As US presidential primaries approach, we’re about to see an explosion of “voter’s guides” – publications and websites that rate candidates in terms of their announced positions on various issues. A little googling finds guides for people of all political persuasion and pet issues. Medical marijuana? Well, it’s something Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich can agree on. Tougher immigration laws? One wonders what Bill Richardson had to do to be given an “F-” by “Americans for Better Immigration”.
Project Vote Smart is a phenomenal resource for anyone interested in this sort of candidate comparison. They send a questionaire – the National Political Awareness Test – to candidates for public office, asking them which policies they would support if elected. This data is put online, indexed by candidates and issues, allowing voters to check candidates stances of issues of interest. They also provide an index of Interest Group ratings, which allows me to discover that my senators are on the side of NARAL (a pro-choice group) roughly 100% of the time and the National Right to Life Committee approximately never.
I’ve joked for years that I wanted a special interest group to help me find candidates that align with my own political views. My friend Andrew McLaughlin coined the term “Pro-Globalization Progressives” to describe the general philosophy – people who are interested in the welfare of people worldwide as well as their countrymen, and who believe that increased global trade balanced by strong regulatory environments and smart aid is the way to get there. (It’s not a coincidence that the potential acronym for the party would be PGP… that’s what happens when computer geeks talk politics.)
We don’t have a voter’s guide yet, but I suspect the campaign Center for Global Development is leading – Global Development Matters – might well serve as a good starting point. CGD provides some of the best informed commentary and critique available on US and global development aid policies. Their focus in this new campaign is helping the US become #1 in its commitment to ending global poverty… up from #14, as they currently rank the US commitment to development. To that end, they’re collecting information on the different candidate’s support for global development.
Unfortunately, this information is pretty hard to compare on an apples to apples basis. Most of the information the site currently provides is links to candidate speeches on these issuesm and selected quotes from these speeches. In some cases – John McCain, for instance – these quotes give you a general sense for the candidate’s approach to this set of issues. In others – Hillary’s, for instance – the quotes are so general that you could imagine anyone from Fred Thompson to Dennis Kucinich uttering them.
CGD has done great work in ranking nations on their development commitment in quantitative terms. Here’s hoping that as the primary race heats up, they’ll give us some solid, comparative advice on which of the candidates have intelligent plans to prioritize international development.