Thursday, June 19, 2014

Foley’s Non-Campaign And Powell’s Platform

Republican Mayor Boughton of Danbury has bowed out of the gubernatorial campaign, apparently because he could not raise sufficient funds in time to gain access to public financing. When John McKinney appeared in Hartford to debate other Republican candidates for governor, he found himself quite alone.  Mr. Boughton had withdrawn, and Republican Party nominee for governor Tom Foley has been assiduously avoiding debates with other Republican gubernatorial candidates. Odd-makers think it will be a Foley-Malloy gubernatorial race after the primary in August. Joe Visconti is still in the race. Assuming the odds-makers are right, how will Mr. Foley fare against Mr. Malloy?

No one knows because, possibly for strategic reasons, Mr. Foley is playing his cards very close to his vest. Usually, part of a contestant’s hand is shown during primary debates. Before declaring he intended to run again for office, Mr. Malloy said he was delaying his announcement because he wanted to give Republican gubernatorial contestants an opportunity to bloody themselves in a primary campaign. That has not happened. One might consider this an upside, but there is a downside to a quiet, uneventful campaign.

Apart from a few vague assertions at the Republican Party nominating convention, Mr. Foley did not offer up a campaign platform. Party platforms, a usual feature at conventions, have gone by the wayside. Republicans at the state nominating convention this year were casting their ballots for persons, not articulated programs. If a candidate does not offer a platform of some kind early in a race, he or she is simply allowing the contest to be defined by what we might call the correlation of forces: incumbent politicians, campaign propaganda networks and the media, among other shaping influences. It is extremely important in Connecticut, a one-party Democratic state, for Republican gubernatorial prospects to set their own course. By failing to do so, Republicans simply trust fate to decide elections. And here in Connecticut, fate is a Democrat.

What might such a platform or program look like?

Journal Inquirer Managing Editor and columnist Chris Powell put that question to himself recently. His answer to it may be found in one of his columns, “What A Real Campaign For Governor Might Address.”

On education, the state should attend to what Mr. Powell calls social promotion, which has flooded colleges with illiterates and degraded diplomas. End social promotion and see to it that all students can read and figure by, say, fourth grade; a reform of this kind would liquidate about half of Connecticut’s state college system, and the resulting savings then might be used to finance universal preschool, which would remediate “some of the damage done by childbearing outside marriage and save money for many working parents.”

Employee compensation should be frozen for four years. If unions prove obstreperous, the governor should, as an emergency measure, repeal collective bargaining for government employees. State government should withdraw from the pension business and provide “new employees only  with defined-contribution pensions, 401(k)s -- the kind taxpayers have to settle for… Binding arbitration of state and municipal employee union contracts should be repealed, or, better, the arbiters should be elected, since opposition to that by the unions will expose their opposition to democracy.”

Social disintegration might be ameliorated “by outlawing welfare benefits for households with children born outside marriage, with current welfare households grandfathered. State government then should take custody of children born into such neglectful circumstances, and the ‘family reunification’ policy of the state Department of Children and Families should be discarded as the costly and often fatal coddling of the slob culture. When government no longer finances child neglect and abuse, most of it will stop.”

The criminalization of drugs should be replaced with much less expensive drug rehabilitation programs. This measure will end a good deal of violent crime, “as well as most of the work of the criminal-justice system and prisons… With drugs decriminalized, state prosecutors should be directed to focus on government corruption and welfare fraud, which are rampant even as there are virtually no state prosecutions for them.”

The state should require nursing homes to bid competitively for welfare patients. Crony capitalism should be thrown on the dustbin of history: “Direct grants and tax breaks for particular companies in the name of economic development -- corporate welfare -- should be outlawed.”

One may quibble with part or all of such a platform, but this at least is a platform and not a pointless gesture in the direction of a platform.

You cannot beat a bad idea in politics by refusing to offer a compensating good idea. And you cannot hope to beat Mr. Malloy by hoping he has beaten himself. Pursue that course and you will leave a beaten state in the hands of a merciless correlation of forces.
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