Congress’ Most Partisan Members of the Last 25 Years

Roll Call has assembled a list of “the top 10 most partisan Congressional ‘street fighters’ from the past 50 years.”

Roll Call, which admits this list is “somewhat subjective” (I’d call it very subjective), says its criteria were “Members who are viewed as the most combative, most effective at using partisanship for political gain and most likely to show a virtual disregard for the other side of the aisle.”

Roll Call’s selections were:

Rep. Jim Wright (D-Texas)
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.)
Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio)
Rep. Bob Walker (R-Pa.)
Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.)
Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

I would write a very different list (listing Mitch McConnell but not former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell is ludicrious, for example, and how could none of the following make the list: Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Johnson, Robert Byrd, or Sam Rayburn?).

Barbara Boxer’s probably on the list because they wanted to include a woman. Does she deserve the “chick chair” more than Bella Abzug?

How is it that Democrats dominated Congress during most of the last 50 years, yet most of the “most partisan Congressional street fighters” Roll Call lists are Republicans? Over the paast 50 years, were Republicans better at partisan fighting while the Democrats were better at winning — and, if so, how?

Roll Call’s list of the “most partisan Congressional street fighters” of the last 50 years mentions only one member who served most of his term during the first 25 of those 50 years. That member, Jim Wright, is still well-known today. Could it be — scary thought — that Roll Call journalists and the “dozens of political observers” Roll Call called upon to pick the list don’t know much about near-recent Congressional history?

I am reminded of the old saw that every generation of young people thinks it invented sex. In Washington, every generation thinks it invented partisanship. So count the Roll Call article as a “fun to argue over” list of the best Congressional partisan street fighters of the last 25 years — with plenty to argue over.

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