Democratic Dissidents

By Arnold Ahlert

Democrats are known for many things, but chief among them is the relentless determination to maintain a rigid progressive orthodoxy within their ranks. Bucking that orthodoxy requires character and conviction because those who do can expect a certain level of contempt directed their way from their oh-so-tolerant brethren. Campbell Brown and Kirsten Powers are two women who have demonstrated a willingness to take positions decidedly at odds with the progressive establishment.

Brown’s Democratic roots can be traced back to her father, Louisiana Democratic State Senator and Secretary of State James H. Brown Jr. Although James Brown is Presbyterian, Campbell was raised as a Roman Catholic, which she remained until converting to Judaism following her marriage to Republican strategist and Fox News analyst, Dan Senor.

Brown worked her way up through the ranks of television reporting, winning an Emmy award for her reporting on Hurricane Katrina while working at NBC. She followed an 11 year career at that network with a stint at CNN. She began in 2008 as an anchor for CNN’s “Election Center,” renamed “Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull” and ultimately “Campbell Brown.” During the 2008 election cycle, she engaged in a controversial interview with John McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, questioning Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin’s executive bona fides. That interview earned her accusations of bias from the McCain campaign, who accused her of going “over the line.” In 2010 CNN released her from her contract due to low ratings.

Brown moved on to writing opinion pieces that indicated such bias was a figment of John McCain’s imagination. In 2012 she penned two pieces for the New York Times. In one, she insisted a “paternalistic” Barack Obama should stop “condescending to women.” In the other she criticized Planned Parenthood’s self-destructive strategy of embracing “blind partisanship” that was costing the organization supporters. In 2013 she urged Daily Beast readers to keep the shooting in Newton, CT off the “culture war battlefield. Yet it was a piece for the Wall Street Journal that same year indicating where she was going with her post-TV career: Brown began challenging the left’s cherished nexus between the Democratic Party and the unionized education establishment, taking the New York City teachers unions to task for protecting sexual predators.

Ever since, she’s remained on the offensive regarding public school reform. She began with thePartnership for Educational Justice (PEJ), a non-profit watchdog group “committed to reclaiming the promise of public education for all students.” It took on NYC’s mishandling of sexual predator cases, pressuring city mayoral candidates to sign a pledge to reform the system, and spending $100,000 on an ad wondering whether candidates who declined to do so had “the guts to stand up to the teachers’ unions.”

That earned her scorn from leftist publication Mother Jones, which cited Brown for a “conflict of interest” because her husband was a board member of Students First, founded by former Washington, DC, schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Education unions despise Rhee because she advocates for charter schools, and because her nonpartisan organization advocated for too many Republican candidates during the 2012 election and used a Republican consulting firm to produce the aforementioned ad.

In 2014 Brown upped the reform ante, filing a lawsuit challenging New York City’s tenure laws. And despite the insinuations of Mother Jones, PEJ’s chairman is Democratic lawyer David Boies, who represented Al Gore during the 2000 election dispute.

Earlier this year Brown illuminated her rationale for pursuing that suit. “There’s a monopoly controlling public education in this country, and they’re not going to give you the keys to the car,” she explained. “This is a political fight, and political fights can be very intense,” she warned. “But every important fight in our history has been won and lost on a political battlefield, so you can’t shy away from it.”

On July 13, Brown launched her latest initiative, The Seventy Four, representing the 74 million children in the nation. It is an online education “newsroom” aimed at keeping Americans informed about candidates and their educational stances during the 2016 election cycle. It will feature a series of live forums in New Hampshire and Iowa allowing candidates from both parties to express their views on a subject Brown considers paramount. “This presidential campaign I think is a real moment where education has the potential to be front and center in a way that it hasn’t been before for a number of reasons,” she told Breitbart News. Thus she will continue to confront the Democratic/union status quo of “inherent discrimination in the system” that inevitably occurs when the quality of education one receives “is largely defined by our zip code and the neighborhood we live in.”

Kirsten Powers, who began her career as a staff assistant with the Clinton-Gore presidential transition team in 1992, followed by a stint as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public Affairs, has also acquired a reputation for clashing with Democratic ideology. Powers is aUSA Today contributor, a columnist for The Daily Beast, and has been a Fox News political analyst and commentator since she joined the network in 2004.

Her most obvious break with progressive orthodoxy occurred in 2013 when Powers converted to evangelical Christianity, “which I held in particular contempt,” she wrote. Prior to that conversion Powers worked in a White House where “intellectual people who, if they had any deep faith in God, never expressed it.” As she moved into New York Democratic political circles, her environment “became aggressively secular. Everyone I knew was politically left-leaning, and my group of friends was overwhelmingly atheist.”

Her conversion occurred during a trip to Taiwan in 2006 and while she remains a staunch progressive on many issues, including immigration reform, equal rights for gays, ObamaCare, and closing Guantanamo Bay, she has forcefully taken on her ideological soul mates in the arenas of free speech and Planned Parenthood.

This year Powers released her book, The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech in which the self-described “life-long liberal” derides the “illiberal left” and their attempts to intimidate or silence anyone who disagrees with them. She cites numerous examples of egregious behavior, courtesy of academia, Hollywood, the mainstream media, and other leftist-dominated environments. She is especially concerned with the advent of concepts such as “micro-aggressions” and “trigger warnings” that have turned campuses into “the child-care programs that are passing for universities today.” She rails against leftist methodology that shuts down public debate while championing tolerance and values, noting how much easier it is for leftists to “sanctify themselves as higher moral beings that treat differences of opinions respectfully.”

She also addresses the left’s special animus towards Christians. “Illiberal feminists can’t seem to fathom that some people actually believe an unborn human matters or that abortion is harmful to women,” she explains. “Sometimes the mask comes off and what we see is that illiberal feminism is often driven by a base hatred of Christianity.”

As a result of her “heresy,” Powers has endured a barrage of criticism, including the left’s reliably invariable descent into name calling. Hence, Powers has been referred to as a “bigot,” “homophobe,” and a “f-ckface.” Leftist website Daily Kos dismissed her as a member of the Fake Democrat Society who is “pretending to be a liberal” so she can get more airtime on Fox News, an entity in the business of “passing off right-wingers as Democrats.”

Those epithets are likely to increase in number and intensity as Powers has taken on Planned Parenthood (PP) following its outing as a baby organ harvester in a series of undercover videos. “This is stomach-turning stuff. But the problem here is not one of tone,” she writes, completely dismissing PP’s apology, not for the harvesting itself, but the way it was discussed. “It’s the crushing. It’s the organ harvesting of fetuses that abortion-rights activists want us to believe have no more moral value than a fingernail. It’s the lie that these are not human beings worthy of protection. There is no nice way to talk about this.”

In a follow-up column, Powers hammers PP’s “crimes” against the innocent unborn, noting the same Democratic Party that prides itself for being on the right side of history is the one that has “eschewed all concern for historical or moral rightness,” is “shilling for barbarism” and will be remembered as the party that “demanded investigations into citizen journalists for meticulously exposing atrocities in our midst.”

Interestingly, Powers has acknowledged the criticism aimed at Campbell Brown following the latter woman’s decision to take on the education establishment. “Brown was no longer an accomplished woman, nor was her desire to improve the education system sincere,” Powers writes. “No, she was a nefarious right-wing bimbo under the control of conservative men lurking in the background…a mindless parrot who adopted her Republican husband’s political views.”

As the 2016 presidential campaign heats up, it is virtually inevitable all of the issues addressed by both Campbell and Powers will become part of the national conversation. Just as likely is the reality that both women will be subjected to increasing levels of scorn by leftists who believe any deviation whatsoever from progressive orthodoxy constitutes ideological treason. Few things terrify the largely secular left more than independent thinkers, especially those who have also embraced religion as a principle component of their lives. The bravery demonstrated by Campbell and Powers is to be applauded

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