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The Role of Primaries in Political Anarchy



Campaign money raised by DeLauro and challengers
Those of us who paid close attention to the Republican presidential primary of 2016, which gave us President Donald Trump, and the current Democrat primary, which could give the country its first socialist president in Bernie Sanders, though this seems increasingly unlikely, have come away from these rough and tumble experiences thinking that political anarchy in the country’s two major parties is perhaps more ruinous than party bossism.

Primaries, it is true, did get rid of the party bosses. Old news hounds will remember with some affection Connecticut Democrat Party boss John Bailey, the last of his kind in the state. All of the stink and corruption associated with party bossism remain, and incumbents are no more likely to be dispossessed of their power in the new system than they were under the iron rule of the bosses. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” the French say -- the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Political parties, thanks mostly to energetic reformers, are disappearing functionally. However, when you remove a hierarchy of political power, you do not remove at the same time the necessary functions performed by the hierarchy. Indispensable functions are simply pensioned off to others. The money gathering and distribution functions that used to be performed by parties today are performed by incumbent politicians fat with PAC contributions, such as Representative Jim Himes from progressive Greenwich. Connecticut, who have become their own petite political parties, and this has made individual incumbent politicians invulnerable and well-financed indeed. If money is the mother’s milk of politics – and it is – the incumbents are in charge of milking the cows.

Gerrymandering has formed little political fiefdoms all over Connecticut. U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District and John Larson of the 1st District are more secure in their political sinecures than ever King George was. Both U.S. Representatives are political castles invulnerable to attack, except by means of party insurrection – and even then, what’s to worry?

Were Bailey running the show, it would surprise no one should he one day tap Larson on the shoulder and say, “John, you’ve been at his long enough. During the next campaign, you’ll be running for governor. And don’t worry about financing. We’ll take care of that.” Adding their years in politics together, DeLauro and Larson have been at their posts for half a century. Both will be displaced only when U.S. Congressional term limits are enacted, an unlikely consummation devoutly to be wished by their partisan political opponents. In 2018 DeLauro raised about $1.3 million defending her gerrymandered seat against a Republican opponent, who raised ZERO in an assault on the walls of her castle, according to OpenSecrets.Org

The 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns are equally instructive. Donald Trump polished off 17 mostly seasoned politicians to win a primary, after which he unexpectedly defeated Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, causing jaws to drop and impeachment proceedings to be plotted. The 2020 Democrat presidential primary featured a self-proclaimed socialist, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, running on the Democrat Party ticket, quasi-socialist Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, billionaire former three term Republican Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, and former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden’s father. There were a total of 29 Democrats running early in the Democrat presidential primary. Super Tuesday has now thinned the herd considerably.

To what end it may be asked?

Last week, the bottom fell out of the Democrat Primary bucket; two middleweight presidential contenders – Senator Elisabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg – left the scene. Hawaii U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, the lone Democrat woman left standing, has now been deprived, by means of a recent rule change, from participating in a debate with the two viable remaining presidential contenders, Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders and former Obama Vice President Joe Biden, both privileged, white males of advanced years. Gabbard’s removal from the debate state has left a portion of the commentariat wondering whether the party’s concern for women may be, to deploy a word displayed on Biden’s campaign bus, “malarkey.”     
 
We are advised by Hearst that, here in Connecticut, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz is backing Biden, while his more aggressive co-progressive comrade, President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney is throwing his weight behind Sanders. Unlike former Republican Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg, the Democrat billionaire presidential contender who withdrew from the primary race after having been clawed on a debate stage by Warren, Sanders may have enough gumption and money to drive the presidential race into a contested convention. In the next few primary rounds, we shall know whether Sanders is all mouth and no bite.     

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