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Murphy will be the first name on the Democratic Party line in the June 8 primary, heading up machine-backed tickets and, in some cases, running directly opposite progressive-backed candidates pushed into “ballot Siberia.” The attorney general Murphy appointed, Gurbir Grewal, has sided against progressives in a lawsuit they filed this year seeking to eliminate that balloting system.

“If anything, this is a case study in why these machines should be weaker, because you have a governor who’s extraordinarily powerful who still feels a need to dance a certain way for their pleasure,” said Sue Altman, executive director of the progressive New Jersey Working Families Alliance and one of Murphy’s biggest supporters.

Those progressives may have had an early and powerful ally in the governor, but they’re now experiencing first-hand how difficult it is to fundamentally alter a power structure with built-in advantages for incumbents, and where relatively few party bosses — mostly men, some elected and some not — exercise outsized influence over who has a realistic chance of getting elected.

The ballot system is one of the most obvious examples of how Murphy has taken positions that threaten to alienate the progressives who have supported him and who he’s relied on in his political battles with the Democratic bosses who tend to be far less liberal than the activist left whose influence grew during the Trump administration.

Though liberal, Murphy didn’t become governor by working against the political machines. The former Goldman Sachs executive paved his way into office with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Democratic county parties around the state, beginning years before he actually ran. Many of those bosses had other candidates in mind for their first choice, but once Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop — favored by most North Jersey bosses — dropped his expected candidacy, Murphy exploited the deep divisions between North and South Jersey Democrats to become the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Not long after taking office in 2018, Murphy went to war with the South Jersey Democratic machine, which had been a key ally of former Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Murphy’s nascent administration launched an investigation into the use of tens of millions of dollars in tax incentives by Norcross and his allies that resulted in state and federal investigations.

At the same time, the governor was backed by millions of dollars in donations from the New Jersey Education Association to a nonprofit called New Direction New Jersey that essentially acted as the governor’s political arm. Four years ago, NJEA battled with Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Norcross ally, and supported a Republican against him in a multimillion dollar state legislative race that was the costliest in New Jersey history.

Things have changed dramatically over the last year.

The investigations have gone silent. Norcross-linked companies, their tax incentives once put on hold, have gotten key approvals from the Economic Development Authority, the agency that administers the incentives, and a new law signed by Murphy could give businesses billions more in state-backed tax breaks. The NJEA, meanwhile, has pumped at least $1.25 million into a new super PAC controlled by Norcross.

“Liberals who feel betrayed by this should probably work on their expectations management, and I say that as someone who’s mismanaged my expectations many times,” said Jay Lassiter, a long-time progressive activist from South Jersey who called the fairly restrictive cannabis legalization law the governor signed earlier this year “dog shit.” “Hopefully when [Murphy] gets reelected, he’ll go back to [fighting with party bosses] because it was great watching him shake things up in a really meaningful way.”

Spokespersons for Murphy and Norcross declined to comment.

In the Legislature, Sweeney — a Norcross‘ friend and his strongest ally in the Statehouse — has eased up on Murphy. Early in the governor’s term, the Senate and Assembly held joint hearings into the administration’s decision to keep a former campaign worker on staff despite allegations of sexual assault by another staffer during Murphy’s 2017 campaign.

But last year, after Sweeney announced with Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. that he would form a bipartisan committee to look into the administration’s handling of the pandemic and nursing homes, where thousands died, several Senate Democrats resisted and Sweeney reneged, spar ing Murphy the political headache.


Now, the governor and Senate president are sharing a ticket on the June 8 ballot in South Jersey’s 3rd Legislative District. And in Camden — where local officials in 2019 held a press conference to tell Murphy to stay out of town because of his attacks on local Norcross-linked comapnies’ tax incentives — Murphy is sharing the county line with the machine-backed mayor, Vic Carstarphen, while three other mayoral candidates share a column in far off to the right.

“I suspect that Murphy’s personal feelings are that ‘the line‘ is not a good thing because that is really what undergirds the political machine in our state, but I think there’s also just the reality of politics,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a professor at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy who advocates against the county line system. “If you are counting on parties to get the vote out for your election, is this the time you want to have that battle with them? I think we have to wait and see what he does after the election.”

Despite the apparent peace with the party bosses, residual fights remain that reflect a Democratic divide.

Murphy is pushing the Legislature to pass the Reproductive Freedom Act, which would expand access to abortions and contraception. But Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have been hesitant to post it for a vote because it could inject a wedge issue into some some state legislative districts.

At the same time, Murphy’s fighting with Sweeney and state Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson), himself a political boss in part of North Jersey, over a Sacco bill that would end mandatory minimum sentences for political corruption offenses while the son of Sacco’s longtime girlfriend faces some of those charges.

Murphy is also facing pressure from the party’s left flank.

Immigrant rights groups, often in lockstep with the governor, have been deeply frustrated with him. Groups like Make the Road New Jersey have aggressively lobbied for the state to provide cash relief for undocumented immigrants. Murphy recently allocated $40 million in what‘s left of eligible CARES Act money to help thousands of undocumented immigrants with one-time cash benefits of up to $2,000, an amount that advocates have called “peanuts.”

A group of progressives is suing in state Superior Court to end the county line system. Among them is Hetty Rosenstein, the recently-retired head of the New Jersey Communications Workers of America — the state’s largest public workers union and a key ally of the governor. Now Rosenstein is working for Murphy’s campaign as an adviser for progressive coalitions an outreach.

“Many progressives believe that the New Jersey ballot design is undemocratic and puts the thumb on the scale in favor of candidates chosen by leaders of both parties, instead of by voters, and therefore needs to change,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “However, the Governor is running in an election that reflects the system that currently exists, not the system that we want to exist, and I do not see how that fact diminishes the tremendous progressive accomplishments we’ve achieved by working together.”

Despite their frustration with Murphy, progressives aren’t writing him off and are hoping the peace he’s made with the political bosses, though fragile, is one of convenience that will crash shortly after the November election.

“I remain hopeful that in his second term [Murphy] can continue to portray himself and be a reformer,” Altman said. “I think that if he has national ambitions beyond New jersey, and I don’t know if he does … being a reformer who cleans up New Jersey is a far more compelling message to a national audience than having New Jersey in fair but corrupt working order.”

Katherine Landergan contributed to this report.



How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party





A half-decade ago, the originally Boston-based site and its rabid fan community wouldn’t have scanned as “political” at all. But now, its proudly Neanderthal, reactionary ethos aligns perfectly with the side of our political binary that Trump reconfigured: the one whose common denominator is a tooth-and-nail, middle-finger unwillingness to accept liberal social norms.

If you looked at Portnoy circa 2010 — a budding bro-entrepreneur, popping champagne with models in cheesy photo shoots — you’d have to squint pretty hard to see a potential Republican standard-bearer. If you look now, it’s hard not to. It’s commonplace by now to observe that the Trump presidency “changed everything” for Republicans, from conventional wisdom on policy to how their internal politics are conducted. But first and foremost, it changed the face the party presented to the world. Where onetime nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain tried and failed to subordinate cultural grievance to a more professionalized, inclusive style of politics, Trump succeeded by placing it right on the front of the tin. And when he casually dismantled that old fusion of free-market economic fervor and country-club traditionalism, Barstool was ready.

The rise of the “Barstool Republican,” to coin a phenotype, doesn’t necessarily explain Trump. It is, however, a useful way to understand what’s happened to American politics without constantly invoking the former president’s name. Portnoy’s devotees aren’t MAGA fanatics or Q fans who live to torment liberals, and they’re certainly not part of the GOP’s evangelical base. (One could imagine the last thing they’d want is a Supreme Court that strikes down Roe.) But the Barstool Republican now largely defines the Republican coalition because of his willingness to dispense with his party’s conventional policy wisdom on anything — the social safety net, drug laws, abortion access — as long as it means one thing: he doesn’t have to vote for some snooty Democrat, and, by proxy, the caste of lousy deans that props up the left’s politically-correct cultural regime.

The backlash to liberal domination of pop culture and the past decade’s transformation of speech norms created the Barstool Republican long before Portnoy’s name was bandied about in jest as a political candidate. And if you’ve been paying attention, their cultural revolution dates back to a time when such antics were more likely to get you kicked out of Mar-a-Lago than installed as its lifelong “El Presidente.”


Lost in the annals of a time when culture wars weren’t quite as central to our national politics is a nomenclature that now seems almost quaint: the so-called “South Park Republican.”

As far back as 2001, the gadfly conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan was using the term to describe members of his political tribe who shared the anti-P.C., socially libertarian views of “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Stone and Parker, true to form, loudly protested their hatred of both major parties. Still, the label stuck, inspiring sparring New York Times columns and even a book-length exploration of the concept by conservative writer Brian C. Anderson.

In the political climate of the mid-2000s, the concept’s appeal was obvious: As Gen X-ers and younger Baby Boomers entered the ranks of the political elite, it made sense that they would dispense with the blue-blooded stuffiness and social conservatism of the Reagan-Bush imperium in favor of a vaguely countercultural, post-Sixties tolerance. W traded his father’s country-club affect for a pair of cowboy boots, but he wasn’t fooling anyone: The cultural energy in the Republican Party, to the extent that it had any, was in its feather-ruffling libertarian wing, whose influence would soon reach its zenith with the self-proclaimed Ron Paul Revolution. But like so many would-be revolutions, this one was denied — or at least delayed and mutated.

Paul’s 2012 bid to become the Republican Party’s presidential standard-bearer fizzled out in spectacular fashion, failing to convert internet hype into any meaningful primary support. Romney won the nomination and invited the youthful Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan along for the ride (whose rad workout gear and politically inscrutable love of Rage Against the Machine, alas, failed to inspire a Romney-Ryan youth movement).

Crashing on the rocks of both Barack Obama’s megawatt cultural celebrity and the looming coronation of Jeb Bush as the post-“autopsy” face of the GOP, the Rude Republican cohort was at loose ends — until an unlikely salvation came in the form of a 6’3” reality show host and frequent Howard Stern guest descending his golden escalator into the first paragraph of 21st-century American history.

Trump was at first an uneasy fit for both the more culturally-sophisticated, libertarian-leaning members of the Republican coalition as well as their staid religious counterparts. But at the same time he was hotwiring Republican culture and pushing it to the limits of street-legality, anti-P.C. critics saw another revolution happening within liberal politics — and, by the transitive property, pop culture writ large. In their eyes, Hillary Clinton’s campaign represented the triumph of a pro-establishment cultural nanny state that rejected Obama’s attempted de-escalation of the culture wars in favor of a rigid new etiquette of social justice: A rainbow flag hoisted, in effect, over the Bushes’ Kennebunkport compound.

One of Trump’s early adopters articulated the mindset perfectly in August 2015, back when Jeb! was still his closest primary threat: “I am voting for Donald Trump. I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it. I hope he stays in the race and I hope he wins. Why? Because I love the fact that he is making other politicians squirm. I love the fact he says shit nobody else will say, regardless of how ridiculous it is.”


No points for guessing the author: Dave Portnoy, birthing the Barstool Republican with a single 200-word blog post. Trump transformed the political landscape by tapping into a powerful desire for freedom from criticism or censure — a desire that Portnoy shared, and which has only grown more intense and widespread as the panopticon of social media becomes the primary stage for not just national politics, but civic life at every level.

In a column this February for The Week, the Catholic social conservative writer Matthew Walther referred to “Barstool conservatives” as primarily sharing a “disdain for the language of liberal improvement, the hectoring, schoolmarmish attitude of Democratic politicians and their allies in the media, and, above all, the elevation of risk-aversion to the level of a first-order principle by our professional classes.” In other words: culture-war issues.

Oddly enough, despite the inherent thirst for conflict that it brings, the ascent of Barstool-ism within the Republican Party can be chalked up to ideological diversity within the GOP. What could unite free-market libertarians, revanchist Catholics, Southern evangelicals, and working-class Reagan Democrats but their shared hatred of… actual Democrats?

With that as the party’s guiding principle, and no clear policy agenda to speak of — the 2020 RNC literally did not have a new policy platform — those willing to trash the Democratic cultural regime most loudly and consistently are firmly in command, with more staid Republicans forced to at least provide cover, if not actively follow their cues.

They’re forced to defend freshman North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn in the face of his attention-seeking tweets and allegations of sexual harassment from his (very recent) college days, while he ranks in the top 10 members of Congress in missed votes. They’re forced to defend Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as he faces his own allegations of sexual impropriety — not to mention his frat-boy antics, like showing up to Congress in a gas mask in the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. They’re forced to defend Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert as she fends off complaints from constituents about her “embarrassing” freshman term in Congress, after winning a primary and general election largely on the strength of her, well, bar ownership.

So just as anti-P.C., vaguely amoral Barstool-ism can be a strength, it can also be a weakness. In a media environment built to reinforce and intensify one’s ideological beliefs, being on the attack all the time can leave you in an exhausting state of constant defense. Yes, it can galvanize — nearly 75 million people voted to re-elect Donald Trump, the Stoolie-in-chief — but it can also exasperate and infuriate in turn — a record 81 million Americans voted for Trump’s purposely less-pugilistic opponent, Joe Biden. It also runs the risk of all novelty: that people might just bore of it. Yesterday’s provocation becomes today’s status quo, and in turn tomorrow’s epic cringe.

When Republican voters made Trump their presidential nominee in 2016, they chose gloves-off culture war over either Jeb Bush’s earnest compromise or the imitations of a careerist provocateur like Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump tapped into a very real dissatisfaction in the American electorate with the liberal status quo around speech and culture, and reaped both the attendant rewards and backlash. Someone like Dave Portnoy is, if not a viable presidential candidate, at least a credible successor to the role of the office’s last Republican occupant: Trump, Gaetz, Boebert, Cawthorn and their ilk all share Portnoy’s single-minded obsession with scoring headlines and affirming their constituents’ cultural identities at any cost.

In a media-obsessed world, it’s a powerful, intoxicating skill. And now that it’s proven a viable pathway to electoral success, Republicans are — perhaps wisely — clinging to it for dear life. As a creation of Judd Apatow, the 21st century’s great dorm-room comedy auteur, once said: “Pandora doesn’t go back in the box, he only comes out.”

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Joe Biden

Ted Cruz EXPLODES on Senate Floor with BRUTAL Speech Aimed DIRECTLY at Creepy Joe





Martin Walsh from Trending Politics reports, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz went after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this week for their failure to do much of anything to address the border crisis their policies created.

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YES! Republicans TORPEDO Pelosi After She Was CAUGHT Trying To SLAM 2 Bills Through The House





Mike LaChance from American Lookout reports, Republicans managed to take the wind out of Nancy Pelosi’s sails this week. She was using a procedural trick to fast-track two bills through the House but Republicans didn’t play along.

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