During the last presidential election, Republicans put up against a popular president a candidate, Mitt Romney, who had a deep and admirable political and business history. Republicans were surprised when President Barack Obama, perhaps the most progressive political candidate since progressivism was showcased in a serious way in the 1912 national election, walked back into the Oval Office unruffled and unscathed.
The election was supposed to have pivoted on the economy – stupid. Instead, a majority of voters, overlooking economic indicators that almost certainly would have sunk the prospects of a lesser candidate, were persuaded to give Mr. Obama a second chance.
For Republicans, the “take-away” from the election ought to have been: Social issues trump economic issues – stupid.
During the last election, especially in Connecticut, Republicans had managed to keep a ten foot pole between themselves and social issues, while Democrats joyously embraced the notion of a paternalistic state. Mr. Obama had managed to cobble together a new coalition that gave him a significant margin in the election. He pulled others with him into office, especially within Connecticut and the New England states. Moderate Republicans – left of center on social issues – lost heavily to progressive Democrats disguised, for purposes of the election, as left of center traditional Democrats. After the election, the masks quickly came off.
No one should have been surprised at the magnitude of the losses for moderate Republicans in Connecticut and throughout the Northeast. The moderate Republican has been a species slated for extinction for a couple of decades. When Chris Shays lost his bid for the U.S. House in 2008, he was the last left of center House Republican in all of New England.
Barry Goldwater used to joke that if you lopped off California and New England, “You’ve got a pretty good country.” Connecticut, for all practical purposes now a one party state, has been effectively lopped off and added to the Democratic basket as an economic basket case. All the state’s Constitutional offices are held by Democrats; the Democrats have controlled the state Senate since 1996 and the state House since 1986; and with the ascendancy of Dannel Malloy to the governor’s office in 2011, the Democrats were able to breech the so called Republican gubernatorial “fire wall’ for the first time since Governor William O’Neill had occupied the office. The clean sweep has made it possible for Mr. Malloy effectively to marginalize Republicans in the General Assembly. Republican leaders in the legislature were not permitted to put their fingerprints on either of the two budgets cobbled together by Mr. Malloy, progressive Democrats in the General Assembly with knives in their brains and SEBAC, the coalition of Connecticut unions authorized to negotiate contracts with the state.
The media in Connecticut -- for ideological and business reasons warmly attached to the Democratic Party – only lately has begun to notice that the state is slipping beneath an economic receding tide. The news that Connecticut had come in dead last among the 50 states in economic growth, according to a Bureau of Economic Analysis report made public on the day following the close of the budget session, was greeted by the state’s astonished left of center media with a gasp of astonishment. Business reporter for the Hartford Courant Dan Haar wrote, “In 18 years of following economic reports daily, this is the most shocking piece of news I've seen, period. As a bombshell, it rivals the $2.2 billion loss posted in January 1989 by Bank of New England — heralding the region's worst recession since World War II.”
Considering the nearly universal left of center bias of the state’s media, Republicans – if they ever should successfully raise a barricade against improvident spending – will not find the media on the right side of the fortification. Connecticut’s media is uniformly convinced that hard times necessitates a strong central government to spur the economy by diverting tax dollars gathered from businesses already flagellated by burdensome regulations and high taxes to other promising companies the directing state regards as fruitful “investments.” The unitary state and high taxation invariably leads to a self-defeating crony capitalism in which taxpayers, rather than company investors, are forced to bear the burden of failure while one percenters enjoy infrequent successes.
Democrats this year have increased spending about 10 percent, when economic indicators show a flat-lining economy. They have imposed on the state the largest tax increase in its history. They have abolished the death penalty following a horrific multiple murder in Cheshire, which was followed by an even more horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (The shooter in that instance committed suicide; but, had he survived, Connecticut would have been forced to incarcerate the 20 year-old Adam Lanza for life. The death penalty abolition was passed by a cowardly, election conscious General Assembly that left in place the punishment for 11 prisoners on death row in clear violation of a principle underlying all jurisprudence pithily stated in Latin: Nulla poena sine lege – “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” Reporting on debates in the House of Commons, Samuel Johnson drew the proper corollary from the centuries old legal doctrine: “That where there is no law there is no transgression, is a maxim not only established by universal consent, but in itself evident and undeniable; and it is, Sir, surely no less certain that where there is no transgression, there can be no punishment.”)
Somewhere in this mush of progressivism an effective Republican counter campaign awaits birth. Whether Connecticut Republicans can tease from it a message that will spark a cleansing rebellion in Connecticut’s cities and towns depends ultimately upon the indispensable three M’s of any successful campaign: message, money and media.