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Elana Levin

DMI Congressional Middle Class Scorecard: the gift that keeps on giving

We here at DMI have a saying that if a report isn't read, it wasn't written. With that in mind, when DMI launched this year's edition of the Middle Class Congressional Scorecard we designed it to be blogger friendly. It has its own handy-dandy website. It explains the bills we grade on in a way that non-wonks can understand. And then there's that Google Adwords campaign... But one of the things we've found most inspiring is the creative ways that bloggers, writers and others have utilized the scorecard.

The Drum Major Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. We graded members of Congress based solely on their votes, not on a party affiliation or agenda. Some folks writing about our scorecard talk about it in terms of electoral campaigns, some in terms ofthe issues we cover, still others on the performance of members of Congress broken down by gender or the state they represent. We offer this recap as a way of demonstrating the many uses of the scorecard, and its role in facilitating all kinds of valuable conversations about the role of Congress in strengthening and expanding America's middle class.
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Blogger and activist Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny and FireDogLake wrote me to say:
"have you noticed that I use the DMI scorecard all the time now? I just used it to help me skewer a rightwing loon from Michigan named Mike Rogers and I think I threw in a gratuitous jab at the other (Alabama) Mike Rogers, saying they both earned F's."

Howie, glad to hear you liked our scorecard.
Here's one example: In "What's Right With Kansas? It's Inching a Little Further to the Left for One Thing! But...", he used the scorecard to gauge how progressive the Democrats hailing from Kansas are (or aren't).

CorrenteWire's post "Poor: It's Not Just for the Poor Anymore" observes that Congress is telling the middle class and the poor alike that they don't care about their needs: "I've always known they don't really care about the poor, but in a small way it's shocking how little people seem to be talking about how much they also don't care about the middle class."

Innovative California organization the Courage Campaign used the scorecard to make a foray into what policies and values people are assumed to be talking about when they use the word "progressive".

One of my favorite posts on the scorecard is by Daily Kos favorite Advisor Jim. He's known for his personal political memoir "Confessions of a Former Dittohead". The scorecard is meant to educate, explaining why legislation people might not have considered as pertinent to the middle class, or as harmful to the middle class, is in fact just that. Jim blogged that prior to reading the DMI scorecard he had supported a bill Orwelianly named "Small Business Fairness Act of 2005", even writing to his Congressman about it. Jim had thought that the ostensibly pro-small business health care bill would help lower insurance costs, but he testifies that after reading our scorecard's explanation of the bill he agrees with DMI's analysis that the bill would in fact have created havoc for small business owners and any workers in less than perfect health. If the scorecard changed Jim's mind and gave him an analysis he'd never considered before then imagine what others are learning from it!

Plus he points out that it's "generally hard to read the fruits of a think tank's labor...Fortunately the DMI's report is easy to read, attractive, full color, and easy to navigate." (We love you scorecard designers!)

I just love the title of the spot ran: "Like Googling Failure, Only Different". And Pinky and The Brain speculates on Sen. McCain's grade in relation to his presidential aspirations. DC insider opinion-maker The National Journal wrote a very encouraging piece about the scorecard too!

As Tanya wrote on the DMIblog, Congresswomen scored better than Congressmen on the scorecard - inspiring some cool mentions from Feministe and Majikthise author Lindsay Beyerstein during her weekly appearance on Alternet, who wrote "Congressmen Failed While Congresswomen Barely Squeek By".

Then there are press statements issued by members of Congress announcing their high scores (well the few who earned high scores have done that). Sen. John Kerry's office issued a particularly good release explaining why the grade matters to him:

"I couldn't be more proud of receiving this award," Kerry said. "Over the last five years, middle class values have suffered some serious set-backs in Washington, with major cuts in college tuition help and a rapid rise in healthcare costs - and that's something we're fighting every day to change. And I will keep on fighting to protect those who work every day to make this country great. Time and time again this Administration and this Congress have asked for special privileges for the wealthy and powerful. That's got to stop. It's time for Washington to work for working Americans."

Nicely done! And you can read the other statements members of Congress have issued here.
Some of their press statements have garnered local press coverage. Take for example this piece about Rep. Carolyn Maloney's perfect score in the Queens Gazette (scroll down to read). In upstate NY two different angry constituents had their very articulate words published in the Elmira Star Gazette and used the scorecard grade we gave their congressmen as an impetus to write the newspaper. (Read this one on Rep. Sherwood and this letter on Rep. Kuhl). Clearly the scorecard is a helpful tool for everyday people who care about justice to use and inform their communities about where electeds really stand.

On Huffington Post I read an interview R.J. Eskow had with a Congressional candidate who is challenging an incumbent Democrat in a primary election. The candidate is running way over in Tennessee, so clearly the scorecard is making it around the country. That's good news. I have saved on my computer a list of all the scorecard's appearances and its pages and pages long. That's not even counting the over 9 million people who have seen the scorecard grades by stumbling upon them on google. This is big.

So this post can't even begin to cover every single creative way bloggers, activists, electeds, concerned citizens and reporters have used the scorecard. I apologize in advance. But a special thank you to all the blogs who have helped promote our netroots fundraising campaign to keep the google ads online. Updates on that campaign will be here next week.

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 12:28 PM, Aug 03, 2006 in Congress | Democracy | Government Accountability | Governmental Reform | Media | Middle-class squeeze | Politics | Progressive Agenda | Progressives | States
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