Recently, Dana Milbank wrote a column about long-time Republicans politicians who are being forced out of office by more radical tea-party candidates. He used as examples, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Bob Bennett of Utah. But a reader wrote him a letter challenging the idea that these were “faithful conservatives” and even accused them of being liberals who deserved to be kicked out of the Republican party. He encouraged Milbank to check their ratings by the American Conservative Union.
So he did. But what he found surprised him. Murkowski has a lifetime rating of 70.2% and Bennett is 83.6%. If Murkowski and Bennett are too liberal for the GOP, then what other Republicans have worse ratings? The ACU has ratings of Republicans going back to 1971, and what Milbank found was that most of the Republican leadership before around 1999 would now be considered too liberal to be in the Republican party. For example, Gerald Ford, who was Republican leader in the House from 1965 to 1973 before he became president has a rating of 67%.
Other Republicans with ratings worse than one or both of Murkowski or Bennett include Bob Dole (Senate Republican leader and presidential candidate), Howard Baker (Senate Republican leader), and Hugh Scott (also Senate Republican leader). Scott had a rating from the ACU of 29%! Besides Senate leaders, the second most powerful position in the Senate is the Whip, and every single Republican who served as Whip from 1969 to 1995 would be considered too liberal, including Alan Simpson (78%), Ted Stevens (64%), and Robert Griffin (83%). In the House, Republican leader John Rhodes rated 53%.
And we haven’t even considered anyone outside the Republican leadership. Including such political giants as Jacob Javits, who received a big fat zero rating from the ACU.
Is it really true that in today’s GOP, a conservative rating of 95% or above is “the new normal”? Would even St. Reagan be too liberal for today’s Republican party? Less than a year ago, the Republican National Committee considered subjecting all GOP candidates to a “Reaganite purity test” that Reagan himself would have failed.