Louisiana’s representation in Congress — two senators and seven representatives — is dead-on average when it comes to the level of sophistication at work in their speeches delivered in their respective chambers. The state’s congressional delegation averaged out at a 10.6 grade level for the complexity of their speeches, based on an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan open-government group whose researchers ran the Congressional Record through a computer algorithm.
The most troubling aspect of the data is not that the Louisiana delegation speaks collectively at the level of a sophomore in high school; it’s that the entire Congress’ speech has fallen nearly a full grade level since 2005 — from 11.5 seven years ago — when the Sunlight Foundation began rating congressional speeches.
One could argue — and I’ll take some heat for this no doubt — that the numbers reveal the Tea Party having a dumbing-down effect on Congress: Of the 20 members with the lowest scores for grade-level speech, 85 percent are Republicans, 65 percent are freshmen and 90 percent are members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Buttressing this supposition, Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia and a freshman GOP member of the Tea Party Caucus, scored the lowest in the Bayou State delegation. Landry, according to Sunlight, orates at the 8.6 grade level — that’s 518th among the 531 members or 13th worst. The self-styled Cajun conservative, a lawyer by training, does favor the home-spun and colloquial, which no doubt had an adverse effect on his score.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Monroe Republican, is highest in the delegation — and high among all members of Congress — coming in at 13.9 or seventh best overall. The remainder of the delegation is all over the map but tends to be below average (I guess we can thank Alexander’s erudition for lifting the state’s composite score): In ascending order from the bottom are Rep. Bill Cassidy (9.3 or 496 out of 531 members), Rep. John Fleming (10.0 or 457), Rep. Cedric Richmon (10.1/449), Rep. Steve Scalise (10.8/392), Sen. Mary Landrieu (10.8/388), Rep. Charles Boustany (11.2/327) and Sen. David Vitter (11.4/289).
Here’s some perspective via the Sunlight Foundation’s report:
By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level.
Read the report here: