Don Pesci: Progressive hope springs eternal in Conn. and Calif.

"Hope Remained,'' by George Frederic Watts.

"Hope Remained,'' by George Frederic Watts.

“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 subtypewhich 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.


Chris Powell: Of Newtown and Coltsville National Park

Horrible as the massacre at the school in Newtown, Conn., two years ago was, it is not 
justification for whatever its survivors and allied politicians want to make of 
it. Indeed, they have gone too far with their class-action lawsuit against the 
manufacturer of the military-style rifle used in the massacre, the AR-15. 

The rifle is legally sold throughout most of the country and was legal in 
Connecticut at the time of the massacre. So the lawsuit claims that the rifle is 
beyond proper operation by civilians and thus should not have been made 
available to them -- a claim of "negligent entrustment." 

While the lawsuit asserts that the AR-15 "has little utility for legitimate 
civilian purposes," it has been sold to civilians in the United States for 50 
years, about 3 million are in civilian hands, and, because of its light weight 
and accuracy, it is the most popular rifle in shooting competitions. Further, 
federal law exempts firearms makers from liability for criminal use of their 

Maybe the lawsuit still will win damages, through settlement or trial. It has 
been filed in state court in Bridgeport, just a few miles from Newtown, to 
exploit local sympathies. But victory for the plaintiffs could put the 
manufacturer out of business and effectively outlaw the AR-15's manufacture 
through risk of more liability. 

That seems to be the plaintiffs' objective, and then the lawsuit's theory could 
be applied against  any gun manufacturing. Something that 
big should be accomplished democratically, by repeal of the Second Amendment, 
not by a mere state court verdict in a damage case. The Newtown people already 
have intimidated state government into weakening Connecticut's 
freedom-of-information law. 

Of course, the country has an appalling problem with gun violence. But it's not 
really a gun problem at all, and even if it was and the Second Amendment could 
be repealed, there would be no way of confiscating enough guns to make a 
difference, since about 300 million are estimated to be in civilian hands. 

No, most gun violence arises from the financial premium bestowed on drugs by 
futile criminalization and by the welfare system's subsidies for childbearing 
outside marriage, which deprives young men of the parenting they need to become 
civilized. Those issues remain largely beyond political discussion in 

Meanwhile, even as they advocate curtailing gun ownership, Connecticut 
politicians this week were congratulating themselves on the approval of federal 
legislation to designate the Colt Manufacturing Co. buildings in Hartford as a 
national park, Coltsville. 

Colt wasn't just the developer of repeating guns. A half century ago Colt was 
the first to manufacture AR-15s for civilian use. But the national park's 
advocates never mention guns at all. No, the Coltsville National Park is said to 
be a tribute to Connecticut's leadership with "technology." 

* * * 

Former Connecticut House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden), is following 
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. (D-Thompson), into the employ of the 
state's largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association. Now if 
the CEA can hire a former governor and a former chief justice, it can claim 
ownership of the whole of government in a state whose subservience to special 
interests has become shameless. 
* * * 

Having refused a couple of weeks ago to explain the firing of the longtime 
director of the state Office of Labor Relations, insisting that "we don't 
comment on personnel matters,"  Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy's communications director, Andrew 
Doba, this week somehow managed to distribute a dozen detailed announcements 
about personnel changes in the Malloy administration -- including one about his 
own departure. Former Malloy campaign aide Mark Bergman will take charge of the 
non sequiturs and contradictions. Now that they won't have Doba to kick around 
anymore, Connecticut political writers may hope that Bergman is as good a sport. 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.