2016 was a very strange year, in that you had Tea Party people running around calling Senator Jennifer Beck a "conservative." That's funny, because not even Senator Beck calls herself "conservative." In fact, it's a label she actively runs away from.
There are those who called Seth Grossman, an activist and former Atlantic County elected official, a "conservative" -- even as he pushed a radical left social agenda that many liberals think goes too far. His plan to repudiate the state's debt is a solution only if your town and county and state want to pay cash for everything -- up front -- from now on. Try building a bridge without financing and see what that does to your property taxes. It is the Argentina model. Hardly what you would call "conservative."
Then there are the raters -- groups like the American Conservative Union (ACU) take their cues from GOP legislative leaders who are not especially "conservative" when they choose the handful of votes by which they rate a legislator. And so they miss big ones like welfare for drug dealers and liberal legislators suddenly become more "conservative" without changing their voting habits at all.
The truth is that what it means to be a "conservative" has changed a lot since Ronald Reagan ran for President in 1980. That year, one of the Koch brothers who have come to so dominate modern conservative politics ran against Reagan on a libertarian ticket with a platform that made many liberals blush.
Instead of swallowing a special interest group rating hook, line, and sinker -- we need to examine who is doing the rating, what is their history, their agenda as it pertains to the votes they selected, and what did they leave out. Knowing these things will give the reader a better idea of who the rater is.
No one rating system is going to satisfy everyone calling themselves "conservative," so for 2017 Jersey Conservative is going to put together ratings based on a broader range of conservative identities. In this way, individuals can decide which legislator or candidate comes nearest to their selected "identity."
There are Reagan conservatives with issue interests different from libertarians, Tea Party conservatives, Evangelical conservatives, the Pro-Life movement, the Second Amendment movement, Trump conservatives, Chamber of Commerce Republicans, and "It's My Party Too" Republicans. We also have the platform of the Republican National Committee as a benchmark.
If you are a traditional Reagan conservative, it would be helpful to know not only how a legislator or candidate rates based on a "Reagan" issues grid, but on a "Trump" one as well, a "Koch" one, or a "Whitman" one. It will broaden the perspective and provide more information than the simple "conservative" label does currently.
This is going to be a collaborative effort, so we will be looking for your input on both issues and votes. Write to us with your ideas.