Politics is the realm of any number of social pathologies, but the inability to feel or to express gratitude is one of the least attractive. We were reminded of this yesterday, when we read Senator Mike Doherty's comments on Steve Lonegan in PolitickerNJ.
Evidently, Senator Doherty now looks upon his old friend with a dismissive arrogance born of pride. Doherty has been hanging out with establishment liberals like Senator Jennifer Beck. Nowadays Doherty gets to sit at the cool table. What use has he now for Lonegan, who Doherty mocked as "the Howard Cosell of politics."
We recall when Steve Lonegan was New Jersey's Mr. Conservative. The man who had pushed Bret Schundler off the pedestal to establish himself as the standard-bearer of the movement. In the spring of 2009, Lonegan was in the fight of his life with Chris Christie. Both wanted the Republican nomination for Governor to take on Democrat incumbent Jon Corzine.
Assemblyman Mike Doherty had just been rejected by the members of the Republican county committee to succeed Leonard Lance, elected to Congress the previous November, as the Senator from District 23. Doherty would now have to face an incumbent in the primary -- Senator Marcia Karrow -- and all Trenton was betting against him.
In stepped Steve Lonegan. First, Lonegan sent one of his own gubernatorial campaign consultants to Doherty to help him organize his campaign. Lonegan asked conservative legislators like Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose to back Doherty. Most importantly, Lonegan raised money for Mike Doherty, practically all of it.
Day after day, when he was finished with the grueling schedule of running for Governor, Steve Lonegan would go into a windowless room at the heart of his campaign headquarters to make money calls for Mike Doherty. He brushed aside complaints from his own campaign people with the words, "I got to do this for Mike."
And not only did he raise nearly every dime Doherty spent on that Senate campaign, when Doherty seemed too depressed or unable, Lonegan found him a strong running mate in Hunterdon County Freeholder candidate Jennifer McClurg.
Lonegan placed Doherty, Ed Smith (Assembly), and McClurg on his ticket -- but it was Doherty who benefitted from a Lonegan GOTV operation that pushed just two names in Warren and Hunterdon Counties: Lonegan for Govenor and Doherty for Senate.
Lonegan won Legislative District 23 with 11,384 votes and Doherty won with 11,049. But while Mike Doherty was elected to the Senate, Steve Lonegan lost statewide to Chris Christie. And so Lonegan began a long slide from the scene in New Jersey, while Doherty, now a Senator, has established himself as a middling sort of legislator, known for his criticisms of government rather than for his constituent service or legislative accomplishments.
Last year, Lonegan re-emerged as a strong figure on the national presidential campaign of the United States Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Doherty, a one-time backer of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, supported billionaire Donald Trump over Congressman Paul's son, the U.S. Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.
Now Lonegan has become a leader in a rather broad group of conservatives who are questioning the wisdom of nominating Donald Trump for President, at the Republican National Convention this summer. Lonegan's effort is quite different from those of more mainstream Republican leaders who seek the same end.
Senator Doherty seems to believe that he can make someone a conservative simply by saying it is so, rather like bestowing it on someone. Just who he is to believe that he has this power is the question here. What Doherty suggests is rather like a nun believing that she can "bestow" virginity on a tart, simply by saying it is so. Next he'll be telling us that Senator Beck is a conservative.
Doherty also mistakes boorish ways for evidence of a conservative intellect. Loud talk and obnoxious carryings-on, threat-facing and other primate behaviors, do not make a conservative... it makes a baboon.
If Senator Doherty wants to be a good conservative, he should conjure up some gratitude for the conservative leaders who wet-nursed him and gave him the career he has today. Mike Doherty owes a great deal to Steve Lonegan. In future, he should show it.