CLOUT: Democratic Consultant Lee Brotherton Says GOP Is Run By ‘Most Extreme Elements’

CLOUT is a regular feature from Beyond November that profiles the pols, pals and pundits who influence the candidates and their campaigns. Have a suggestion for a Clout profile? Send an e-mail to Richard Weiss at

This interview for Beyond November was conducted and written by Tim Poor, a former Washington correspondent and national editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Name: Lee Brotherton

Party: Democrat

Age: 54.

Job:  Director, Metropolitan Education and Training (MET) Center, a St. Louis County-operated facility in Wellston that helps low-income people with education and job training.

Education:  Boston University, Rutgers University

Clout:  Brotherton got his start in politics as an intern in the office of the late U.S. Rep. Robert Young.  He returned to St. Louis after graduate school and was part of the campaign team that elected Buzz Westfall as St. Louis County Executive in 1990, the first Democrat elected to the post is decades. After serving as Special Assistant and Director of Transportation and Environmental Policy for Westfall, Brotherton ran unsuccessfully for state senate, and since has been a consultant and adviser on many Democratic campaigns, most notably on behalf of Charlie Dooley, whose congressional campaign he ran in 2000 (Dooley lost in the primary to Lacy Clay). He was the Program Manager for Operation YouthBuild, a county Housing Authority program for at-risk kids until 2007, when he began his current duties as the MET director.  Although he’s not directly active in this fall’s campaigns, he continues to be an influential informal adviser to Democrats in the region.

I know I’ve done a good job when…: “I hear something from the opposition that confirms it.”

Beyond November: “At some point we’re going to have to have a national discussion about priorities, and not on the shallow level we’ve been seeing it.  The country has been sidetracked tremendously for a long time from taking care of our basic needs at home.  Roads and bridges are falling apart, education is underfunded, it’s starting to really show.  We need to get back on track.  That means the wealthy will have to pay a realistic share of the tax burden again.  We need a constitutional amendment to ban corporate money in politics.  It starts in Washington, but it goes down to local levels:  elected officials tend to respond to t hose who are most helpful to them.”

Biggest political disappointment: Ken Rothman’s loss to John Ashcroft for Missouri governor in 1984.  Brotherton worked on Rothman’s campaign.  “That was a sea change in Missouri politics.  That was Reagan’s big year.  It really took the wind out of our sails, and ever since we’ve been fighting to repair the damage.”

Political heroes: Harry Truman and Tom Eagleton. “Truman knew who he was and what he was for and he never apologized for it. Tom Eagleton was very much the same way.”

The (third) presidential debate:  “I think both achieved their goals. Romney is doing his chameleon act again so now he’s a moderate instead of the “severe” conservative’ he has claimed to be for the past two years.  That was their goal in order to bamboozle the remaining moderate undecided voters out there.  Obama also achieved his goal which was primarily not to lose the debate and by so doing halt Romney’s momentum.  I think he was successful in that and the President certainly had the best line, pointing out to Romney that we don’t have as many horses or bayonets as we did in 1916!  That was great.”

Most important race:  Akin/McCaskill.  “It’s a battle between a mainstream Democrat and an extreme right wing Republican.  That’s the real contrast.  People (like Akin) with those extremist views have no business representing people in the United States Senate because they represent such a narrow view.  The extreme right is so wacky at this point, it’s hard to say too much about it. These people are not living in the real world.  We live in the 21st century; nothing we do is going to return us to colonial times, when you could just  take a Bowie knife and head into the wilderness. The Republican Party in Missouri and in the country is being run by the most extreme elements, and it’s dangerous.

Akin/McCaskill prediction: “Hard to say.  Unfortunately, the Republican tactic of portraying extreme candidates as mainstream is fairly effective.  They do a good job of peddling that story for a few months.  It’s purely an exercise in marketing. When Akin and other right wingers tell the truth, that upsets the Republican (establishment) because it upsets their marketing.”


Posted in CLOUT: Influential pols, pals & pundits, Commentary
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