Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, said to be a moderate Republican, attempted at the end of June to bring together under the state GOP's big tent abortion advocate Jennifer Blei Stockman, the recipient of this year’s prestigious Prescott Bush Award, and possible Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts.
A Greenwich resident, Stockman is the wife of Ronald Reagan’s former budget director, David Stockman, and co-chairwoman of The Republican Majority for Choice. Romney was featured as a presidential possibility in the June 20, 2005 issue of National Review under the title “Matinee Mitt.”
Attendance at the dinner was considerably lower this year than in previous years. The event usually draws about a thousand Republican stalwarts. This year, only 550 Republicans showed up.
Surveying the crowd, Rell said,“I think we have excellent attendance. She noted that some people had come expressly to see Stockman.
At least one Greenwich Republican begged to differ. Sam Romero, who frequently attends the event, boycotted it this year he said, because “For them to honor Stockman is an insult. Mrs. Pro-abortion herself; she doesn’t represent me and a lot of Republicans on her stance. Doesn’t this fly in the face of George Bush’s conservativism? He’s definitely a committed, pro-life president. How could I go, in good conscience, to that dinner?”
Stockman begged to differ with Romero. Rell had called Stockman about the award. The Republican governor had shown leadership by offering the Prescott Bush olive branch, the Hartford Courant reported, to “socially moderate Republicans at a time when the national party has consistently pushed a platform that is against abortion rights.”
The presentation of the Prescott Bush award to a prominent socially moderate abortion activist followed the governor’s successful attempt to push through the legislature a bill legalizing civil unions for gays. Connecticut may now boast it is the first state in the union to provide legal rights for gays without having been forced to do so by overreaching courts.
Said the Prescott Bush award recipient, “she was very courageous in giving me this honor. It was an important statement that Governor Rell wanted to do what she thought was right. There are governors in other states doing exactly the opposite.”
Other Republicans begged to differ, some insisting that the governor had shown a lamentable lack of courage on several fronts. Rell approved a new Democrat proposed gift and estate tax on property worth more than $1 million. Homes that sell for more than a million are common in most affluent towns in Connecticut, Greenwich among them. It would have taken some courage to buck majority Democrats in the state who hope to finance their inflated spending plans by imposing new taxes on the sort of people who regularly attend Republican political affairs in Greenwich.
Taxing the rich, after all, is a politically problem free solution to a spending binge that more than doubled the state’s budget since former Gov. Lowell Weicker, a longtime “moderate” Republican, forced a new income tax through Connecticut’s legislature.
So unpopular was the 2005 budget among Republicans that only one GOP senator and three House members voted for it.
As Rell inches leftward on social policy, some Republicans are beginning to wonder whether it might be advantageous for the state GOP, now perceived as a handmaiden to Democrat Party interests, to distinguish itself from its titular head.
In the short run, Republican resistance to Rell’s attempt to swing her party towards a “center” that for some time has been moving at a rapid pace to the left may cost them the governorship. In the long run, Republicans may develop an identity that will stand them in good stead in future elections.
It is impossible to assert the principle that excessive spending drives budgets continually upward when the titular head of the party arranges with Democrats to ameliorate the end result of profligate spending, ever increasing budgets, by disproportionately taxing the wealthy so as not to inconvenience and alarm the majority of voters in the state – who certainly will end up footing the bill if Democrats are unsuccessful in imposing a millionaire’s tax on Gold Coast residents.
Stockman and Romney, yielding to political etiquette, avoided a direct confrontation at the Prescott Bush awards dinner. But the Republican Party in the state has never advanced very far by supporting the unprincipled programs of its compromising governors, and it may be time for the party to present a more principled and united front to the public by breeching the usual etiquette.