Who Makes the Grade?

Grading California’s Legislators for their Radical Centrism

Reason in Government (“Reason”) is a social welfare organization headquartered in Santa Barbara, California. We educate citizens and encourage civic engagement to encourage more effective, efficient, and reasoned public policies in accordance with a set of core principles – principles that make us centrists with a point of view, rather than centrists who necessarily seek to occupy the middle ground. Briefly, we believe in less intrusive and more effective government driven by a thorough and empirical policy formulation process. In today’s political parlance, we are reformers who are generally socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and environmentally conscious. We are, therefore, neither consistently “left” nor “right” on public policy issues, nor are we always in the “middle.” Instead, because our positions are guided by reason rather than political orthodoxy, and because we advocate for those positions, we are the voice of the radical center.

legislator-scorecard-2016-thumbnailThis is the second version of our Legislator Scorecard, which is designed to identify Californian Legislators who consistently vote as radical centrists. We created this update to account for the flurry of legislative activity that occurred in the final days of the most recent California legislative session, which ended on August 31, 2016. This update also addresses the two most common comments we received on the first version of our Scorecard, which was released earlier this year: (1) that the title, although provocative, could be construed as unfairly negative when applied to certain legislators who did not make the grade, particularly Senate Democrats; and (2) our methodology made it difficult for newer legislators to make the grade because they had fewer votes.

With regard to the first comment, we note that our methodology (and the statement of principles upon which it is based) does not favor Republicans over Democrats, as is clearly demonstrated by the rankings for Assembly Members. Sadly, there simply are no radically centrist Democrats in the Senate, as this updated Scorecard confirms. Nonetheless, we do not want provocative rhetoric to detract from the substance of the Scorecard, and thus have made an effort to soften our language in certain instances (without changing our grading scale or inflating the grades of the legislators who least resemble our conception of radical centrists). With regard to the second comment, the end of the session has allowed us to add five additional votes to the updated Scorecard, which substantially reduces the risk that we are not scoring a fair number of votes by newer legislators.