Sunday, November 07, 2010

Post Mortems and Prophecies

It’s usual after elections to see a flurry of post mortems and prophecies in the media.

On one point, Connecticut’s media is almost in universal agreement: Money talks, but it cannot alone win elections. This perception was trotted out during the Linda McMahon campaign almost from its inception. The Republican convention, it has been asserted dozens of times, went for money over good sense. The convention might have chosen the superior senatorial candidate, Rob Simmons, over McMahon, but the glitter of gold bewitched Republicans. McMahon had vowed to spend as much as $50 million on her campaign. Her money, spend mostly on TV advertising and campaign staff, reduced Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s early lead from 40 to 9 points. But in the end, the sainted Blumenthal survived handsomely and now will go on in the U.S. Congress to assault businesses with much rhetorical brio as he deployed as attorney general. His replacement as attorney general, George Jepsen, has said often enough during his own campaign that he would be more discrete in chasing businesses out of Connecticut, and there were broad hints in his campaign that the new attorney general would seriously address a backlog of cases now being litigated.

The analysis supposes that Simmons, whose service record is unimpeachable and honorable, might have had a better chance at assaulting Blumenthal’s assertion, made several times in various venues, that he had served in Vietnam while, as a matter of record, he first successfully avoided the draft through a series of deferments and then served stateside during the war out of harm’s way.

Blumenthal’s lapses in this regard, measured against his record as attorney general, more or less balanced out. The voting public simply weighed mitigating factors against aggravating factors and concluded that Blumenthal was innocent as charged. It’s doubtful that Simmons could have exploited the several “lapses in judgments” made by Blumenthal any better than McMahon, who was seriously wounded by video clips of wrestlers being wrestlers.

Simmons would not have had sufficient funds to counteract millionaire Blumenthal’s well funded campaign. It may seem counterintuitive, but state Republicans are unable to marshal funding as successfully as Democrats. When one considers money actually spent in state campaigns, Republicans are, relatively speaking, dressed in rags compared to their richly appointed opponents. In his congressional campaign, John Larson, who might have won in the gerrymandered 1st District on a dime, had raised $2.7 million by the end of September; Brickley had on hand about $250,000. Oddly, few voices were raised in the press claiming that the well heeled Larson was attempting to "buy the election." Republicans were vastly outspent by Democrats across the board, except in the case of McMahon, an exception that proved the rule. Connecticut’s constitutionally questionable Campaign Finance Reform Bill was supposed to restore integrity to elections and level the political playing field, but the spirit of the bill was subverted by a last minute decision on the part of the Democratic dominated legislature to supply the state’s future governor, Dan Malloy, with an additional $3 million, and the recent vote counting follies in Bridgeport very likely could not have been prevented through any legislation conceived in what has now become a one party Democratic run state.

Following the messy vote count in Bridgeport, the Hartford Courant, for whose editorial writers the glass is always half full, shot a pea across the bow of the next governor.

The paper has detected warning signs “that a new ethos of sacrifice and austerity is needed in the corridors of power. There can be no business as usual. The state's perilous fiscal condition and its barren record of producing jobs won't allow it.” Malloy’s campaign stumbled on the death penalty – over the opposition of a majority of Connecticut voters, the Democratic dominated legislature will push through yet another bill abolishing the death penalty, and this time it will be signed by Malloy, the previous abolition bill having been vetoed by outgoing Governor Jodi Rell – however, “the main reason the election was so close was the fear by many voters that Mr. Malloy wouldn't be tough enough in challenging the legislature and the unions to shrink the size and cost of government.”

Of course, any shrinkage in either spending or the cost of government in the new one party state will be temporary. Tax increases will be permanent. But the Courant, as well as other left of center publications in the state, knew this when they threw their editorial support to Democrats. In a democracy, people always get the kind of government they deserve. In a left of center media monopoly, they get what’s good for them.

Malloy will have the same problem as Rell with the union controlled leadership in the General Assembly. The Democratic caucus in the legislature will no doubt be amused by both the pea shooters and the peas lobbed at them across the editorial desks at those papers where half empty glasses are always half full.
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