“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of a passionate intensity” – William Butler Yeats
The Politico story came as a shock to no one: “California Democrats decline to endorse Feinstein.”
Connecticut has been blue roughly forever; ditto California, the political eagle’s nest of moderate Democrats turned progressive. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, long a Democrat moderate, did not convert quickly enough. Then too, progressives, full of a passionate intensity, find protestations of progressivism dripping from the lips of moderate, long-serving Democrat political fixtures sadly wanting. If tomorrow Feinstein said she was backing a recent move to withdraw California from the union – a prospect eagerly awaited by national conservatives -- no one on the progressive side of the political barricades in California would believe her. Lions want red meat, not well cured moderate puff pastries.
The same holds true in Connecticut, which is why nearly all of the seven members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation have been loud-barking progressives. U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal want to abolish the Second Amendment – without abolishing the Second Amendment. They have fastened on the AR-15 and school shootings to pry loose the bolts attaching the amendment to the U.S. Constitution, about which progressives historically have cared little, progressivism being the doctrine that agitation rather than definition is crucial to maintaining democracy.
President Obama often reminded the country, in word and deed, that the Constitution really was a list of negative rights – “Congress shall make no law…” blah, blah, blah.’’ What was needed, however, was a Constitution of positive rights – “Congress shall support, say, Obamacare.” President Woodrow Wilson – the first Democrat progressive president, Teddy Roosevelt being a Republican – felt the same way. What the country needs are muscular chief executives like … well… Obama and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.
In both states, California and Connecticut, the progressive base has driven politics to the left. If there are any remaining moderate Democrats in Connecticut circa 2018, they are hiding behind the flower pots, cowering in fear from such as California state Senate leader Kevin de León, whom Democrat nomination delegates supported over Feinstein by a 54 percent to 37 percent margin.
“The outcome of today’s endorsement vote,” de León said, “is an astounding rejection of politics as usual, and it boosts our campaign’s momentum as we all stand shoulder-to-shoulder against a complacent status quo. California Democrats are hungry for new leadership that will fight for California values from the front lines, not equivocate on the sidelines.”
De Leon appealed to Democrat delegates as “an agent of change,” intimating that Feinstein was, as Politico put it, “a Washington power broker out of touch with progressive activists at home.”
Clearly, de Leon is the candidate of change, like Obama, that we progressives were waiting for: “I’m running for the U.S. Senate because the days of Democrats biding our time, biting our tongue, and trying to let it work the margins are over. I’m running because California’s greatness comes from paths of human audacity, not congressional seniority.” The full title of Obama’s passionately intense book is The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Progressivism, trickle up democracy, was the same dream that danced in the brains of Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Eugene Debs, a socialist candidate for president, a precursor of socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
California, de Leon neglects to mention, has been run by progressive Democrats for more than a half century. And the result? In San Francisco, “Software engineer Jenn Wong decided to start a project she calls Human Wasteland, which maps the city’s poop problem based on 311 calls from 2008-2015. Every call is listed as a poop emoji. The result is an overwhelming indictment of California’s approach to homelessness and lawlessness… San Francisco has joined Los Angeles and San Diego as three of the major cities that have caused Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency due to a Hepatitis A epidemic currently brewing in each location.” The outbreak “was caused by strains of the 1B genetic subtype, which is rare in the United States and more commonly found in the Mediterranean and South Africa. It is spread through contact with feces, putting people with inadequate access to sanitation at highest risk.”
The political map in Connecticut is similar to that of California. Progressives are everywhere, taxes are high, businesses are fleeing, and government is broke, scurrying around in dark corners for tax crumbs. But in Connecticut, thanks in part to our inclement weather, a hepatitis A epidemic, 1B genetic subtype has been kept outside the gates. Here too, the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of a passionate intensity, but hope springs eternal in the progressive heart, especially in California and Connecticut. Maybe de Leon can make the trains run on time, and clean up the poop.
Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist and a frequent contributor to New England Diary.