Sunday, November 19, 2006

Is the Republican Party Worth Saving?

Is the Republican Party in Connecticut worth saving?

The short answer is “No.” The long answer is, I’m afraid, longer.

The Republican rot begins, as may be expected, with former senator and governor Lowell Weicker. When Weicker was senator for several terms and full of the puss of hubris, he sighed in the presence of a Hartford Courant reporter, “The Republican Party in this state is so small; someone should take it over.” So Weicker did, and the Courant, of course, obliged him.

Weicker considered himself a Republican in the mode of Jacob Javits of New York – a moderate, anti-conservative with a lively social conscience. Weicker appointed his handmaiden, Tom D’Amore, as chairman of the party, and together they proceeded to reform and destroy it.

What we see now in the age of Jodi Rell -- more popular, apparently, than salt -- is an empty husk of a party, paralyzed and useless. I am not speaking hyperbolically: Except as a reflex action to the preposterous and ruinous agenda of the Democrat Party, The Republican Party has all but disappeared. The most powerful politician in the state just now is not Jodi Rell but Jim Amann, the Speaker of the state House of Representatives.

John Rowland, before he was crippled by his own stupidity and an energized liberal media, used to think of himself as a breakwater to Democrat excesses. But Rowland shucked off his conservative ideology very early on and became, for all practical purposes, yet another in a long line of moderate Republican governors. The threat of a veto, he liked to think, kept Democrat spending in line; but this was largely self delusion. Within the space of two governors – Weicker, a Republican turned Independent, and Rowland – spending in the state doubled. The Democrats were playing Rowland, and Rowland was playing pretty much everyone else.

The charades came to an end when the Journal Inquirer smelled something rotten in Denmark, and the chase was on. It was great fun, and only Rowland and his immediate confederates were discomforted: An impeachment proceeding that might have examined corruption in Connecticut in other administrations was cut short when Rowland bit the bullet and went to jail on a single charge that earned him a year in the pokey. The rot had been contained, thank you very much.

Jodi Rell, Rowland’s successor, has no veto power. The Democrats this year captured enough seats in the legislature to override gubernatorial vetoes. Rell’s real political power is comparable to that of the Queen of England. After years of moderation and bi-partisanship, the Republican Party in Connecticut has been reduced to this – a figurehead. That Republican Party – a party that is permitted to exist only at the sufferance of Democrats and liberals in the media -- is not worth saving. Who needs it?

It is important to understand that conservatives in Connecticut have played no part in the destruction of the Republican Party – none. The real opposition to Democrat programs, such as it is, has come from frustrated conservatives, who have been vigorously opposed by the Democrat majority, Republican moderates and abettors of the one party state in Connecticut’s truckling media.

So, we have a one party state. How do we fix this?

There are different prescriptions. Kevin Rennie, a Hartford Courant columnist, lawyer and former moderate Republican state lawmaker, suggests that the successful strategies of Maine senator Olympia Snowe be replicated throughout New England. Rennie describes Snowe as “the very model of a moderate modern Republican,” wildly popular in Maine. He suggests a New England summit of Republicans in Boston, “the birthplace of rebellion,” where the party can develop successful winning strategies and bring itself back from the dead.

But Connecticut has already been there, done that. Snowe is not more popular than Rell. The object in all this should be to elevate a party rather than a politician. And there has never been – in the whole history of the world – a revolution begun and sustained by moderates.

The heartiest revolutionist in Boston was Sam Adams. This is what Sam Adams said about the moderates of his day: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We seek not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; may your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

That enlivening sentiment, the spark that lit a country on fire, cannot not sit well with moderate Republicans such as Snowe or Rennie, who would rather cooperate with the present system than overthrow it.
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