Friday, November 08, 2013

Connecticut Progressives And The Tea Party Scapegoat

The Tea Party in Connecticut is likely to loom large in future state-wide campaigns, even though Democrats in Connecticut would be hard pressed to name any incumbent Tea Party members in the General Assembly. There are no Tea Party incumbents in Connecticut’s left of center U.S. Congressional delegation, all the members of which are Democrats, and Governor Dannel Malloy may safely be ruled out as a Tea Party enthusiast.

“What was once the Republican Party,” Mr. Malloy said at the 65th Annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner “is now the Tea Party – this is a case were (sic) the tail is literally wagging the dog. They don’t give a darn about our economy, it’s quite clear that they would sink our economy for their own political good.”

The brute fact is: There are no enemies on the left in Connecticut politics, which is why the state over the past few decades has moved steadily left of center. The same Democrats who find it politically expedient to regard the Tea Party in Connecticut as a significant threat to their dominance would be hard pressed, circa 2014, to point to any moderate Democrats in leadership positions in the state’s General Assembly.

After Democrats had for the first time in more than 20 years claimed the gubernatorial slot, leaders in the General Assembly worked successfully to overthrow Connecticut’s death penalty law, wrote two budgets without any Republican Party input, implemented the largest tax increase in the state’s history, promoted a get-out-of-jail-early program that has let loose on two communities early released felons who have committed murders with weapons not yet banned by the General Assembly’s  progressive leaders, sanctioned gay marriage, refused in violation of federal law to assist  the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  agency (ICE) in the apprehension of non-law abiding undocumented workers, at least some of whom are working in the illegal drug industry. Such are some of the many arrows in the progressive quiver.

The progressive bazooka is, of course, Obamacare, a baby step on the way to a universal health care system. Wherever universal health care systems have successfully challenged a private health care market, the insurance market quickly adapts: It becomes a stripped down, boutique health care provider supplying very expensive products to upper middle-class consumers. Such is the case in England where the relevant government oversight agency recently reported that one fourth of hospitals in the country were not providing standard care. If the members of Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation sometimes worry that a considerably reduced insurance industry will cause increased unemployment in what used to be called the insurance capital of the world, they have successfully suppressed their misgivings.

Most members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation have jauntily leapt over the progressive barricades: U.S. Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy proudly associate themselves with progressives. In the U.S. House, Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, both of whom operate in impregnable Democratic districts, are out-of-the-closet progressives, though Mrs. DeLauro, if one pays attention to fashion conscious commentators, appears to be more hip than Mr. Larson. U.S. Representatives Jim Himes and Joe Courtney happily associate with progressives, though both are less conspicuously left because they operate in swing districts.

Where have all the moderates gone?

Gone to graveyards, every one – both Democratic and Republican moderates.

The rise of the Connecticut’s progressive movement coincides with the near destruction of the old moderate regime, which coincides with a successful effort, embraced by progressives, to refashion the Democratic Party apparatus into a blunt progressive instrument with which to cudgel what used to be considered the vital MODERATE center of politics in the Northeast.

It may be said of Connecticut Democrats “We are all progressives now,” to vary a phrase attributed by Milton Friedman to former President Richard Nixon, circa 1965, who is reputed to have said, “We are all Keynesians now,” a signal on Nixon’s part that he was prepared to embrace more interventionist policies. When Mr. Nixon took the United States off the gold standard in 1971, he grandly proclaimed, “I am now a Keynesian in economics."

In what Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, the first comprehensive progressive, called “the arena,” it is important that the striver after great deeds, the political enthusiast, the man “who spends himself in a worthy cause,” should be seen struggling manfully against his equally energetic – but, of course, seriously misguided – opponents.  In Connecticut, where the progressive victory is nearly complete, a malicious non-existent opponent must be summoned from the misty depths.

For progressive Democrats in Connecticut, the Tea Party, a mere ghost and goblin, is a political foil useful in drawing public attention away from a current crisis largely of their own making. Such largely fictional scapegoats allow artful dodgers to escape responsibility for their own socially destructive programs. In an environment in which a media intent on afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted  has been compromised by a comfortable business association with the state’s comfortable reigning power, such scapegoating is both tolerated and encouraged. 
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