Political correction

Last year, Cardoza told The Record's editorial board that his decision not to seek re-election to the House of Representatives was based in part on the grip of partisanship. He lamented the lack of compromise in policymaking in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C. -- Stockton Record, March 19, 2012

As readers of Badlands Journal know, our editorial board has been critical of many positions Rep. Dennis Cardoza, the Pimlico Kid, who represents our district from his home in Annapolis MD. Our experience representing the cause of enforcement of local, state and federal environmental law and regulation in Cardoza's state and federal districts suggests the opposite of what he appears to say here. We never saw an ounce of compromise with law or regulation when it came to development, from UC Merced to any subdivision building homes for the subprime mortgage market. We never saw an ounce of compromise in him when it came to standard federal water policies during dry seasons, when he and his little mob of Portuguese congressmen from the Valley jeered and threatened Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in front of several hundred west side growers. It was moreorless an incitement to riot. We didn't see any ability or willingness to compromise on the health insurance bill either. He has so little ability to talk to people that he was afraid to hold any town hall meetings on the biggest issue of its time, when many of his colleagues less fearful of their constituents were holding meetings all over their district. He used his fear of violent in that instance to bargain with the same old special interests he has always kowtowed to, the same dreary handful of plutocrats that have owned the politicians of this region for 30 years.
But the lamentation is vintage Cardoza. Nobody does the pious Valley whine any better.
But, now we are persuaded by our betters at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: Cardoza is as good as it gets, but he left his greatest public service for last: he retired. The lights have gone out on the Denny Show. All that means of course is that we will get another pawn-in-a-necktie pushed along by the same greed-besotted special interests.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Stockton Record
Cardoza finds little company in the middle
Centrists an endangered breed as U.S. politics become increasingly polarized...Yousur Alhlou, California News Service
WASHINGTON - Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, is one of only three Democratic representatives from California regarded as a centrist.
Cardoza, 52, stands out as an increasingly rare breed of politicians according to a newly released report by the National Journal, a nonpartisan Washington publication.
Cardoza, represents the 18th Congressional District, which has a finger into San Joaquin County and Stockton, and has served in Congress since 2003. He is not running for a sixth term.
He is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate-to-conservative House Democrats.
Only nine of California's 53 representatives - including six Republicans - are rated centrists in the report.
The National Journal rankings highlight the divisive politics gripping Washington, where the ideological overlap between the two largest parties is increasingly diminishing.
Few places are as polarized as California, where 26 Democrats are listed among the chamber's 100 most liberal members, and six Republicans are listed among the 100 most conservative.
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, ranks as the 132nd-most liberal member, with nearly three-fourths of his votes regarded as liberal. Cardoza ranks 174th, which qualified him as a centrist.
The only California Democrats rated as centrists represent Central Valley districts.
Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are among the most liberal in the Senate. Boxer ties as the fifth-most liberal senator, while Feinstein follows at 15th.
The National Journal analyzed 105 House votes and 97 Senate votes to calculate the rankings.
Last year, Cardoza told The Record's editorial board that his decision not to seek re-election to the House of Representatives was based in part on the grip of partisanship. He lamented the lack of compromise in policymaking in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C.
Two Republican congressmen, Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock, who have represented Calaveras County in the House were listed among the more conservative members.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, was listed as one of the nation's most liberal lawmakers.
Many members of Congress, despite the negative connotations of partisanship, make no apologies for their ideologically leaning votes. Rep. Judy Chu, who was one of 19 Democrats, including seven Californians, to be ranked as the House's most liberal, said her constituency is well aware of, and supports, her platform.
"To the extent that my votes can be characterized as 'party line,' it's because (my party) pursues policies that benefit average Americans and address issues that are important to my district," Chu said.
California's delegation historically has had a difficult time working together, said Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist and director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at University of Southern California.
"(If) 53 members of the House all voted together on an issue, they'd have almost one-quarter of the votes they need to pass a bill," Schnur said.
Overall, eight California House Democrats rank among the top 25 most liberal members nationwide, and two House Republicans rank in the top 25 most conservative.
California's delegation ranks as the 12th most liberal nationwide.
Senate politics reflect a similar trend of ideological polarization. For the third time since 1987 - when the National Journal first produced its rankings - every Democrat ranked to the left of every Republican.
Schnur pins polarization on redistricting and voter mobility, but also faults party leadership for demanding more loyalty from their members.
"A party leader can withhold financial support from a candidate who doesn't come through on key votes," Schnur said. "(Centrists) simply don't exist anymore, because the party leadership isn't willing to support them."
On Feb. 28, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, announced her retirement, citing the pervasive "my way or the highway ideologies" that define Washington. Snowe, who is serving her third term, is ranked eighth-closest to the ideological center. California Republican David Dreier, who has served in the House for more than three decades, also announced last month he would not seek re-election.
"Differences demand a passionate debate, but that debate must ultimately arrive at consensus," Dreier said.
Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at Democratic-leaning Brookings Institution who recently authored a book on the politics of extremism, argues that the polarization leans far to the right because Republicans have adopted a more radical agenda.
Mann added that party polarization is in large part due to voters, who have "sorted themselves ideologically" into one party or moved to areas with like-minded citizens.
Polarized politics was apparent in a recent highly partisan vote on a California water issue affecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Every California Republican voted in favor of the bill, despite a White House veto threat.
Similarly, 32 Democratic lawmakers urged House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to repeal his transportation bill, which would have coupled mass transit spending with offshore oil drilling. No Republican spoke out in opposition.
Politicians and voters alike are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with Congress and say they support the idea of compromise, but often only if the other side backs down.
Pressure to control partisan politics was behind the creation of a citizen's commission to redraw California's congressional lines last year. The new boundaries are expected to create more competitive races - where one party does not have an advantage over the other - and increase the chances for more centrist candidates to emerge.
"There might not be a huge ideological overhaul this year, but over the course of a decade, you're certainly going to see more centrists elected to Congress," Schnur said.
The California News Service is a journalism project of the University of California Washington Center and the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. Email the California News Service at cns@ucdc.edu.