Tea Party

James P. Freeman: Charlie Baker is sort of Nixonian

In his marvelously insightful book, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr., Alvin S. Felzenberg recalls the 1960 presidential contest when the National Review founder saw then-candidate Richard Nixon as “less the leader of the GOP than as the ‘amalgamator’ of all the forces that composed it.” More than a half century later, a sensible survey of the Republican Party reveals that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and President Donald Trump are, likewise, “amalgamators.” They share similar Nixonian propensities.

Despite the differences in their personalities and philosophies, Baker and Trump understand 2017 politics:  Recalcitrant Republicans — particularly conservatives — can be circumvented in the political process, and more importantly, in the creation of public policy. Baker and Trump exhibit a marked disdain for  real conservatives. As did Nixon.

Writing for National Review in 2013, commemorating Nixon’s 100th birthday, John Fund reasoned that the president “governed more as a liberal than anything else.” Nixon, he wrote, “didn’t really like or trust conservatives, even if he hired a bunch of them.” Furthermore, “he used them and freely abandoned their principles when convenient.”

Fund cited Nixon’s numerous liberal domestic initiatives, such as creating the Environmental Protection Agency and calling for universal healthcare. These initiatives also included sweeping regulations on the economy (wage controls), affirmative action (employment quotas), and massive increases in welfare (Food Stamps). And international initiatives (opening up to China). Such actions reflected Nixon’s own background and association with what Nixon himself called the “progressive” wing of the party.

Fund concluded that “at best, it’s the record of a progressive Republican who, in the end, didn’t view conservatism as a valid governing philosophy — even though it was the basis of the republic created by the Founding Fathers.”

Today, a political amalgamator is understood as one who feels compelled to forge bipartisan coalitions with the hope that it produces suitable progress for those believing that government — at all levels — is dysfunctional. The urgency for bipartisanship is especially acute for Baker and Trump, neither of whom who hold a core political philosophy other than a kind of modulating progressivism, which floats from one issue to the next. They must know — especially Baker — that while this may be a glamorous way of governing, it is a hazardous way for securing their future. For Baker, this is strategic; for Trump, it is more tactical.

But the message is clear:  Amalgamate Republicans incinerate conservatives.

Last year, Robin Price Pierre, writing in The Atlantic, believed that Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign bore a “striking resemblance to the 2016 presidential race:  Both have highlighted primal American fears.” The 1968 election, Pierre suggested, offered insight into why Trump’s supporters identified themselves as the “Silent Majority,” a term that Nixon employed to describe the electorate “whose fears and insecurities he successfully rode into the White House.”

Both elections ultimately signaled that “America, its values, and its power structure were under threat by a violent, liberal agenda.” Like Nixon in 1968, Trump in 2016 came into office after eight years of progressive governing. And those respective elections heralded shifts in political power and rhetorical discourse.

This past March, conservative commentator Mark Levin, on Facebook, asked, “Is Trump channeling Nixon?” On his syndicated radio show he said that there is a “Nixonian aspect to this administration.” Massive spending proposals on infrastructure and family-leave entitlements, coupled with talk of severe protectionism have fed Levin’s frenzy. He bemoaned the lack of any constitutional conservatives in Trump’s most senior policy and political circles. Those closest to the president include nationalist populists and progressive liberals, he noted. But no conservatives.

In the wake of Trump’s Sept. 6 agreement with Democrats — not Republicans — on spending (the continuing resolution), the debt ceiling, and Hurricane Harvey aid, Levin again spoke of the president’s “Nixonian habits.” Trump’s recent actions were “lurching left,” raising fears that he would continue in that direction.

Levin warned that “radical progressives,” including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, with whom Trump has suddenly and surprisingly become friendly — “have absolutely no intention of supporting bipartisan government.”

At the White House, on Sept. 13, with Trump speaking to a “bipartisan group” and working in a “bipartisan fashion” (his phrasings), the real news wasn’t a purported deal he sought on DACA, over dinner with Pelosi and Schumer. The real news was Trump declaring, in response to a reporter’s question about skeptical conservatives: “Well, I’m a conservative,” and “if we can do things in a bipartisan manner that will be great.”


Like Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency, Trump is a cryptoconservative:  virtual, speculative and fleeting. A novelty. But  the megalomaniac Trump is intent on using cryptographic techniques to strike any deal; whether or not a good deal, whether or not with Republicans, is irrelevant.

Baker suffers no such grandiose illusions. But he also tears a big page out of the Nixon playbook. Only more emphatically.

His first attempt at purging the party of conservatives began during the 2014 primary season, at the Massachusetts Republican Party nominating convention, in a nasty fight with Tea Party member Mark Fisher. The party ultimately settled a lawsuit in early 2015 with Fisher, for which he was paid $240,000.

The lawsuitcame from this situation: In Massachusetts a GOP candidate must receive 15 percent of the vote of delegates at convention to secure a position on the primary ballot. Baker’s people say that Fisher never achieved that threshold but Fisher’s people asserted that Baker suppressed convention votes on Baker’s favor, effectively manipulating the vote against Fisher. So Fisher sued. He ultimately got on the primary ballot but it made no difference. The settlement was reached after the 2014 gubernatorial general election.

In the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic, Molly Ball called Baker a “technocrat” who, during the 2014 gubernatorial election, “aggressively promoted his liberal stances on hot-button issues.” Boston liberals, Ball wrote, “seem grateful to Baker for being a Republican they can get behind.” Shortly after Baker’s victory, he assembled a bipartisan cabinet “that included several Democrats and independents.” No mention of conservatives. (A Boston area blogger observing the transition said Baker’s team took “a nonpartisan approach to state government and its problems.”)

Ball wondered if Baker’s election augurs a return to liberal Republicanism reminiscent of Nelson Rockefeller. But the governor did not see himself as a model for others. He is not a model. Rather, he is an anomaly:  A progressive masquerading as a Republican, who enjoys a 71 percent approval rating (higher than Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s) in a progressive state with a legislature dominated (over 80 percent) by Democrats.

Baker has described his governing style as “relentless incrementalism,” which may have inspired National Review in August 2016 to conclude Baker “resembles an older variety of conservative.


That characterization now needs a thorough reassessment. Today, Baker resembles a Nixonian conservative, which is to say progressive Republican. Which is to say not a conservative.

In retrospect, Baker is about as affectionate to conservatives as sharks are to seals; his lurch left over the last 12 months has been remarkable. He appointed a progressive, Rosalin Acosta, as labor secretary. He angered conservatives for vowing to replace Planned Parenthood funding with state dollars if Washington pulls its support for the program. And incrementalism will not fix the troubled MBTA transit system or the state’s towering indebtedness and unfunded pension obligations. These problems were indeed created by partisan progressives over decades, who certainly did not consider bi-partisanship while committing such grand malfeasance. These problems desperately need definitive conservative solutions. What happened to fiscal conservatism?

There are worrisome challenges looming on Baker’s horizon.

Just last month, Joe Battenfeld in the Boston Herald alarmingly reported that some leading conservatives simply won’t vote for Baker in next year’s gubernatorial race. And last June, Jim O’Sullivan, in The Boston Globe, wrote that the governor “recently told his fund-raisers that he wants nearly a third of Democrats and almost three in five independent voters to support him.” Baker, O’Sullivan admitted, “holds greater appeal among moderates and less among the GOP base.” He won in 2014 by a margin of only 40,000 votes, or less than 2 percent. His political calculus may discount Republicans and conservatives in 2017 but Baker will need every one of the state’s 479,237 registered Republicans, who still account for nearly 11 percent of all registered voters, in 2018 to win reelection.

With perverse irony, it is possible that Baker and Trump might, at their peril, galvanize conservatives. Classical conservatives, furious at being sidelined, could coalesce with libertarian progressives to forge a new political partnership, a disruptive third party. There is still time in Massachusetts to do this as a form of protest, to punish Baker’s leftward drift. He surely loses with substantial vote-splitting.  

Conservatives could simply stay home, too. As Felzenberg summarizes Bill Buckley’s thinking during the 1960 presidential election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon:  “‘We actually increase our leverage,’ Buckley told a friend, ‘by refusing to join the parade’.”      

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal, newenglanddiary.com and nationalreview.com.

Jim Hightower; As free as you can afford to be


Via OtherWords.org

I think of freedom in positive, aspirational terms — as in FDR’s “Four freedoms,” or in the uplifting songs of freedom sung by oppressed people everywhere.

But right-wing ideologues have fabricated a negative notion of “freedoms” derived from their twisted concept of individual choice. You’re “free” to be poor, politically powerless, or ill and uncared for, they say — it’s all a matter of decisions you freely make, and our government has no business interfering with your free will.

This is what passes as a philosophical framework guiding today’s Republican congressional leaders.

For example, they say their plan to eliminate health coverage for millions of Americans and cut such essential benefits as maternity care for millions more is just a matter of good ol’ free-market consumerism.

As explained by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Tea Party Republican: “Americans have choices. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”

Lest you think that Chaffetz must simply be an oddball jerk, here’s a similar deep insight from the top House Republican, Speaker Paul Ryan: “Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.”

Yes, apparently, you’re as free as you can afford to be. As Vice President Mike Pence recently barked at us, Trumpcare’s you’re-on-your-own philosophy is all about “bringing freedom and individual responsibility back to American health care.”

The GOP’s austere view is that getting treatment for your spouse’s cancer should be like buying a new pair of shoes — a free-market decision by customers who choose their own price point, from Neiman Marcus to Goodwill. And if you go barefoot, well, that’s your choice.


Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 


Don Pesci: The old-time party bosses are looking better and better


A shrewd political observer once said that Americans rarely solve their most pressing political problems; instead, they amicably bid them goodbye.

Take the primary system by way of example. The primary system itself has been attended, especially during the current presidential election campaign, with glaring problems that pretty nearly everyone has studiously ignored. It is the primary system that has given us two of the most unpalatable presidential candidates in U.S. history. Nearly 50 percent of voters on either side of the political spectrum this year will be voting against the presidential candidates, according to a September Pew Research poll.

Primaries lengthen the political season, an unintended result of a “participatory democracy” that benefits news producers, editors and candidates but few others.

The current primary season began on the Republican side 18 months ago when Texas  Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the presidency. In due course, 16 other Republican hats were thrown into the ring. After the Republican Nominating Convention dispersed 16 months and millions of dollars later, Donald Trump, whose conservative bona fides and political affiliation still remain in question, emerged with the Republican nomination clenched in his teeth. Among the vanquished also-rans were three anti-establishment Republicans – Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ron Paul – all Tea Party favorites and thorns in the side of the ancient Republican Party regime.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was almost defeated by Socialist Democratic senator from the People’s Republic of Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Votes tallied at the Democratic Nominating Convention showed Sanders winning a not inconsiderable 1,865 delegates before he put forward a motion to nominate by voice vote Hillary Clinton, who, hacked e-mails later disclosed, had turned her efforts to subverting Sanders’s presidential bid.

During his primary campaign, Sanders refused to dwell on Clinton’s e-mail scandal, remarking to a smugly smiling Hillary Clinton during one of their debates that America was “sick of hearing about your damn e-mails," in hindsight a fatal strategic mistake. Sanders did mention that his campaign had been subverted by the Democratic National Committee, a charge later confirmed by hacked e-mails that Sanders thought tedious and not worth mentioning.

Almost everyone, except true-believers on both sides of the current political barricades, will agree that both Republican and Democratic Party nominees are scarred with defects that would not have made it past the jeweler’s eyes of the party bosses of yore.

The last real Democratic Party boss in Connecticut, John Bailey, would not have failed to notice both Mrs. Clinton’s glaring defects, not the least of which was her husband,  and Mr. Sanders’s leftist drift from what used to be called among Democrats the “Vital Center” of American politics.

Mr. Bailey would have allowed liberalism, but not libertinism, and he would have put the kibosh on Democratic candidates who favored an administrative repeal of any of the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Pragmatic to the bone, Mr. Bailey almost certainly would not have sanctioned a measure to force The Little Sisters of the Poor, first brought to the East Coast of the United States by Abraham Lincoln, to dispense condoms to fellow workers who were not nuns or priests. He also would have counseled against any polity that refused adamantly to make reasonable accommodations with Evangelicals and members of the Catholic Church.

America began to experiment with presidential primaries as early as 1901. From 1936 to 1968 only 20 states deployed primaries, which were useful, progressives realized, in wresting political power and influence from party bosses like Mr. Bailey – and vesting political power… in what?

We now know the answer to this question.  Political power and money is now controlled by political party outliers. We have got rid of John Bailey, and replaced him with political PACs that furnish negative ads and dark money in the service of political actors who, petite parties themselves, are independent of either of the major two parties.

Because incumbent politicians are able to tap into money and power resources unavailable to their competitors, the political campaign table has been tilted in favor of incumbents favored by the county’s left of center media – which means that the correlation of forces pushes moderate Democratic candidates off center and, in some cases – c.f. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – very far left. These correlations of force have produced an ever widening, unbridgeable gap between the two major parties.

What Mark Twain said of the weather in New England – everybody talks about it, but no one wants to do anything about it – is also true of the modern primary system, which had been put in place long ago by progressives to mitigate what they felt were the defects of a strong two-party political system.

A party system that once depended upon sometimes corrupt party bosses for financing and direction now depends upon PACs that operate outside campaign-financing laws, provided they do not engage in promoting specific candidates. These party outliers are the wellspring of vicious ads that have only a nodding connection with the truth. The parties themselves are poor.

Primaries have reduced national conventions to rote political thought and action, breaking the indispensable live connection between state and national politics, which is now run by the whimsical nominal heads of parties. In November, the nation will reap what it has sown.  This time around, the primary system has allowed access to the presidency of two of the most unloved candidates for the presidency in modern times. And dark politics has produced nation-wide cynicism, dark thoughts and dark deeds.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist, mostly on political topics.

Llewellyn King: Alternative energy threatens electric grid

On Feb. 3, 1960 in Cape Town, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan shook up what was still the British Empire in Africa by telling the Parliament of South Africa that “the wind of change is blowing through this continent.”

His remarks weren’t well received by those who that thought that it was premature, and that Britain would rule much of Africa for generations. The British ruling class in Africa – the established order — was shaken.

But Macmillan’s speech was, in fact, a tacit recognition of the inevitable. It was the signaling of a brave new world in which Britain would grant independence to countries from Nigeria to Botswana and Kenya to Malawi. Britain would not attempt to hold the Empire together. His speech was seminal, in that Britain had signaled that things would never ever be the same.

To me, the appearance of investor and entrepreneur Elon Musk at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual convention in New Orleans was a “wind of change” moment for the august electric utility. It was a signal that the industry was coming to terms, or trying to come to terms, with new forces that are challenging it as a business proposition in a way that it hasn’t been challenged in a history of more than 100 years.

But whereas Britain could swallow its pride and start a withdrawal from its former possessions, the electric industry faces quite a different challenge: How can it serve its customers and honor its compact with them when people like Musk, who is the non-executive chairman of the aggressive company SolarCity, and a passionate advocate of solar electricity, and Google are moving into the electric space?

At EEI’s annual convention, Musk didn’t tell his audience what he thought would happen to the utilities as their best customers opted to leave the grid, or to rely on it only in emergencies, while insisting that they should be allowed to sell their own excess generation back to the grid. Musk also didn’t venture an opinion on the future of the grid — and his interlocutor, Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of Rosemead, Calif.-based Edison International, didn’t press him.

Instead Musk talked glowingly about the electrification of transportation, implying — but not saying outright — that the electric pie would grow with new technologies like his Tesla Motors’ electric car.

The CEOs of EEI’s board were ready for the press by the time they held a briefing a day after Musk’s opening appearance. They spoke of “meeting the challenges as we have always met the challenges” and of “evolving” with the new realities. Gone from recent EEI annual meetings was CEO talk of their business model being “broken.”

The great dark cloud hanging over the industry is that of social justice. As the move to renewables becomes a flood, enthusiastically endorsed by such disparate groups as the Tea Party and environmentalists, the Christian right and morally superior homeowners, and companies like SolarCity and First Solar, the poor may have difficulty keeping their heads above water.

The grid, a lifeline of U.S. social cohesion, remains at threat. Utilities are jumping into the solar business, but they have yet to reveal how selling or leasing rooftop units — as the Southern Company is about to do in Georgia — is going to save the grid, or how the poor and city dwellers are going to be saved from having to pay more and more for the grid while suburban fat cats enjoy their sense that they’re saving the planet.

My sense is that in 10 years, things will look worse than they do today; that an ill wind of change will have reduced some utilities to the pitiful state of Amtrak — a transportation necessity that has gobbled up public money but hasn’t restored the glory days of rail travel.

People like myself — I live in an apartment building — have reason to fear the coming solar electric world, for we will be left out in the cold. The sun will not be shining on those of us who still need the grid. It needs to be defended.

Llewellyn King (lking@kingpublishing.com) is host of  White House Chronicle, on PBS, and a longtime publisher, editor, writer and international business consultant. This column was previously published in Public Utilities Fortnightly.

Robert Whitcomb: Why people don't work; my training

News media have recently reported on the many people who have permanently given up looking for work. Among the causes cited: federal and some states’ generous disability programs, marriage’s decline, the aging population, the rise of the Internet and the Affordable Care Act.

I would add corporate short-termism, which leads companies to lay off people faster and to be more disinclined to share profits with lower-level employees in raises. Many ex-workers decide it isn’t worth working again. (And grifters game disability payments …)

Especially since the 1980s, senior executives have been heavily rewarded for quarter-to-quarter earnings gains with gigantic pay packages. When I worked for The Wall Street Journal, in the ’70s, the annual earnings report was the big thing; now it’s the quarterly one. Pension and other investment funds (including unions’!) have also pushed for short-term-profit maximization.

A wider view of corporate duties — such as lower-level employees’ compensation and the communities where the companies do business — has slipped in the priority list, especially in public companies. That chief executives tend to stay in their jobs only a few years encourages this by eroding loyalty to fellow employees.

And private-sector union membership has plunged, weakening a power to push companies to share their wealth more widely with non-executives and people without company stock. So while senior execs’ compensation may rise by double digits in a year, average workers are lucky if their raises reach the inflation rate.

Don’t expect any major share-the-wealth action by executives or owners or a higher federal minimum wage anytime soon.

But the large voting constituencies of these seemingly permanently jobless people make it unlikely that programs that help them avoid work will be slashed. Interestingly, their percentages are highest in the Tea Party regions, where complaints about “welfare’’ and the taxes to pay for it are most strident.

Many of the sort of people who 40 years ago would have been working will henceforth continue not contributing to America’s productive energy. Based on anecdotal reportage, most of these people seem pretty depressed and/or bored by their status.


I TOOK THE TRAIN the other week to and from Philadelphia. As I gazed out the window at the beautiful Long Island Sound marshes, I thought of how much of my life I have spent on trains, and how nice it is that we still have so many on the East Coast.

I remember the excitement of being in Pullman car sleeping compartments on trips to the Midwest to see relatives, and the train down to Tennessee to see family there. At every major stop, they’d bring aboard local newspapers. The attendants were almost entirely African-American; being a sleeping-car porter was the most reliable job that blacks could get then.

Then there were the rackety Old Colony Line commuter trains, with their itchy seat upholstery, from Boston’s South Shore to South Station — with the cars and the station dingy and reeking of cigarette and cigar smoke. Still, it was exciting to be put on a train alone as a little kid. And I began the habit of using the train time to figure out assorted issues and to catch up on sleep.

In school I often took a Budd Car train from Bridgeport to Waterbury, Conn., through a heavily polluted sort of Ruhr Valley industrial landscape (most of the factories are long closed now), after getting to Bridgeport from Boston on an old New Haven Railroad train where you could order a nice meal, with linen tablecloth, in a dining car, checking off your order on a card since inane union rules prohibited speaking the order to a waiter. They were remarkably relaxed about enforcing drinking-age rules.

Then I commuted on such innovations as the Metroliners between New York and Washington, and, for a time in the sexy TurboTrains on the Shoreline Route in New England. (They had an elevated section, like trains Out West.)

The Northeast Corridor trains are too often late, especially when they come from the south, the infrastructure way behind European and many East Asian trains and the eating accommodations mediocre. Still, you have much more space than increasingly unhealthy planes (whose ever tighter seating sets you up for a pulmonary embolism), buses and cars and a moving train’s rhythm is soothing, indeed soporific. Trains get you away from it all, even if you’re going to a job.

Robert Whitcomb (rwhitcomb51@gmail.com) is the overseer of New England Diary.

Don Pesci: Nader's nattering in Conn.

  VERNON, Conn.

Ralph Nader once again is prowling the countryside saying things that are not so much wrong as passé. He does this because he himself is passé. Consumer advocacy, Mr. Nader’s specialty, reigns supreme everywhere in Connecticut, which only a short while ago sent to Congress the nation’s first consumer-protection senator, Dick Blumenthal, a little stiffer than Mr. Nader, but made from the same ideological cloth.


Not having kept up with the times, Mr. Nader seems to be laboring under the illusion that both major political parties in the United States “continually reject even considering cracking down on corporate crimes, crony capitalism or corporate welfare.”


Not at all true. In fact, the fight against crony capitalism may play a significant part in the Connecticut gubernatorial race this year.  Guess which one of the parties has rejected crony capitalism? Hint: It isn’t the party of Jefferson, Jackson and  the Nutmeg State's late and iconic Democratic boss, John Bailey. Is it not curious that the sharp-sighted Mr. Nader could have failed to notice that real capitalists have an aversion to fake capitalists?


In a column that appeared in The Hartford Courant, Mr. Nader, who appears to be supporting Jonathan Pelto for governor this year, asks rhetorically, “What if they [both major political parties] reject a proven, superior way to educate children? What if they refuse to consider an end to unconstitutional wars or to a grotesquely twisted tax system favoring the rich and powerful — to name a few of the major agenda items not even on the table for discussion by the two parties?”


Apparently, Mr. Nader’s “superior way to educate children” is the same as Mr. Pelto’s superior way to educate children -- which, for reasons not mysterious, is the same as the education lobby’s superior way to educate children. This method involves unlinking education outcomes and salaries, the rejection of testing to measure educational outcomes, and supporting without question or hesitation extravagant union demands, however much they strain taxpayers' ability to pay.


It may surprise Mr. Nader, but Steve Forbes -- to be sure, a successful businessman (via  his family's Forbes Magazine) and therefore suspect -- long ago supported a flat tax that even redundantly wealthy progressive tax supporters such as Warren Buffett would pay. Other Republicans favor a fair tax. The idle rich love progressive taxation because they alone are able to afford pricey tax lawyers to exploit a tax code awash in exceptions, which is why, come to think of it, Mr. Buffett’s  effective tax rate is less than that of his secretary.


Republican libertarian heartthrob Rand Paul, who most recently has called for demilitarizing the police -- police, mind you -- is the opposite of a warmonger, and the U.S.  Constitution has played a major role in Tea Party gatherings. One gasps at the thought that in some important respects Mr. Nader may be at heart a closet Randian Republican.


Mr. Nader’s fire in his column is pointed in two directions: at the Journal Inquirer newspaper,  of Manchester, which from time to time has spanked his backside, and at the notion that spoilers are spoilers.


Jon Pelto, for most of his life a Democrat, has entered this year’s gubernatorial contest as an Independent. Some reporters and commentators have noted that Mr. Pelto might well end up “spoiling” the campaign of Gov. Dannel Malloy, who prevailed over his Republican challenger, Tom Foley, in his first gubernatorial campaign by an uncomfortable razor-thin margin.

  In preference polls, Mr. Malloy noted recently, the needle hasn’t moved a jot since the first Malloy-Foley gubernatorial campaign. Mr. Foley once again is challenging the sitting  progressive Democratic governor and, marvel of marvels, the notion has been bruited about that Mr. Pelto’s Independent campaign might “spoil” Mr. Malloy’s progressive re-run against Mr. Foley – meaning that Mr. Pelto may draw a sufficient number of votes from Mr. Malloy so as to cause him to lose his gubernatorial election bid. A similar brief has been filed against Joe Visconti, once a Republican and now an Independent who is challenging Republican Party hegemony on the right.  Among some eccentrics on the left, the irascible Mr. Nader in particular, it has now become inadvisable to state the bald truth – which is this:


Jon Pelto’s presence in the gubernatorial race is designed to move Mr. Malloy further left, while Mr. Visconti’s presence in the gubernatorial race is designed to move Mr. Foley further right. Neither of them have a snowball’s chance in Hell of becoming governor. If either of them were successful in actually winning the gubernatorial contest, the victor will have been a successful spoiler.


The chief defect in Mr. Nader’s complex character is that he does not know when to stop protesting; this is the disabling defect of the entire Western World since the beginning of the Protestant Revolution, which helped lead to the Enlightenment. The protesters do not know when they have won; they continue protesting until all their gains have been lost.


Mr. Nader lives in Connecticut, the most progressive state in what used to be called, before the near total victory of the administrative state, the American Republic. He has won. He should go home, pop a beer, watch a ball game, and celebrate the destruction of the Republican Party in Connecticut.


Don Pesci (donpesci@att.net) is a  political columnist who lives in Vernon, Conn.


Richard J. Eskow: What Democrats can learn from Cantor's defeat


Cartoon by KALIB BENDIB for OtherWords.org

David Brat, the man who unexpectedly defeated Eric Cantor in a recent Republican primary, is an ideologue. That should be a source of encouragement for candidates on the populist left — but not for the reasons that you might think.

Brat is a professor whose college chair is endowed with libertarian money and ran a campaign rife with Tea Party slogans. Yet it would be wrong to minimize Brat’s victory, as Hillary Clinton did, as solely the result of his across-the-board opposition to immigration reform. That theory deflects attention from the populist side of Brat’s campaign, thereby minimizing a movement that presents a potential threat to Clinton and a number of other Democrats.

Brat made Cantor’s Wall Street ties a key campaign theme by tapping into a frustration with corrupt Washington politics that spans the political spectrum. “I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits,” Brat declared on the campaign trail. “But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.”

It’s no wonder that reporter Ryan Lizza described Brat in The New Yorker as “the Elizabeth Warren of the right.” When Brat says “the Republican Party has been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and not enough attention to Main Street,” he echoes the Massachusetts senator’s theme that “the system is rigged for powerful interests and against working families” — and the argument that progressive Democrats are making about their party’s dominant wing.

That’s why Brat’s candidacy doesn’t belong in the standard Tea Party basket. Cantor more closely fit this mold, with his fiery Tea Party-like rhetoric belying the fact that he was very much part of the Beltway elite, a Republican apparatchik, and a friend of the corporate class.

When Brat called Cantor out — “the crooks up on Wall Street and some of the big banks…they didn’t go to jail. They are on Eric’s Rolodex” — the underdog garnered enough votes to win a race against a top dog.

His mix of messages comes as no a surprise to people such as me who track polling data on economic issues. It’s been clear for years that anti-corporate populism appeals to voters across the political spectrum.

Inside-the-Beltway consensus thinking tends to dismiss voices on both the left and the right as unimportant to the political process. The mythical “truly undecided centrist voter” — that legendary creature situated precisely halfway between the Republican and Democratic parties on key issues — has led the political class to ignore the electoral power of ideological voices.

Many Democrats are making the mistake of embracing the same pro-corporate positions as their Republican opponents while losing touch with what’s happening back at home.

Far-right media personalities, including Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, gave Brat a tremendous leg up among conservative-populist true believers, stoking their enthusiasm and fueling both organizational efforts and turnout.

The left has its voices, too, and insurgent Democratic politicians shouldn’t be reluctant to rely on them just because they’re afraid that the “in crowd” in Washington will marginalize them. As Brat’s victory shows, distancing yourself from the in crowd can pay off.

Ideology has gotten a bad name from members of both parties who would rather push a Washington-corporate consensus than have a real debate on the issues and principles that should drive our nation’s decision-making.

What will happen if Republicans like Brat, with their anti-immigrant populism, face off against Democrats like Elizabeth Warren imbued with a populism grounded in economic justice? We might finally have a real debate about how to break the corporate stranglehold on politics and the economy.

Richard J. Eskow is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and the host of "The Zero Hour'', a nationally syndicated radio show. He wrote this for OtherWords.org.