Franklin Countys First News

Drifting right

John Frary

John Frary

By John Frary

On July 10 sixty people showed up at the Waterville Democratic Caucus and chose the party’s nominees for the Ward Two, Four, and Six Council Seats. A motion to delay the Ward 4 Council nomination was defeated. Karen Rancourt-Thomas was the only Democrat who had come forward to offer herself for the mayor nomination. She was not chosen. No one was chosen.

Nick Isgro, Waterville’s Republican mayor, called Karen Rancourt-Thomas on the morning of July 11, following up an earlier call from one of her Democratic Party supporters. Later that day Karen announced that she was joining the Republican Party and supported Mayor Isgro’s re-election. On July 12 Waterville Democratic Party’s Facebook page explained that several community members felt that the organization and promotion for the 2017 caucus was “severely lacking” and that is why they decided to postpone nominating mayoral candidates. “The actions, however, were in no way intended to disenfranchise. This was a pragmatic, legitimate rule and nothing more.”

Compounding the confusion, Karen Rancourt-Thomas has explained that she had concluded her convictions were a better fit with the Republican Party, especially in regard to fiscal and economic questions. There’s a lot more to this nomination confusion, but the primary interest for this column is the local example of the slow steady trickle of defections from Left to Right in American politics. Over the years I have accumulated eight books on the subject along with dozens of downloads.

Rep. Larry Lockman of Amherst is Maine’s prime example of the phenomenon. Just this month I learned that his political biography started on the extreme left. He was once a subscriber to the Ramparts magazine, the flagship periodical of the “anti-war,” pro-Communist left during the Vietnam war agitation. He once served as a union shop-steward. Now, as co-founded the New England Opportunity Project, he is one of Maine’s foremost conservative leaders. He is more than happy to act as point man on every controversial issue. As a legislator more focused on principle than pragmatism, his interest in brokering legislation is less than his interest in making points that need to be made.

When I asked him what led him to change his views, he told me that the primary initial impetus came from becoming a father. This began a process of conversion that rapidly accelerated. That is far from the first time I’ve heard this explanation from a reformed and reconstructed liberal. This is a complicated motivation, but I’m guessing it includes the discovery that re-forming a whole society might actually turn out to be a lot more difficult than bringing up a tiny collective of children you helped to create.

The news of the Waterville defection and my recent conversation with Representative Lockman intersects with two July news magazine articles. One concerned Eric Greitens, the new Republican governor of Missouri. His story interested me so much that I ordered two of his books. His parents implanted a complete set of liberal ideas on his brain. He registered as a Democrat. He pursued humanitarian careers, working with refugees and Rwanda, but came to some unexpected conclusions. Principally, he came see that kindness and soft sentiments without taking responsibility for results, and neglecting the option of force were feeble instruments for human advancement. This realization steered him to a surprising decision. He joined the United States Navy, qualified as a SEAL and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was only after this that he found his way to the conservative authors and think-tanks that completed his conversion to conservatism.

An July 26 article about a candidate for U.S. Senator from Wisconsin named Kevin Nicholson shows some similarities. He was raised by Democrats to become a Democrat. As an undergraduate he served as the University of Minnesota’s College Democrat chairman so well that he rose to become the national president for the College Democrats of America.

Now he plans to run for the Senate as a Republican. His explanation: “I’m a conservative for reasons of hard-earned experience.” This experience included seeing the beginning of the “identity politics” strategy while working for the Democratic National Committee. What this meant to him was breaking people into factions identified by skin color or gender and pitting them against each other in a struggle for resources.

His DNC colleagues pushed him further right when they ridiculed his decision to join the Marine Corps. His experience as a combat officer in Iraq and Afghanistan consolidated his new beliefs. He discovered he liked Marine better than DNC staffers and the United States Marine Corps better than the Democratic National Committee.

After returning to the U.S. Instead, he earned an MBA from Dartmouth and an MPA from Harvard, and worked on international consulting. He currently works at a Milwaukee management-consulting firm. Summing up: “Every step of my story is seeing how the world works and slowly being introduced to reality, becoming more conservative every step of the way.”

Such leakages to the right will continue, because the same conditions will continue.

John Frary of Farmington is a former candidate for U.S. Congress, a retired history professor, an Emeritus Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United, a Maine Citizen’s Coalition Board member, and publisher of He can be reached at

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11 Responses »

  1. Great article John, Thank you.

  2. John, great article! I think with people seeing the way the Democratic party acts and really shows how they are in demonstrations around the country will make pepole realize what their party truly stands for. Thanks for the article!

  3. I haven't seen the Democrats this riled up since Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

  4. John:

    I notice you failed to mention who's currently in charge of the Republican party these days.
    I'm just guessing here, but there may be more than a few who have abandoned the party since his ascendency.
    Also, don't forget: A Fish Rots From The Head Down. Cheers.

  5. Seamus,,,
    You may be right about some Reps leaving the party but I can assure you that they won't be joining the Dem party.
    Myself, I went independent a few years ago.
    I always said, I can be a lot of things but I cannot believe a Democrat.
    That party turns my stomach worse these days than ever. Yes,, even worse than the current Rep.
    But that's just me..(and a whole bunch of others).
    NOT going to the Dems.

  6. Then of course there's the lack of a truly left wing media outlet that might counteract the constant stream of propaganda disguised as "news" from the Fox Network. Over the past two decades Fox has had an important impact on the trend described by Professor Frary. Yes. I know right wing ideologues regularly lambaste NBC, ABC and CBS for liberal bias. The alphabet soup networks are basically centrist organizations. However conservatives don't believe there is a center or moderate segment of the electorate. Their recent treatment of Susan Collins is exhibit #1 on that point. Fox has skillfully convinced a great many lower income folks in rural areas that millionaires and billionaires and the policies that favor them are the answer to their economic woes. Hence the economic divide between the 1% and the majority continues to widen in favor of the rich as it has ever since the Reagan Era.

  7. John, I enjoy your witty charm and imaginative storytelling but most of your letter is imposing your thoughts on situations and people to support your narrative. Could you cite the sources of your fuzzy information or are we to believe that you know just because? You claim the DNC (I'm neither Dem or Rep- for your notes) uses “identity politics” to "breaking people into factions identified by color or gender and pitting them against each other in a struggle for resources" but this very much was the "Make America Great Again" campaign which has continuously produced negative results and given voice to a "white supremacy identity" that only serves to ""breaking people into factions identified by color or gender and pitting them against each other in a struggle for resources". How do you respond to a party leader that is not "taking responsibility for results" and has affected the stability and future of our Country? How do you respond to the fact that your party has supported and excited and empowered the "Unite the Right" marches and murder while also calling for civil war?

  8. Thanks for the article John, enjoyable

  9. It goes the other way too. In 1980 I was in Detroit Michigan at the political convention that nominated Ronald Reagan, a state officer of the College Republicans. I was on the floor when Reagan gave his nominating speech, as they let a bunch of us "youth for Reagan" folk out to show that young people liked Ronald! Later I worked in DC for a Republican Senator. The power games in DC were distasteful to me, so I left, getting a job as a night manager for a pizzeria before deciding to continue my studies.

    I drifted left for a couple of reasons. Mostly it was spending time in Europe and seeing how other systems work. I remember having a vigorous debate with a German conservative about health care - his view was that we were immoral and almost uncivilized because we didn't guarantee health care as a right. I came to agree. I also got more of a sense of how the powerful get support by demonizing the poor and immigrants, using fear. I learned how the economy is stacked to serve big business (both parties are part of that). Now I'd say my thinking is similar to that of President Obama. My values haven't changed; my belief in how they best apply to the world has.

    One story: All us youth for Reagan college kids stayed in dorms in Ypsilanti, Michigan, bused daily into Detroit. One night I chatted with two Maine girls. I had a big "South Dakota for Reagan" pin one wanted. She gaveme a little red clothe lobster sticker that had "Maine" written on it. I put that on my camera case and it traveled with me for over a decade. People would see it and ask if I were from Maine, and I said no, I'd never been there. In 1995 I did finally get here and made Maine my home. I guess it was fate! I have no idea where in Maine those two were from. I do have a picture of them!

  10. I'll expect an article defending the Nazis next. Way ta go, Right. Give our country away.

  11. Democrats fighting with Republicans...and so the story goes...on and on.