Why Obama Was Never the Most Liberal Senator in the United States

A common charge of Republicans during the 2008 presidential campaign was at Senator Barack Obama’s perceived liberalism. Republicans often stated that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator in the United States, according to a ranking by the National Journal. The attack against Mr. Obama’s liberalism has continued during his time in office.

The ranking by the National Journal, however, seems to be flawed in several ways. Take the 2004 rankings, for instance. Guess who was ranked the most liberal Senator in 2004.

If you answered John Kerry, that’s right. The exact same claim was made against Mr. Kerry in 2004, based upon the exact same ranking. And check out how highly their Vice Presidential picks ranked: Senator Joe Biden was ranked the 3rd most liberal senator when he ran for Vice President, and Senator John Edwards was ranked the 4th most liberal senator during his campaign for the spot.

The high ranking of Mr. Edwards is particularly hard to believe. John Edwards, after all, represented North Carolina – certainly not the most liberal of states. He was elected senator with a less-than-five percent margin. Indeed, in the year before 2003 Mr. Edwards was ranked the 31st most liberal senator.

In reality, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry were far from the most liberal senators in the United States. The reason they were ranked so is due to the many votes they missed while campaigning for president.

And there are certainly senators who are far more liberal than either Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry. Take Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Sanders is not just your typical liberal – he’s actually a bona-fide socialist. Republicans often attack Mr. Obama as espousing socialism, attacks which the Obama administration usually responds are ridiculous. But Mr. Sanders actually is a socialist, and a proud one at that.

There are other quite liberal senators out there. It is hard to believe that either Mr. Obama was more liberal than Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, or Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Then there’s recently defeated Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the only senator to vote against the initial Patriot Act.

There are about a dozen other Democratic senators who also were probably more liberal than Mr. Obama. Some of these are the people who hold the levers of power in the Democratic Party, like Senator Charles Schumer of New York or Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Others are lesser-known senators who come from very liberal states, like Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island or Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama was a liberal senator. He was, as a liberal-minded man representing a liberal-minded state. But to believe the conservative claim that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator would be to believe that he was more to the left than an actual socialist. And, despite what some conservatives might believe, Mr. Obama certainly hasn’t imposed socialism upon the United States

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