In 1992 then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton ran for president as a centrist Democrat with an eye toward capturing what was at the time a much larger moderate section of the electorate. It worked. He won. He declared “over” the era of big government.
Today the era of big government is alive and thriving and his party has moved into a full embrace of socialism although they attempt to soften its image by calling it “democratic socialism.” Bill Clinton’s brand of moderation would not stand a snowball’s chance in today’s Democratic Party.
Here in Penn’s Woods, where once Democrats positioned themselves as champions of the working class, ultra-Left wing give-away programs have replaced economic advancement as the principal focus of the party’s policy agenda.
Governor Tom Wolf, crowned by the Huffington Post as the “most liberal governor in America,” has certainly lived up to that reputation. In just the last year he has taken steps to embroil Pennsylvania in a draconian multi-state agreement purporting to address so-called climate change, proposed restrictions on Second Amendment gun rights, unilaterally overspent the state budget, and vetoed legislation protecting unborn babies with Down Syndrome.
But the governor is not alone in taking a hard Left turn: the state’s big city mayors are right there with him pandering to the party’s radical base while proposing job crushing policies, violating constitutional rights and abandoning common sense.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto stoked the crowd at something called the Climate Action Summit by announcing his opposition to any additional petrochemical cracker plants in the region. Setting aside the fact neither the plant being constructed in Beaver County nor any contemplated plant would be built in the City of Pittsburgh, Peduto railed against fracking and the perceived evils of carbon based fuels.
The problem is the plant currently being built by Royal Dutch Shell, as with development of the fracking industry as a whole, have literally created tens of thousands of family sustaining jobs for the blue collar constituency formerly courted by Democratic politicians.
The damage done by Peduto’s comments drew a rare rebuke from Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald who told KDKA radio: “No city has benefitted more from the shale revolution than the city of Pittsburgh. Not just the county, the entire region.” A number of area labor leaders, whose members are experiencing the best jobs of their lives from shale-related development, also joined in denouncing Petuto’s comments.
Peduto, along with his Pittsburgh City Council allies, also have made headlines for their efforts to violate the Second Amendment constitutional rights of city residents. In the wake of the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue last year, council pushed through and Peduto signed three controversial measures into law. The laws were immediately challenged in court where defenders of Second Amendment rights correctly argue they are unconstitutional.
In what could be considered an electoral rebuke of Petuto’s far Left policies, and the rush to socialism within the Democratic Party, the counties outside of Allegheny in the Pittsburgh media market turned bright red in last November’s general election. Republicans flipped control of county courthouses in Westmoreland, Washington, Greene, and Armstrong counties, while Fayette, Butler and Beaver remained in the GOP camp.
Meanwhile, across the state, Philadelphia Mayor Bill Kenney literally flies the flag for socialism. In “celebration” of the 70th anniversary of the coming to power of Mao Zedong and his Communist Party in China the Chinese flag was hoisted at City Hall. This was done in fealty to “diversity,” although how honoring a brutal regime that has murdered millions celebrates diversity remains a mystery.
The far-Left tilt of Pennsylvania’s two big city mayors underscores the growing geographic and ideological chasm in the state’s political landscape. Our urban areas have politically become socialist enclaves, while more rural areas grow more conservative. Leading Democratic Presidential candidates include outright socialists, while Donald Trump’s economic populism prevails in the Republican Party.
Thus the upcoming presidential election is not just your typical battle between Republicans and Democrats; it will pit democratic socialism against capitalism in what will be a pitched battle for the economic soul of America.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)
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