WASHINGTON—Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on May 2 became the 22nd Democrat seeking his party’s 2020 presidential nomination and the 13th from Congress with virtually identical extremely liberal voting records.
“I think this country faces two enormous challenges, one is a lack of economic mobility and opportunity for most Americans and the other is the need to restore integrity to our government,” Bennet, 54, said during an interview with “CBS This Morning” co-anchor John Dickerson.
Asked about the fact he is just one of nearly two dozen candidates, Bennet said he believes it is “phenomenal we have an array of candidates that we have,” and he described it as a “competition of ideas.”
Bennet was described by CBS as “a relatively moderate Democrat,” but a review by The Epoch Times of congressional voting records found little difference between the Colorado senator and any of his competitors who are also current or former members of Congress.
As scored by the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACU) on 25 issues during 2018, Bennet received a 14 rating, supporting the group’s position three times and opposing it 17 times. Bennet missed five votes.
That tied Bennet with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) as the two most conservative congressional Democrats presently seeking the presidency. The non-congressional candidates are similarly liberal.
The other 11 all scored below 10, according to ACU, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), 9; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), 9; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), 5; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 9; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 9; former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) 7 in 2016; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), 8; Rep. Sean Moulton (D-Mass.), 8; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), 8; Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), 4; and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), 4.
The average ACU score for the 13 is 8.3. The same pattern was found in the 2018 ratings compiled by another conservative activist group, FreedomWorks.
The liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) awarded Bennet a 90 score for voting right on 18 of 20 issues selected by the group for its 2017 scorecard, the latest available.
The ADA gave Booker a 95 score, as well as 100s for Harris, Warren, Klobuchar, and Gillibrand. Sanders, the self-described “Democratic Socialist,” was rated 95 by ADA.
Among the House Democrats, the ADA rated Delaney 85, Gabbard, 95, Moulton, 80, O’Rourke, 80, Ryan, 100, and Swalwell, 90.
The average ADA score for the 13 congressional Democrats hoping to be elected president in 2020 is 93, virtually the exact opposite of the ACU ratings.
Former Vice President Joe Biden left the Senate in 2009 after first being elected in 1972. Biden received a 12.67 ACU rating for his Senate career. Biden is the front-runner, with Sanders, Harris, and Warren his closest rivals, depending on the survey.
The most conservative Democrat in the Senate, according to ACU, is Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), with a score of 36. The most liberal Senate Republican is Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), also with a 36.
The first two Democratic presidential primary debates are slated for June and July, with NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo hosting the initial gathering and CNN the second.
The candidates’ voting records, as scored by the nation’s two oldest ideological ranking foundations, reflect a vivid contrast with the general public’s view of itself.
Thirty-six percent of Americans describe themselves as “Conservative,” while 35 percent are “Moderates” and 26 percent are “Liberals,” according to the Gallup Poll’s most recent national survey.
The Gallup results have steadily narrowed in the margin between Conservatives and Liberals since 1992 when the former represented 36 percent, compared to 17 percent for the latter.
Democratic strategists and activists interviewed by The Epoch Times generally downplayed the significance of the scorecards.
Surveys on ideological labels are “meaningless,” strategist Christian Hanley said, adding that, “the only way to determine political orientation is to ask respondents to answer questions on policies. Otherwise, we’re just talking about polling on the popularity of the words ‘liberal,’ ‘conservative,’ and ‘moderate.’”
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and a veteran activist, on May 2 said, “when you shed the labels, Americans agree in overwhelming numbers on a vast range of issues, and strongly support positions that are often characterized as ‘progressive.”
As examples, Weissman pointed to Medicare for All, which garnered 70 percent support in a recent survey for The Hill, and expanding Social Security, favored by 66 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey.
But strategist Robin Biro told The Epoch Times he sees two big problems with the huge field of like-minded candidates.
“The downside for voters right now is the crowded field, with 18 candidates currently meeting the Democratic National Committee’s eligibility to be on the DNC debate stage, it will be confusing,” Biro said.
More serious, he said, is “the fact that there aren’t any clear blue-dog, JFK-style Democrats, which represent our older constituencies who are more conservative.”
He said this is good news for Trump. These voters could choose him, “as Democratic candidates for 2020 seem to be focusing more on the emerging, more progressive electorate.”
Asked if he worries that the traditional “moderate middle” of voters is a thing of the past, Biro expressed optimism that it “is not a permanent loss, these things ebb and flow.”
Pointing to the Tea Party movement that shifted the congressional wing of the Republican Party in a more conservative direction in 2010, Biro said he expects “we will likely experience a similar trend with the far Left faction of our party.” He was referring to House freshmen such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
“I could be wrong, but I am anticipating that falling out of trend as the newness wears off, and as they are increasingly unable to pass legislation in Congress like the Green New deal,” he said.
Biro also sounded a warning to Democrats and Republicans: “There are entire groups of people in both parties who are asking themselves where they fit into the equation right now.”