Friday, August 07, 2015

Election 2016 Scorecard #1: Political Careerism


In my liveblogs of the first 2016 Republican presidential nomination debates, I mentioned (and used data from) a "scorecard" I've been working on. If things go as I plan, I'll be doing a number of these scorecards and using them as part of a formula for rating presidential candidates. The first scorecard is a rating of candidates on the metric of "political careerism."

A "careerist" is "a professional who is intent on furthering his or her career by any possible means and often at the expense of their own integrity." A political careerist, of course, is a careerist whose chosen career is politics. How do we measure political careerism? Well, here's the formula I came up with:

On a scale of 0 to 100, 0 is a complete political non-careerist while 100 is a complete political careerist. Each candidate receives five points for every year spent in "the political sector" -- that is, each year spent as an elected officeholder, an appointed officeholder, or a paid government employee. Twenty years produces a "careerism score" of 100. For more than 20 years, an asterisk next to the score thusly: 100*.

In my opinion, political careerism is a bad thing. Your mileage may vary. If you trust electoral politics, you may consider it to be an indicator of "much-needed experience" or something. Feel free to discuss your opinion in comments.

Is it possible to really capture that metric in that way? Well, yes and no. Here are some considerations I ran into:


  • I carefully considered whether or not to include employment in the military and law enforcement in the scores. I decided to do so. Jim Gilmore and Lindsay Graham both vindicated that decision in last night's debates when they referred to their military service multiple times as qualifiers for the presidency.
  • I had to decide whether or not Hillary Clinton's eight years as First Lady of the United States counted. I decided they did. Not every First Lady's time in the White House would count, but Clinton's husband referred to her as his "co-president," she headed up a number of administration policy initiatives (e.g. HillaryCare) and she was the first First Lady to have her own office in the West Wing, where the actual work gets done.
  • I had to decide whether to include time spent campaigning for office (on one's own behalf or for others), working as a lobbyist, etc.. I decided to let those things go. They would have been very difficult to find accurate information on.
  • In Jim Webb's case, I had to decide whether to count his college years -- he attended two years of college on a Navy ROTC scholarship, then spent four years at the US Naval Academy. This would have pushed his "careerism" score to 100*. I decided not to, for the simple reason that I'm sure a number of other candidates received government scholarships and other assistance too. I can't quantify that assistance as easily as I can Webb's, but it's there. If I can't use it for the others, I won't use it for him.

So, to the ratings (in alphabetical order within party):

The Republicans


  • Jeb Bush -- 50 (two years as Florida Secretary of Commerce; eight years as Florida Governor)
  • Ben Carson -- 0
  • Chris Christie -- 82.5 (three years as Morris County, New Jersey Freeholder; seven years as US Attorney for the District of New Jersey; 6.5 years as New Jersey Governor)
  • Ted Cruz -- 62.5 (two years federal law clerk; one year Associate Deputy Attorney General of the US; one year Director of Policy Planning, Federal Trade Commission; 6six years Texas Solicitor General; 2.5 years US Senate)
  • Jim Gilmore -- 100 (three years US Army; five years Henrico County, Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney; four years Virginia Attorney General; four years Virginia Governor; four years chair of Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction; N.B. it is unclear whether that last position was a paid position or not)
  • Carly Fiorina -- 0 (unpaid position as chair of the Central Intelligence Agency's External Advisory Board)
  • Lindsey Graham -- 100* (33 years US Air Force/Air Force Reserve/National Guard; two years South Carolina House of Representatives; eight years US House of Representatives; 12.5 years US Senate)
  • Mike Huckabee -- 67.5 (3 years Arkansas Lieutenant Governor; 10.5 years Arkansas Governor)
  • Bobby Jindal -- 100* (six years Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals; two years president University of Louisiana; two years US Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation; four years US House of Representatives; 7.5 years Louisiana Governor)
  • John Kasich -- 100* (one year researcher for Ohio Legislative Service Commission; four years staffer to US Representative Buz Lukens; four years Ohio State Senate; 18 years US House of Representatives; 4.5 years Ohio Governor)
  • George Pataki -- 100* (four years Mayor of Peekskill, New York; eight years New York State Assembly; two years New York State Senate; 12 years New York Governor)
  • Rand Paul -- 22.5 (4.5 years US Senate)
  • Rick Perry -- 100* (five years US Air Force; six years Texas legislature -- as a Democrat for five years, Republican for one -- eight years Texas Agriculture Commissioner, during which he came out in support of HillaryCare; one year Texas lieutenant governor; 14 years Texas governor)
  • Marco Rubio -- 77.5 (two years West Miami City Commission; nine years Florida House; 4.5 years US Senate)
  • Rick Santorum -- 100 (four years assistant to Pennsylvania State Senator Doyle Corman; four years US House of Representatives; 12 years US Senate)
  • Donald Trump -- 0
  • Scott Walker -- 100* (nine years Wisconsin State Legislature; eight years Milwaukee County Executive; 4.5 years Wisconsin governor)


The Democrats


  • Joe Biden -- 100* (unknown period of time as a public defender; three years Newcastle County, Delaware County Council; 36 years US Senate; 6.5 years US vice-president)
  • Lincoln Chafee -- 100* (five years Warwick, Rhode Island City Council; eight years Warwick mayor; six years US Senate; 5.5 years Rhode Island governor)
  • Hillary Clinton -- 100 (eight years "co-president" of the United States; eight years US Senate; four years US Secretary of State)
  • Martin O'Malley -- 100* (two years Assistant State's Attorney for the City of Baltimore, Maryland; eight years Baltimore City Council; six years mayor of Baltimore; eight years governor of Baltimore Maryland) 
  • Bernie Sanders -- 100* (eight years mayor of Burlington, Vermont; 16 years US House of Representatives; 8.5 years US Senate
  • James Webb -- 72.5 (four years US Marine Corps; three years Assistant US Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs; one year US Secretary of the Navy; six years US Senate)

[Update Note: Yes, I forgot Martin O'Malley. In my defense, he's a pretty forgettable candidate. But I've added him to the list; then Paulie Cannoli noticed that I had him as "governor of Baltimore;" fixed  - TLK]

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