America’s Worst Senator

It’s a tough competition. I figure you have three candidates. First is the long-standing champion, James Inhofe, arguably the dumbest person to sit in the Senate for a long, long time. Second, is the relative newcomer Ron Johnson. Johnson is so out of his league in the Senate, it’s like watching Tebow play quarterback. Really, how on earth did Wisconsin choose this clown over Russ Feingold. Talk about one-term.

And now we have the newcomer, Crazy Ted Cruz of Texas, a man who seems likely to challenge Jesse Helms as the worst senator of my lifetime.

Quite a troika here. Although there are probably other possible competitors, I have to go with these three. I mean, say what you will about the recently departed Jim DeMint or Jeff Sessions or any of the others, they are just bog-standard reactionaries. These three take the cake.

….It seems that Wisconsinites have spoken on the matter.

[SL]:  Clearly, Erik is not giving Sessions enough discredit.

118 comments on this post.
  1. Robert Farley:

    I can’t tell you how disappointed the Commonwealth of Kentucky is with your answers to this question.

  2. DrDick:

    Oklahoma’s other Senator, Tom Coburn, is pretty special as well.

  3. Rarely Posts:

    Here’s a different question: Who are the worst three Democratic Senators? I honestly am not sure with the current crop, because we lost so many of our worst.

    In the past, my answers probably would have been:
    1) Lieberman: because he had no excuses for his conduct coming from blue-state Connecticut; because he provided extensive bi-partisan cover for Bush’s war-mongering; and because he was motivated primarily by seeking the “middle” and spiting liberals (as most starkly revealed during the ACA negotiations when he proposed lowering the Medicaid age, liberals loved the proposal, and so he killed it);
    2) Bayh because Bayh; and
    3) Who next? There are some pretty horrible blue dogs, but they almost all have electability in red states as a plausible excuse.

  4. MAJeff:

    Landrieu or Pryor.

  5. Tnap01:

    Well at least with his name and Birther concerns Rafael Cruz probably will never be the GOP Presidential candidate, Rand Paul on the other hand…

  6. Erik Loomis:

    Time to primary McConnell!

  7. MAJeff:

    My favorite Pryor moment:

  8. Erik Loomis:


    I think for this question you have to consider it in terms of where they stand in relationship to the politics of the state.

    We can say that Manchin and Landrieu stink. And they mostly do. But we must also admit that these senators have a pretty tough row to hoe if the are the true liberals we want them to be.

    Feinstein has no excuse.

  9. Tnap01:


  10. Anonymous:

    Feinstein, for the reason Eric said, has to be in the top 3. It’s been a while since I saw a chart of senator vs. state placement on a conservative to liberal axis so I’m not sure who the two other top offenders on this would be, but Feinstein is an obvious outlier.

  11. hylen:

    Nice one.

  12. Bill Murray:

    and don’t forget this great statement — there’s so much lesbianism is some SE OK HSs they only let 1 girl at a time go to the restroom

  13. Rarely Posts:

    OK, so I agree with this point. So the question is, in assessing Republicans, should we apply the same type of corrective?

    If so, I think that Ron Johnson has to jump to the top of the list, because he comes from Wisconsin and really should be held to higher standard than Inhofe.

    I’d also add McConnell because, although he is “smartish,” he isn’t required to be as obstructionist as he is. He really has pushed the envelope much further than he needed to (or than anyone in the past has); he could have done less based on “tradition” or “comity” arguments.

  14. Watusie:

    Which state has teh awesome Senate delegation? My vote goes to Minnesota.

  15. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    Indeed. Here in the Sooner State, arguing over which of our two Senators is worse is a popular parlor game. Inhofe is dumber and a much more unpleasant person (a trait that leaks down to his staff, who run the rudest political offices I’ve ever had the displeasure to contact). Coburn, on the other hand, is much more of an ideologue…to the point that he’ll often oppose spending that directly benefits his own state.

  16. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    Surely Manchin belongs in this conversation.

  17. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    Vermont gets my vote.

  18. c u n d gulag:

    It takes a lot to shut Maher up – but that “it doesn’t take passing an IQ test to be in the Senate,” sure looked like it did the trick, didn’t it?

  19. c u n d gulag:

    How about New Yor… oh, wait – UpChuck Schumer.

    Neeeeeeever mind…

  20. Karate Bearfighter:

    It should have been Wisconsin. Fucking Ron Johnson.

  21. Erik Loomis:

    Vermont by a country mile.

    New Mexico is a fast riser though. Heinrich should be real good.

  22. MAJeff:

    And you’ve got to love the delayed response on Pryor’s face. “Oh, shit. Did I just say that?”

  23. Peter Hovde:

    Leahy is dead to me after opposing filibuster reform.

  24. wengler:

    Leahy is pretty bad on internet censorship issues and reforming the filibuster.

    On the other hand, Bernie Sanders is the best Senator by far.

  25. timb:

    Tom has been leading the charge against poor people receiving Social Security Disability, arguing that too many chiselers are getting 1200/month. He leaked oodles of stories to the Wall Street Journal and, single-handedly, cut the national approval rate by 10 points.

    He’s not stupid; he’s just evil

  26. Leeds man:

    No Max Baucus?

  27. timb:

    Let’s hope Rand Paul becomes the Republican nominee. He’ll lose everything but the Jim Crow South

  28. Davis X. Machina:

    Think: “Park-adjusted value over replacement senator”.

  29. Joe:

    Is Ashley Judd really going to do it?

  30. Joe:

    The state of CA can very well have a Republican senator given some of their governors over the recent decades. So, not 100% sure about this.

  31. John:

    I don’t know whether he’s the worst, but Pryor is pretty clearly the stupidest Democratic senator.

  32. Erik Loomis:

    There we go.

  33. joe from Lowell:

    I think for this question you have to consider it in terms of where they stand in relationship to the politics of the state.

    By that standard, the Blanch Lincoln – Mark Pryor Arkansas delegation might have been the best Senate delegation in recent memory.

  34. DrDick:

    Our Max is pretty bad, but he does have his moments and generally votes as liberal as you can and expect to get elected here in Montana. I have long said he needs to be primaried, but last I saw he is the most popular politician in the state.

  35. Tnap01:

    “Birther Concerns” is a pretty good name for a conservative emo band, maybe the Right Brothers can use it?

  36. Scott Lemieux:

    I’m with Erik. Lieberman and Feinstein have the most wins below replacement value.

  37. Erik Loomis:

    Do you think Schweitzer might try to primary him?

  38. JazzBumpa:

    We go to WAR?

  39. MAJeff:

    The mention of Jesse Helms reminds me that it is still a great thing that he is dead. If only his death had happened 30 years earlier.

  40. Davis X. Machina:

    With the analytical tools we have, not the analytical tools we wish we had, nach.

  41. JazzBumpa:

    How can Rand Paul not be a contender?

  42. Davis X. Machina:

    Peak value v. career value. It’s all over Bill James’ work.

  43. JKTHs:

    Well, Lieberman is about as conservative as you’d expect him to be considering he was re-elected in 2006 by CT Republicans and some concern-trolling Dems

  44. DocAmazing:

    O yeah. She’s also bulletproof: even having her war chest embezzeled out from under her didn’t slow her down.

  45. Mike L.:

    The last time I lived in Montana was 2008 and I only met Schweitzer once (and it’s pretty easy to meet Montana politicians if you want to) but my instinct is that he would not do something that would be so divisive within the state party.

  46. Davis X. Machina:

    CT’s got that weird mix of some of the poorest cities and some of the richest counties in the country. Lieberman is I guess what that throws up in response.

  47. c u n d gulag:

    Why stop at 30?

    Right after Truman desegregated the military in ’48 would have been just fine with most of us.

    This way, we would have been spared his Dixiecrat run for President, and the rest of his miserable life spent making as many “Blah” people as miserable as he could.

  48. JKTHs:

    It’s a state that’s not all that liberal but solidly blue. And yes, there are a decent amount of Republicans in the Western part of the state, which is how you get people like Jim Himes coming out of the very wealthy Fairfield County district.

  49. c u n d gulag:

    Yeah, right now, Rand’s more like Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.

    He’s got a ways to go before he reaches the ‘Roger Clemens pumpin’ PED’s trying to extend an already great career’ stage.

    But I have the fullest confidence that the Conservatives in KY will continue to reelect this loon, so that he has at least a Jim Bunning-like career as either a pitcher, or a Senator – or, FSM monster help KY – both.

  50. MAJeff:

    Helms ran for President? Are you combining him with Thurmond?

  51. NBarnes:

    Your winnings, sir; one internet.

  52. Davis X. Machina:

    He’s in a park built for his skills, and is young for his position.

    He could be The One.

  53. MAJeff:

    He could be The One.

    Can he act as badly as Keanu?

  54. Davis X. Machina:

    I had a prof that said the Carolinas map was drawn wrong, and it should have been carved up East and West, not North and South. That gets Thurmond and Helms into one state, and Fritz Hollings and Terry Stanford into another.

  55. DrDick:

    He might, though I kind of agree with Mike L. though Schweitzer is rather ambitious. More to the point, Schweitzer would not really be much better than Max. While his first term was pretty good, he got much more conservative in his second term. He would be bad in different ways than Max, but not all that great on environmental or fiscal issues. He would also support continuing existing ag subsidies and defense spending (Malmstrom AFB is a pretty big deal in the state), but so would anyone from here.

  56. DocAmazing:

    Eh. Der Governator, celebrity joke, replaced the well-named Gray Davis in a hinkily-financed recall election; George Deukmejian was quite a while ago. Meanwhile even formerly-Republican areas in the Central Valley are safely Dem, and the political weight of Orange County has diminished. Even San Diego County is looking more Dem.

    Predictions are dangerous, but I don’t see another R governor in California for a while.

  57. DocAmazing:

    He’s not?

  58. Mike L.:

    Yeah, Schweitzer is definitely ambitious, and definitely an opportunist. But he’s also smart. He’s probably calculated that running in a primary against Baucus would not necessarily endear him to the Party.

  59. rm:


    Until he creates his own foreign policy apparatus to promote death-squad oligarchic dictatorships throughout Latin America, Cruz will have nothing on the evil that was Jesse Helms.

    Helms is evidence that the Jim Crow South was a Caribbean culture — death-squad-using christianist oligarchies were Helms’s models of the Good Society. He did everything he could to promote it at home.

    Tramp down the dirt and never forget.

  60. Bruce Vail:

    Lieberman did have some support from progressives in 2006. Case in point: My Mom.

    A retired teacher (union member), she voted for Lieberman in the 2006 primary against Lamont (Mom has an instinctual aversion to rich kid know-it-alls with zero political experience) and voted fro him again in the general. Part of the reason was endorsement of the teachers union (and labor generally) because of Lieberman’s good record over 30 years on educational issues.

    An don’t accuse my Mom of wanting to kill innocent Iraqi civilians.

  61. NonyNony:

    Is he still a Democrat? Huh. I guess he is.

  62. Michael H Schneider:

    ….It seems that Wisconsinites have spoken on the matter.

    That’s a great site and a great Senator. If you scroll down you’ll see, under the title “Rejected Relief Package for Hurricane Sandy Victims”, a picture of him standing in front of a federally funded public works project built in his State.

  63. marijane:

    I am surprised no one’s posted a link to this classic yet:,10801/

  64. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    Exactly. Sanders + average Dem Senator is still enough for me.

  65. Joe:

    Time will tell. I’m done with predictions after some of the stuff that happened in the last twenty years.

    Meanwhile, senators provide double the chances here for a Republican, recent years bringing up various special situations that helped their cause even more.

  66. Joe:

    He did not have “zero” political experience. Didn’t have much, but he had some — he was elected for local office and ran for the state senate.

  67. John:

    You have forgotten Pete Wilson, elected in 1990 and again in 1994.

  68. John:

    What about Kent Conrad-Byron Dorgan?

  69. John:

    It’s not all that liberal, but it also doesn’t really have any genuine right wingers.

  70. DrDick:

    I kind of doubt he will run, but have not ruled it out. I think he will take a close look at the situation on the ground when the time comes before making a decision.

  71. grouchomarxist:

    Riffing on the late Sen. Roman Hruska’s famous quote, aren’t stupid people entitled to representation, too?

    Alternately, what does it say about the general population, when the Senate has so many of the, shall we say … intellectually challenged in its ranks?

  72. Anonymous:

    Wow, that’s about double what I get. But I guess receiving $14,400 a year instead of $7500 a year would be the greatest crime in the history of humanity.

  73. MAJeff:

    We’re not a bright nation.

  74. MAJeff:

    but it also doesn’t really have any genuine right wingers.

    Any more? I can recall some lunatic right wingers from California, from Dannemeyer to Dornan.

  75. efgoldman:

    We’ll have to see what comes out of the special election in MA. Warren+Markey wouldn’t be quite Kennedy+Kerry, but would be really good, on average. And then there’s my (and Loomis’) RI pair, Whitehouse+Reed. Not big publicity hounds, but effective.

  76. timb:

    disability vs SSI?

  77. timb:

    Who masterminded giving for California to Democrats with Prop 187. Is anyone sure he’s a Republican?

  78. MAJeff:

    Ugh. Dorgan was actually pretty good. Conrad may as well have been a Republican. My guess is that Heitkamp will be far more Conrad than Dorgan.

  79. Davis X. Machina:

    Floyd Turbo, anyone?

  80. DesignerRants:

    You forgot Chuck Grassley.

  81. Anonymous:

    Both, supposedly.

  82. Socraticsilence:

    The Ron Johnson/Tebow comparison is unfair to Tebow it’s not like Johnson has any decent qualities that overwhelm otherwise rational analysts or an almost in

  83. spencer:

    I can recall some lunatic right wingers from California, from Dannemeyer to Dornan.

    Think he was referring to CT, not CA.

  84. spencer:

    Your mom is history’s greatest monster.

  85. MAJeff:

    Point taken. Got a different conversation in this thread mixed up with this one.

  86. somethingblue:

    Well, you’re obviously not getting the special deluxe gold-plated disability, which is reserved for blahs and illegal immigrants.

  87. cpinva:

    it turns out, Forrest Gump was actually joe average.

  88. ChrisTS:

    One of my cats has been throwing up recently. I assume it’s hairballs, but I suppose it could be politics.

  89. Jesse Ewiak:

    I have a funny feeling that in about 30 years on Wikipedia version 5.0, somebody will look at the list of Senator’s from Wisconsin and be like, “OK, Proxmire, he was the guy against all pork barrel spending, McCarthy was crazy, Kohl was a rich liberal who owned the Bucks, Feingold’s the guy that was on the Supreme Court, Tammy Baldwin was the first lesbian Senator, and wait, who the fuck was Ron Johnson?”

  90. ChrisTS:

    Especially in light of his brain disease (no jokes: I mean a medically diagnosed something…cancer?). How did the old beast survive so long?

  91. ChrisTS:

    Caveat: I am a longtime lurker and only recently a thread-joiner.

    That said, ‘primary’ as a verb? Jeesh. What’s wrong with a real verb – ‘challenge’?

  92. ExpatJK:

    What, you don’t see former border vigilante Tim Donnelly beating Brown in 2014? Yeah, me neither.

  93. Woodrowfan:

    how about Bob Menendez, the man who stiffs his hookers, and not in the way you’d think…

    Naw, Inhofe is still a worse human being..

  94. Djur:

    Oregon is good: Merkley and Wyden. Wyden has a bit of a bipartisanship fetish (thus that Wyden-Ryan thing), but he opposed the Iraq War, he’s solidly pro-choice, favors gun control, supports same-sex marriage, etc. He’s really good on privacy issues, opposes the Patriot Act, and is fantastic on tech issues. He does have kind of a technocratic free-marketeer stance on trade, health care, and taxes, but it’s not unusual for a Democrat these days and he opposed the Bush tax cuts. So he’s a good Democrat where it matters, and in most of the cases where he deviates it’s not really harmful.

    And Merkley is just fantastic, although he hasn’t been in very long.

    Washington’s Senate delegation is pretty good too.

  95. Djur:

    Wow, is it just me or does Ted Cruz look uncannily like Joe McCarthy in the picture on the TPM article?

  96. somethingblue:

    Sorry, dude.

  97. Bill Murray:

    Lots of mammals get nauseated by James Inhofe

  98. Bill Murray:

    and wait, who the fuck was Ron Johnson?”

    didn’t he have a couple of 1,000 yard seasons for the Giants back in the 70s

  99. Jameson Quinn:

    The baddest governor to ever grab the mic and go “boom”.

  100. mds:

    Not unless McConnell is on the Democratic primary ballot.

  101. Anonymous in W. Va.:

    Joe Manchin is the worst Dem senator at this time, and is in the running for current worst senator and worst senator ever.

    He is completely without any ethic, has mo morality, and is dumber than a stone.

    He is handsome in a greasy way, and can shake hands and say hello while smiling, even if he knows he hates the person who’s hand he is holding.

    Here is WV the oldest joke is “Why yes, I know Mr. Manchin; he measured my home for carpet one time.”

    /|\/\|/\/|\/\|/ Some History:

    His Uncle, A. James Manchin got elected Treasurer, and managed to lose hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on the (stupid) advice of his hired money manager. A. James was so beloved (Partly because he wore attractive wide-brimmed hats!) he was allowed to resign, but his money manager was prosecuted for stupidity.

    A. James’s belovevdness has allowed many of his nephews to also become state officials, to our detriment.

  102. Crackity Jones:

    What about Sour Grapes McCain? He was always a mediocre Senator, but he’s really become a bitter old

  103. Crackity Jones:

    Or Baucus for his shenanigans during the ACA stuff.

  104. Anonymous:

    In fact “innhoffeh” is the sound she makes while puking. Hmmm.

  105. Halloween Jack:

    My guess is that RoJo the Clown will be mistaken for that representative whose signature life accomplishment was being on The Real World.

  106. Halloween Jack:

    Incidentally, I just got a malware notice for this site from Google.

  107. mark f:

    Conrad was one of the 23 who voted against the Iraq AUMF.

  108. Halloween Jack:

    Never mind–it’s something weird with Google’s auto-detection of malware sites where I guess that it’s not really a malware site.

  109. burritoboy:

    Oh yes, he certainly is. The guy was a protege of one of Nixon’s top henchmen (Herb Klein) and worked hard on Goldwater’s 64 run. He was the power behind the scenes during the Governator’s tenure. He was also the campaign chairman of Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009-2010. He doesn’t appear much in public anymore because he’s in quite poor health, apparently.

  110. burritoboy:

    I would argue that, as bad as Helms was, Strom Thurmond had a much more negative impact over Thurmond’s extraordinarily long political career. Helms was merely following Thurmond’s footsteps in many instances.

  111. JazzBumpa:

    Beautiful little sub-thread, amigos.

  112. JazzBumpa:

    What — you got a thing against gratuitous verberization?

  113. JazzBumpa:

    This can happen if there’s a link to a site that links to a site that has had a malware attack.

  114. Fake Irishman:

    Cut Conrade some slack — he’s not on my list of all-time favorites, but when the chips were down, he usually was there for the Dems (health care, stimulus, Dodd-Frank) without any major temper-tantrums. And as far as deficit hawks go, he was reasonably legit — insisting on added revenue in addition to cuts. Dorgan was on Nate-Silver’s list of most valuablle to liberals because of his relatively liberal nature in a rather conservative state.

  115. rdale:

    How can you miss Mike Lee (R-short sale), Utah’s junior (or for that matter, Utah’s senior, Orrin Hatch (R-Amgen$$). Lee has done nothing but stamp his little feet and hold his breath since he stole the office during a tea tantrum fit. The first thing he did was try to change the rules so that he could create a SuperPac and get all the money for himself; then he let a bank in Utah take his house on a short sale, at the same time he was whining about a balanced budget amendment. The real tell is that on the debates on the Salt Lake Tribune comment boards, even the most right-wing commenters will never show up and defend him when he’s in the news.

  116. plus:

    and no one even thought about challenging her in 06 or 12.

  117. Cantwell = meh:

    Washington’s Senate delegation is pretty good….
    if you need an HB1 visa

  118. Anonymous:

    No-you’re absolutely right. Us seniors remember Joe McCarthy quite well and Cruz bears a strong facial resemblance..Re Incarnaration maybe?

Leave a comment

You must be