Guest Column: What And How Matters Not The Who

Guest columnist Doug Gerard writes, "Tom Lubnau's recent screed against anonymity in politics is at odds with American history, and his focus on anonymous legislator-rating websites is misplaced."

CSD Staff

May 14, 20244 min read


Tom Lubnau's recent screed against anonymity in politics is at odds with American history, and his focus on anonymous legislator-rating websites is misplaced.

What truly matters is the accuracy and reliability of the legislative rating process, not whether the authors are anonymous. I have a unique perspective on this issue with over a decade of experience operating EvidenceBasedWyoming, the granddaddy of Wyoming legislator rating websites.

For a moment, let's delve into the historical significance of anonymity. Some individuals may face retaliation for their views in a small, close-knit community like Wyoming.

The potential for backlash gives rise to anonymity. Anonymity is a tool throughout American history to foster open and honest discourse.

From the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, penned under pseudonyms like "Publius" and "Brutus," to 19th-century writings by Publius Valerius Publicola critiquing U.S. imperialism and the 20th-century novel "Primary Colors," anonymity has allowed ideas to be judged on their merits, sparking robust debates that have shaped our nation.

In the realm of political rating websites, adherence to specific principles is paramount for credibility and value:

  1. Transparency of Methodology: The evaluation criteria and processes should be clearly explained and publicly available.

  2. Reproducibility of Results: Independent third parties should be able to use the disclosed methodology to arrive at the same conclusions.

  3. Universal Application: Conclusions must be universally applicable across political parties and ideologies, ensuring that the premises are consistently valid for all subjects to avoid biased interpretations.

Wyoming has several rating sites, such as EvidenceBasedWyoming, WyoRINO, and WyoVotes, as well as external ones like the Club for Growth and the Institute of Legislative Analysis. Despite different methodologies, these sites generally agree on legislative rankings.

The outlier is the Wyoming Conservative Accountability Project (WyCAP).

To show why anonymity doesn't matter, let's compare two sites, WyoRINO and WyCAP, which evaluate legislators based on selected votes but diverge significantly in methodology and transparency.

As Tom Lubnau highlighted, WyoRINO operates anonymously. 

WyoRINO consistently uses third-reading votes for its evaluations. Third-reading votes are the final opportunity for legislators to express their stance on a bill, clearly indicating their support or opposition. This method captures the true sentiment of the legislators, as it represents their last chance to influence the bill's passage.

In contrast, WyCAP, which is not anonymous, appears to use concurrence rather than third-reading votes in some instances.

Concurrence votes deal with agreeing to changes negotiated with the other chamber rather than making a final decision on the bill itself. This discrepancy in vote selection methodology can lead to significantly different and potentially misleading evaluations.

For example, WyCAP's methodology, when applied to the entire legislative population, paradoxically ranks Democrats as more conservative than those often labeled as ultra-conservative Republicans by the press and other detractors. This outcome is problematic and suggests flaws in their selection of votes, leading to conclusions that do not align with the broader political landscape.

Ultimately, WyCAP's ranking system violates the principles of reproducibility and universal application, making its results unreliable. By contrast, other established rating sites within Wyoming and beyond show consensus, although not agreement, in their rankings, underscoring the reliability of their methodologies.

In the end, it doesn't matter who tells you the sky is blue. What matters is knowing what evidence was used and how the conclusion was reached.

The focus should be on the rating systems' standards rather than their creators' anonymity to ensure that the information provided is reliable and verifiable, supporting a robust debate in Wyoming and beyond.

Tom Lubnau's true intent seems to be to discredit these rating sites, particularly the anonymous ones, to keep voters from seeing the reality that Wyoming's political fortunes are often governed by left-leaning Republicans and their Democratic allies.

By attacking these sites' anonymity, Lubnau hopes to steer support away from grassroots conservatives and towards establishment Republicans, masking the broader issues within Wyoming.

In summary, the focus should be on the rating systems' standards and methodology rather than their creators' anonymity to ensure that the information provided is reliable and verifiable,  supporting a healthier political process.

Doug Gerard founded and runs the site

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CSD Staff