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Elmer Gantry Goes Down The Shore

Jeff Van Drew Deploys Disgusting Tea Party 2.0 Town Hell Tactics

Reaping The Whale-Wind

Carnival barker Jeff Van Drew

Carnival barker Jeff Van Drew

In 1927, Sinclair Lewis wrote the classic satire of America’s religious hucksters, Elmer Gantry.

The book could have been written last week – perhaps with an updated version that would look more like Lewis’ classic 1935 book on US fascism, “It Can’t Happen Here”.

Now Old Elmer’s down the shore. And it’s happening here.

[Update: 3/24/23 Historian Paul Street explains exactly what’s going on, emphasizing the danger of seeing this as the work of “crazy republicans” instead of as the fascist politics it is.]

Steering clear of stepping in all the bullshit, I initially avoided the whale wind.

But, as the bullshit got thicker, my disgust erupted. On January 20, 2023, I wrote:

The show began with the media topic of the day, the death of whales. Both guests could not find the backbone to state the obvious: the opportunistic political exploitation of whale deaths to attack offshore wind is disgraceful, by both State Senator Polistina and Clean Ocean Action.

I followed up on January 28 with a snarky photo of Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action in action, adding visual evidence to what I thought was so obvious partisan bullshit.

But it’s only gotten worse since.

In case it’s not obvious, the circus on the shore was a cheap rehash of the Tea Party Town Hells.

Take a look at what that ugliness looked like in Middletown NJ at Congressman Rush Holt’s “Town hell” – some real “fine people” (DT) on one side (posted on 9/7/09):


These conditions call for savage scorn, but all I got time for is mockery.

Although I’m no fan of NJ Spotlight and Julie Roginsky, sometimes, in a horribly cynical way, they get it right (despite the fact that they confuse corrupt cynicism and opportunism with political savvy. No biggie, right? (more snark)):


To tap into the power of localized dramas, politicians have for over a century-and-a-half been departing D.C. for their home districts to hold much livelier, often far more partisan, events called “field hearings.”

It appears the tradition has been revived and revamped. Facing a razor-thin majority for which big legislative accomplishments will be difficult, the new speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, has made it a priority — and allocated taxpayer dollars — for his members to pursue field hearings that have the potential to embarrass President Biden and the Democratic Party.

For New Jersey Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, McCarthy’s new playbook, which was shared with Republican members in early February, came at a particularly opportune moment.

Since January, eight humpback whales have been found dead on or near beaches in New Jersey and New York. The deaths, called strandings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have electrified what was once a small movement contained within coastal municipalities opposed to the Murphy administration’s rapid push to develop wind farms off the New Jersey coast.

Yup, it’s Elmer Gantry, for sure.

(the 1960 movie is good – I’m an old Burt Lancaster fan – but nowhere near the book).

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