The Banker vs. The Berger

My congressional district is having a primary this week. It used to be pretty evenly divided, but after a redistricting jiggered for maximum political gain by the Ins, it is now rated R+10. That means it is almost certainly a safe seat for a Republican candidate no matter how ill-prepared or loony.

The incumbent is retiring so two brave Democrats, the electoral equivalent of cannon fodder, are competing for the right to be blown away in November. Since a win for any R in the primary is tantamount to a free trip to Washington for the next two years, nine Republicans have thrown their hats in the ring. They each promise to loath government more than all the others, but still badly want a job working for it. Several of them or their wives already do. They are zealously against government for everyone but them.

Two are thought to have a chance to take their act to Washington, a place they profess to abominate only slightly less than hell itself. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice said. In a sign of the times for the divided Republican party, in each of these races the primary leaders neatly divide into a) a tool of the Wall Street establishment b) a Main Street Tea Party populist.

Phil Berger is the homegrown local lawyer candidate. Small town high school, second rate state college, third best law school, family law firm, county DA, school teacher wife, proud Baptist.
In terms of policy little sets him apart from his rivals. All spout the party line which is anti-Washington, anti-government, repeal Obamacare, no talk about what to put in its place except the market which will make healthcare cheap, though it didn’t before Obama showed up.

Berger and the rest are pro-life and pro-freedom of religion which is presumably code for anti-gay marriage. He would reduce the federal role in education and promote school choice which tends to be code for segregation redux or Vacation Bible School year round.

Berger waves the bloody shirts of Benghazi and Fast and Furious but what foreign policy he espouses is unstated. He does favor getting rid of unspecified government waste and abuse which surely means cutting either entitlements or defense. And he is in the lead among Republicans according to his own private poll.

Bruce VonCannon is the establishment guy, tennis scholarship to Princeton, advanced degree from the University of Indiana and MBA from Purdue, former Morgan Stanley and Rothschild banker in Asia.

He too runs through the obligatory litany to show he’s right with the right – prayer in the schools and guns good, abortions and Obamacare bad. Too much government leading to taxes too high. As usual, no detail on what to cut but it has pretty much got to be Social Security and Medicare or Defense. That’s where the money goes. You guess which.

His banker-for-the-one-percent credentials are showing when he suggests a regressive flat tax, and helping the elderly on a fixed income by policies to produce more interest on invested capital. But his real pitch is to “fix our broken politics”, though the fact that he and Berger are suing each other over their lying ads suggests they are part of the problem not the solution.

One of VonCannon’s ads shows a black leader of the Moral Mondays movement which has been protesting the policies of the Republican administration in Raleigh. It has cut unemployment benefits by 35 percent, opted out of more Medicaid help for the poor, cut taxes on the wealthy and raised them on the poor and cut the education budget. In the ad VonCannon shakes his head and says the protest is “a bunch of foolishness” while leaning on a beat up red pickup truck. One doubts he drove such an object to tennis practice at Princeton or the Rothschild bank’s parking lot.

The not very subtle subliminal message is, “You can trust me. I’m a good ol’ boy like you despite the Princeton, Rothschild stuff.” And the scorning of the “foolish” black minister seeking a modicum of economic justice says “I’m sure not one of them.” This is the kind of race-baiting ad Jesse Helms used to run and, lo and behold, VonCannon’s campaign is being advised by Carter Wrenn, a longtime Helms consigliere.

Figures. Despite the vote-getting racial and values Neanderthalism of Helms, behind the scenes he was the willing tool of the banking industry, instrumental in the deregulation that has provided so much fun for the middle class through foreclosures, bailouts and recession. In short, VonCannon’s is the voice of the Let-Them-Eat-Cake wing of the party.

In microcosm, these candidates are a group portrait of who will be running the country when the Republicans capture both houses in November. Sleep well.

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