Monday, July 08, 2013

The Coming Democratic Party Campaign


Governor Dannel Malloy already has been asked countless times whether he intends to defend his seat in the upcoming 2014 elections, to which impertinent questions he has responded coyly – maybe yes, maybe no. This is the default answer to questions that would prematurely commit the governor to an open and transparent campaign.

Republicans considering running for governor have been no less coy. Before he knocked himself off as a possible Republican contender for Mr. Malloy’s seat, Larry Cafero was every bit the Republican gubernatorial tease; Republicans Tom Foley and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney are still fetchingly turning an ankle in the direction of Connecticut’s media: Maybe yes, maybe no.


Mr. Foley launched his think tank, the Connecticut Policy Institute (CPI), way back in May, at which time he said he would be inclined to run again for governor, according to one report, if Connecticut “was not faring well” at the point during which he would be prepared to make a firm decision. CPI, which may give Mr. Foley some exposure as a big thinker, issued its first pronunciamento on the state’s income tax.

One of the more amusing responses to CPI came from Roy Occhiogrosso. “It’s not a think tank. It’s a political front for Tom Foley. That’s all it is. That’s all it has been. That’s all it ever will be. It’s like pitching me on TV as an objective political analyst. People need to understand when they agree to appear at a CPI event, they are for all intents and purposes supporting Tom Foley’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.”

Mr. Occhiogrosso’s predictable political response may be a bit overheated. Initially connected as a partner with Global Strategies Group (GSG) from 2003 to 2010, Mr. Occhigrosso was tapped by then newly elected Governor Dan Malloy to serve as his senior adviser and chief strategist. According to GSG’s site,  “A top consultant on Governor Malloy’s successful campaign bid in 2010, Occhiogrosso has since overseen all communications operations for the Office of the Governor. In addition, he has served as chief spokesperson and speechwriter, and advised on the framing of all major policy issues for the Administration.”

After his stint as Mr. Malloy’s chief apologist, Mr. Occhiogrosso vanished two years later back into the non-political woodwork, emerging briefly from the GSG think tank to scorn Mr. Foley’s think tank. Mr. Occchigrosso’s faux outrage may most charitably be put down to professional jealousy. In Connecticut’s one party state, what possible purpose could be served by an objective if partisan Republican think tank? Must be a nasty political plot to seize political power from the Democratic political monopolists.

How rude!

There is nothing wrong with think tanks per se, provided the people associated with them produce a thoughtful product rather than political bumper stickers.

Mr. McKinney recently announced an eight-town “Fiscal Responsibility Tour,” in the course of which he will be “discussing” Mr. Malloy’s fatal missteps as governor. At some point, Mr. Malloy and other incumbent Democrats will be announcing their own “listening tours.” Mr. Malloy in particular appreciates “listening” to Connecticut citizens; such events give the governor an opportunity to gauge pro and con responses to his progressive programs and to discard at will impediments to his forward progress whenever they interfere with his self-ordained plans to re-invent Connecticut.

Federal and state party regulations, the prospect of public campaign financing, pending nomination conventions, the election calendar, the possibility of primaries and strategic campaign fantasies serve to distort what should be a simple and straightforward process. Apart from partisan newspapers, Abe Lincoln, considered the father of the modern Republican Party, had no think tanks to draw upon, and Andy Jackson, considered the father of the modern Democratic Party, was not in the habit of hiding his political ambitions behind group think flower pots.

The direction and substance of the Democratic Party’s upcoming campaigns may be adduced from gubernatorial pronouncements and the recent actions of the Democrat dominated General Assembly. Party platforms are affirmed in state conventions, but they are assembled by the party in power in the course of governing. The forward movement of the Democratic Party during the administration of the first Democratic governor in more than 20 years has been unabashedly progressive.

In the course of the last 30 months, Democrats have, in no special order of importance: 1) abolished Connecticut’s death penalty shortly after a mass murder in Cheshire and just before a mass murder in Sandy Hook; 2) under color of preventing the mass murder of school children, restricted the purchase of guns by citizens who have no intention of murdering school children; 3) created a Mike Lawlor get-out-of-jail-early credit program that loosed upon two cities two early release prisoners who murdered – with guns illegally acquired – two easily forgotten victims; 4) imposed upon the state during a malingering recession the largest tax increase in its history; 5) removed from the state “spending cap” about &400 million so that General Assembly Democrats will be able in the future to spend more money borrowed from young people who have their eyes fixed on the exit signs; 6) boosted Connecticut’s minimum wage, a politically useful measure that will induce companies who hire low wage workers to recover lost costs by not hiring low wage workers…

 
But really, never mind all that grousing. Keep your eye on the glittering disco campaign ball. Objective reality is, after all, a mental construct. What matters are the highly entertaining fictions produced by campaign consultants who pop in and out of the political coo-coo clock every fifteen minutes on the hour with their focus group tested messages.
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