a state carried by Mitt Romney, and Romney won West Virginia by a lot. Heaven help her in a Republican primary for that state’s Senate seat.

Republicans Ron Johnson and Pat Toomey hopefully are toast, too.

Two of the six Senators with DW-Nominate scores more polarized than ±.600 (all Republicans), Johnson and Toomey, both hail from states that Barack Obama carried by more than five points in the past election, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, respectively. Neither are up for re-election until 2016, but if they don’t move to the left they will be far too conservative for the states they represent by the time they’re up for re-election.

South Carolina is completely nuts.

As I pointed out recently, Republican Joe “You Lie” Wilson was the second-most-liberal congressman from the state in the last term. He and Democrat Jim Clyburn are the only South Carolina congressmen who weren’t among the top 20 most conservative House members overall.

A lot of these are things we already knew (though the Bernie Sanders comparison was surprising), but it’s nice to be able to quantify them. The next time your friend is complaining about dysfunction and partisanship in Washington, be ready to throw some hard numbers at them showing why it really is the Republicans’ doing.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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