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Republican Legislators Not Conservative Enough

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GOP Legislators Not Conservative Enough

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Here's some real news: California's Republican state lawmakers aren't nearly conservative enough.

That's not the conventional wisdom, which portrays Republicans as marching in uncompromising lockstep.

But the California Republican Assembly, a self-styled enforcer of what it sees as conseravtive orthodoxy, sees things differently.

In its "Legislative Scorecard" for 2010, the CRA gave only "perfect" scores -- that is perfectly conservative -- to five legislators, all Republican. That was down from 13 for the previous year, 2009. The ratings are based on CRA's assessment of what the conservative side was of votes on various legislation, on topics from health coverage to materinity care to affordable housing to taxes and fees.

From the CRA's perspective, we learn that Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who is running for mayor of San Diego, is a notorious liberal who had the worst score in the legislature, voting the conservative way 63 percent.

What should this mean to you if you're not conservative? The rankings may be useful in identifying those politicians most likely to compromise, a crucial skill for lawmakers that the CRA doesn't respect.

The CRA rankings also represent what might be called dumb partisanship. Partisanship, for all the denunciation of it, is good, the life's blood of politics. Party affiliation and loyalty allows groups of people with different views and background to come together under a common banner and make politics. They should work to defend and advance their interests.

But defense and advance of partisan interests is not the opposite of compromise. Good partisanship requires compromise--in fact, a healthy partisanship (that is, a partisanship that's not about ratings and notions of conservative purity) is essential to making good compromise that address common problems while addresing important values, conservative or otherwise.

It would be nice if someone could come up with a rating that judged lawmakers on how they strike that balance -- between getting things done via copromise while protecting their most cherished positions.

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