The Best and the Worst Legislators story has always been about process—the sausage-making rather than the sausage. Ends are important, but what really matters are the means. Are members treated fairly by the leadership? Can they vote their conscience? Is the lobby in the driver’s seat? By these standards, Tom Craddick flunked the means test.

On issues ranging from tort reform to redistricting, the House was run as a machine, not as a deliberative body. From day one, Republicans were trained to follow the leader; those who didn’t were scolded and threatened. Democrats quickly realized that making a good argument made no difference; they ran to Ardmore not because they were spoilsports but because the only weapon at their disposal—the ability to identify rules violations—had been taken from them. Craddick, who had been in the minority for years, should have known better. Even some Republicans were dismayed by his loyalty to fat cats and interest groups. Said one GOP veteran: “He cares more about the people on the outside than the people on the inside.”

So why isn’t Craddick on the Worst list? It’s the sausage, stupid. By the end of the session, the Republicans had passed most of their agenda, including a no-new-taxes budget. That saved him, as did the slack we cut him as a rookie leader. But you get only one freshman exemption, Mr. Speaker.