Interview With The Cynic
There is no question that post-modern progressives within the Democrat Party in Connecticut far outnumber silent Democrat moderates, he said.
What we might call the Democrat moderates, John F. Kennedy remnants, becoming ever smaller, may secretly want to bite the state employees’ union bullet, but they are certain, if they do so, the bullet will go off in their mouths. And so they remain mute. And the status quo marches on – more spending, more debt, to be passed along, as always, to the children and grandchildren of the debtors.
The ever dwindling number of moderate Republican politicians are also silent on important social issues of the day and, as we know, silence signifies assent, both in law and politics. But Republicans cannot remain silent forever and hope to mount in reliably blue New England states an effective political resistance to Democrat progressive hegemony.
Over a period dating from the gubernatorial reign of former Republican Lowell Weicker to date, Republicans in the General Assembly have won nearly every economic argument and lost nearly every budget decision to progressive Democrats. And they've also lost elections.
There are several reasons, the most important of which is this: that culture precedes politics, and Republicans simply do not engage progressive Democrats on decisive social issues.
This means that in any political struggle Republicans have ceded to Democrats half the political battlefield. You can do that once, maybe twice, and still retain political standing among 1) republican conservatives and libertarians 2) unaffiliated voters waiting in the wings for an authentic combatant, 3) moderate and liberal Democrats, and 4) members of the state’s media, many of whom willingly place themselves in the progressives’ corner.
However, if you continue to wave white flags on social issues, your ranks will thin. And this is what has happened in Connecticut. Republicans who have been moderate – fiscally conservative but liberal on social issues -- have all been replaced by Democrats who fall into the progressive bucket on both social and economic issues. And Democrats who have been moderate – i.e. liberal – on social issues have been replaced by immoderate progressives.
The U.S. Congressional Delegation in Connecticut has been trending progressive for decades, the last Republican moderate standing, Representative Chris Shays, having been throttled by Rep. Jim Himes, a socially progressive Democrat who has held office for a dozen years.
While Shays was moving left on social issues – but not nearly far enough to satisfy Democrat progressives – the Democrat Party was moving left on both social and economic issues. The Connecticut Democrat Party now stands in the socialist shoes of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Try to get a leading Democrat in Connecticut to say a critical word about either of them is like pulling teeth in a state in which it had been routinely expected of Republicans to denounce the titular head of their party, former President Donald Trump.
Former Vice President Joe Biden may have campaigned for president as a Kennedy Democrat, but his nose ring while in office has been fashioned in a far left smithy. And whenever Biden feels the tug, he moves inexorably to the left. His support comes from progressives on the nation’s coasts.
Right. The late Barry Goldwater once joked that if you lop off California and New England, you’ve got a pretty good country.
Goldwater meant, I think, that the ideological and historical center of the country should be central to Democrat and Republican politics. Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate ruffian Chuck Schumer naturally think differently. The locus of political power within the Democrat Party is precisely that portion of the country Goldwater would have lopped off, the New England states plus New York and California. Pelosi is from California, Schumer from New York.
Since the Obama administration, the national Democrat Party has been able to cobble together a majority by including within its “Big Tent,” more narrowly constricted ideologically than most people realize, an eccentric coalition of the supposed disenfranchised: African Americans, some of whom are now straying dangerously into conservative territory; working women, enfranchised by the 19th amendment passed in 1920 and liberated from their kitchens by World War II; paroled criminals; libertarian drug users; chronic gamblers; citizens of Honduras who have crashed our border with Mexico and who, some mildly assert, may not be prevented from voting in U.S. elections if they are not compelled to produce at poll stations proof of citizenship; Critical Race Theorists who really do believe, solipsistically, that U.S. History has always revolved around a racial discrimination pole; teachers who would rather stay home than teach; a Coronavirus-sidelined General Assembly that continues to rent out to Connecticut’s governor powers and responsibilities the constitution assigns to legislators; cities, most of them run by Democrats during the past half century, smoldering in violence and crime induced, leftists believe, by ill-mannered cops; and so on and so on…
We are witnessing the breakdown of this temporary and unstable coalition. And the battering rams that have smashed it are unblinking views of reality. The Hartford mother of a three year old child murdered by a 19 year-old kid who couldn’t shoot straight knows, in her heart of hearts, that the politicians who showed up in Hartford to mug for the TV cameras were not there to help, because nothing they had done in the past half century in Hartford had helped to reduce crime or make any Connecticut large city as pleasant and prosperous a place to live as, say, Glastonbury, a suburb of Hartford lately experiencing its own uptick in crime.
Few if any papers in the state seem interested in publishing on their op-ed pages contrarian views that do not support editorial opinion. Why?
I’ll bite, I said. Why?
Along with the dominant Democrat Party in Connecticut, leaning left for a good many years, those who report on politics in the state also have been drifting left. Partly, this is natural. Reporters report on power-players, and the Connecticut GOP, especially in cities, has been unplugged for a long while. Editorial page editors listing left are temperamentally hostile to contrarians, many of them given over to Connecticut opinion that in some sense supports their own editorial views. It is human nature to give preference to flatterers.
“Everyone likes flattery,” Benjamin Disraeli says, “and when you come to royalty, you should lay it on with a trowel.” Leading Democrats in Connecticut are the state’s royalty.
My own view is that contrarian opinion on op-ed pages is a marker indicating editorial vigor. To put it mildly, one does not find contrarian opinion laid on with a trowel in most Connecticut news publications. I’m speaking here of contrarian opinion written by Connecticut commentators. Then too, it is easier, indeed effortless, to swim with rather than against the current. G. K. Chesterton, a contrarian, tells us that even a dead thing can flow with the current, but only a live body can struggle effectively against the current. Swimming upstream against the current is a heroic act. Swimming with the current is an abject surrender to force and the status quo. In Connecticut, the status quo is a leftward tug that rarely, if ever, is met with a countervailing force.
I understand from your remarks that you like contrarians and dislike progressives, I said. Why this distaste for progressivism?
For postmodern progressivism do you mean? Postmodern progressives do not believe in progress. It cannot be progress to tear down a political house that divided against itself cannot stand and replace it with daydreams. Real progress is an additive process – or it is simply a work of destruction. Emerson used to say that to be perfect is to have changed often. But postmodern ideologues – people like Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and, increasingly, former liberals such as Schumer and Pelosi – are not interested in progressing to perfection. Their ambition is to tear the house down, sow its historic and spiritual site with salt, and erect on the spot a fetching but impossible dream. It’s time to grow up.