The AFL-CIO union endorsements of U.S. Representative Chris Murphy, now running for U.S Senator Joe Lieberman’s seat in congress, caught no one by surprise. Unions have been riding Mr. Murphy during his three terms in the Congress, and there simply is no point changing horses in the middle of the stream. Incumbents such as Mr. Murphy enjoy what might be called the presumptive vote; and, of course, incumbents generally have under their command resources unavailable to those who seek to displace them.
Never one to fear burning a candle at both ends, Mr. Murphy’s resources include large PAC donations from both business groups and unions, generally assumed to be ideological opposites. That Mr. Murphy is supported by both groups suggests a certain programmatic fogginess and political agility one associates with politicians who have spent a lifetime in the Beltway having their cake and eating it too.
Business PACs, routinely scourged by Mr. Murphy when he is talking to union and left of center groups, have supplied Mr. Murphy with 52 percent of his PAC haul, roughly $1,694,014, while labor furnished 26 percent or $861,036, according to theCenter For Responsive Politics.
Former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, no campaign slouch, has attempted, with varying degrees of success, to round up the left of center primary vote by moving adroitly to Mr. Murphy’s left on a host of issues.
So far, no cigar. Recently, Mr. Murphy has garnered the endorsement of MoveOn.org, a left of center group that also endorsed besieged Speaker of the state House of Representatives Chris Donovan, whose campaign finance director has been arrested in an FBI probe of the Speaker’s office.
Mr. Murphy is a rare butterfly and shape shifter who can present himself when necessary as a moderate and a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a prodigal big spender, a war hawk and an anti-war hawk, a responsive congressman whose heart beats in tune to both the economic prescriptions of 1st Baron John Maynard Keynes and Fredrick Hayek, a bleeding heart 99 percenter and a bleeding heart 1 percenter, an FDR Democrat and a Reagan conservative. Political lepidopterists will find it difficult pinning Mr. Murphy to any coherent political philosophy.
When accused of listing too far to the left by members of what used to be the vital center of the Democratic Party, mostly antique Eastern Seaboard moderates, Mr. Murphy points with some pride to his membership in the Center Aisle Caucus, a bland group that often meets at the Hunan Dynasty restaurant on Capitol Hill to foster an environment of civility in Congress.
Members of the caucus leverage the group’s name for campaign purposes, according to Center Forward, a site genuinely devoted to congressional depolarization: “Even though the Center Aisle Caucus is little-known inside (or outside) the Beltway, two congressmen, one of whom is Mr. Murphy, “were trying to leverage the group’s name and mission in their competitive races this year.”
Mr. Murphy votes with his Democratic colleagues in the House 98 percent of the time; he has received scores of 95 to 100 percent from Americans for Democratic Action and a 100 percent score from labor unions, all of which places him in the far left corner of Connecticut’s political barracks. Having consistently aligned himself with progressives in the House, Mr. Murphy urged progressives at the July 2010 Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas to be patient; he indicated that progressives like himself would after the midterm elections and return to Congress “with steel in their spines.”
If it votes like a progressive, is endorsed by progressives and talks the progressive line to Netrooters, it’s most certainly a progressive. Mr. Murphy’s feints to the center are shameless impostures. Any shadow of a doubt concerning Mr. Murphy’s political orientation was removed recently after his endorsement from MoveOn.org, a far left group that had heavily invested in Mr. Murphy’s past campaigns, and never you mind that Mr. Murphy had raised over $1 million from the financial service industry, overlords of the one percenters, or that he voted for the $700 Billion TARP bailout within hours of receiving a large contribution from the American Bankers Association.
With a wink and a nod, such circles can always be squared –among co-ideologists who do not have steel in their spines.