We need to establish a standard to determine if a politician is achieving conservative goals. Before we do that, let's look at what hasn't worked in the past.
What Hasn't Worked—Ratings
The American Conservative Union defines anyone with an 80+ rating as a “standout ACU conservative.” That would include Lindsey Graham (89% lifetime rating) who supports amnesty for illegal aliens, Cap and Trade, voted for the TARP bank bailout, and in many people's minds is the poster child for the term RINO. How does someone like that end up with a standout conservative rating?
Composite ratings allow politicians to game the system. As long as they reach some magic number they can brag they are conservatives, but are they? Do they really focus on conservative issues, or do just enough to get by? What about that 10%-20% of issues they aren’t conservative on. Did they give lukewarm support to those liberal issues, or did they work tirelessly for them (as John McCain, who also holds a solid conservative grade from the ACU, has done).
The current system for rating politicians is all but useless. They haven't worked in the past to make politicians more conservative, why would we think they would work in the future. Do you remember the definition of insanity?
Productive vs. Non-Productive
We need a simple pass/fail standard that gives politicians nowhere to hide. They are either productive (because they achieved conservative goals) or non-productive (because they failed to achieve conservative goals).
We're setting the agenda for politicians; demanding they accomplish our goals. If we let politicians off the hook by rewarding them for “trying hard but failing,” then that's all we'll ever get. Failure is failure. Politicians that try hard but fail need to be replaced with politicians that try hard and succeed.
We must deal with politicians that make promises with no intention of keeping them. Setting SMART goals and using a pass/fail grade will pin these charlatans down. They'll have to think twice before agreeing to the goal in the first place (knowing they will have to accomplish it) and we'll have an objective measurement to determine if they support our goals or were just paying them lip-service to gain our support.
Finally, a pass/fail measurement will discipline us in creating our goals. It won't be enough to just state some large goal; we'll have to think about how to get from here to there. We'll be forced to break our large goal down into a series of smaller, realistic goals that lead to the accomplishment of our larger goal. Do you know what they call a series of smaller goals that lead to the accomplishment of a larger goal? A plan, something that has been missing from the conservative lexicon for far too long.
Productive (accomplished the goal) and non-productive (failed to accomplish the goal) are the only two acceptable measurements. If neither describes the politician's work, then the goal was incorrectly set. Change the goal, not the measurement system.