Friday, January 07, 2011

Mapping Malloy's Victory

Pictures, it is said, are worth a thousand words. And so is the red-blue map taken from the pages of the Register Citizen. The map shows towns in Connecticut in which citizens cast votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election for either Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy (Blue) or Republican Party challenger Tom Foley (Red). Mr. Foley won in 126 towns, while Mr. Malloy won in 43 towns, prominent among them Connecticut’s large cities, Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven.

Excluding the three major cities won by Mr. Malloy, Mr. Foley led Mr. Malloy by a 51 to 47 percent margin, according to the paper.

Barry Goldwater, the conservative presidential candidate and precursor to President Ronald Reagan who peeked too early, is famous for having said about California and New England, two areas of the country that seem always to vote reflexively for the most liberal candidates, that if you exclude them “… you have a pretty good country.”

Voters living in the 126 red indicated towns might be forgiven for thinking similarly about Connecticut’s major cities. The gubernatorial election – as well as other state wide elections – was won in the cities by a Democratic Party that, in one instance, simply rented out its vote gathering effort to out of city groups, many of them union connected.

That datum raises some interesting questions. Far more than Republicans, Democratic state-wide office holders – the governor and lieutenant governor, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Comptroller and the Treasurer – owe their seats to special interests. Will they remember their obligations when they are in office and legislation passes under their noses that affects the special interests responsible for their elevation to office? The question is especially pertinent when a bill or a policy so approved tends to affect in a negative way what might be called the general interest or the general good.

Nearly everyone running for office this year, no matter on which side of the political barricades he or she chose to stand, was in agreement that an increase in jobs would advance the general good. When more people are working, the tax pie increases proportionally, while the individual tax bite may remain the same or be reduced. Everyone benefits when a state is so situated, relative to other states, that the flow of enterprise runs from other states into their own. Reversing the flow so that jobs travel from Connecticut to, say, Texas, provides a benefit to Texas; but an inrush of industry to Connecticut will benefit city and suburb alike.

There is an in-state division of long standing between city and suburb. Moving from city to suburb has, throughout the history of all the New England states, been a sign of prosperity and upward mobility. The potato famine Irish clustered in the hovels of Boston in the pre-Civil war period moved, as their personal circumstances improved, from city to suburb. But the vehicle that made the move possible was an expanding post Civil War economy. As jobs became more plentiful, the old religious and cultural animus that had been jousting grounds between the haves and the have nots quite simply vanished. It was a rise in personal income and status that provided the melt within the melting pot.

What the red-blue map shows, far more than a political division, is the end result of a long recessional in which the haves, who live in suburbs, will lock horns, if we are not very careful, with the needy in cities who have not -- for a whole series of reasons sociological, economic and cultural. A high incidence of crime, the dissolution of the traditional family as a cohesive sociological unit, the breakdown of traditional neighborhoods, the absence of working fathers in households, an aversion in the broader culture to religion as a spiritual unifier – all this, and more, has contributed to the infantilization of city populations. Central to this breakdown is the terrible isolation of those who live in job poor cities from which the middle class has fled, leaving behind, at a period in which jobs are scare and personal wealth is diminishing, a residue that is resistant to assimilation into the wider culture.

How to make the pot melt again is a more significant and important question than many other of the so called political questions arising from a serious contemplation of the red-blue map.

Not to be unduly apocalyptical, but the direction our state and nation will take in the very near future depends upon how this question is answered and who provides the answer.
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