Friday, September 05, 2014

Connecticut’s Independentistas


Jonathan Pelto, the once and future Democratic stalwart who had vigorously challenged Governor Dannel Malloy from the left, has closed up shop and is now considering shutting down his blog, Wait What?

Mr. Pelto’s campaign for governor has ended with both a whimper and a bang.

The whimper: Mr. Pelto was not able to garner a sufficient number of legitimate signatures on his petitions to qualify for public funding. His not too opposite number on the Republican side, Joe Visconti, had little difficulty in acquiring sufficient petition signatures to appear on the election ballot as an Independent candidate in November 2014.

Just as some eager Catholics are said to be “holier than the Pope,” so Mr. Pelto put himself forward in his campaign as being more progressive than Mr. Malloy, which brings us to the bang.

In a blog following Mr. Pelto’s announcement  that he had fallen short in collecting petition signatures, “For Whom The Bell Tolls” -- It tolls for him -- Mr. Pelto unleashed his cannons on both Mr. Malloy and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley. Mr. Malloy had understated the coming budget deficit, Mr. Pelto wrote. The coming biennial deficit, Mr. Pelto predicted, will be around $4.8 billion, and such a massive hole can be back-filled only with increased taxes. Mr. Foley has vowed not to squeeze savings from renegotiated union contracts, and Mr. Malloy, living in the fugitive hope that the Connecticut recession will end sometime during his second term, has vowed not to increase taxes.

Mr. Pelto’s progressive cannon then turned in the direction of Connecticut’s still vibrant financial sector. Mr. Malloy’s first term tax increase, the largest in state history, did not tap into the state’s rich financial sector vein, very likely because Mr. Malloy did not wish to chase into New Jersey and New York the One Percenters living the life in Fairfield’s “Gold Coast.” Mr. Pelto has no such compunctions. Dusting off an old bromide abandoned even by Connecticut’s left of center media – Connecticut doesn't have a spending problem; it has a revenue problem – Mr. Pelto, chastising both major party gubernatorial candidates as fantasists, fairly says, though he is still coy about it, a steeply progressive tax should be imposed on Connecticut’s free-booting millionaires. There is but one jar of peanut butter, wealthy Connecticut financiers, left in Connecticut’s depleted tax pantry – Let’s eat it now!

When Mr. Pelto fled the gubernatorial field, Malloyalists breathed a huge sigh of relief. The Malloyalists did not wish their campaign to be spoiled by a “more progressive than Malloy” Independentista. Nor do they wish their re-march to the governor’s office to be spoiled by Mr. Foley, hence the virulence of the Democratic campaign against the captain of industry who destroyed – single-handedly, it would appear from Mr. Malloy's  recent partly misleading regurgitated ad – the Bibb Company of Atlanta, Georgia. One newspaper rated Mr. Malloy’s Bibb ad as “generally accurate” because the “facts” as represented in the ad were not wholly false. In the age of outlier politics, politicians have become adept in utilizing ads crowded with emotional “facts” that lie partly outside the truth.

On the Republican side, independent challenger Joe Visconti made common cause with Mr. Pelto on two points: They both adamantly rejected Common Core for slightly different reasons; and both excoriated crony capitalists for different reasons.

Mr.  Visconti, a live-option Republican spoiler, has given some indication that he hopes to accomplish what Mr. Pelto signally failed to do – attract to his side sufficient union support that will undermine one of the pillars propping up the Malloy campaign. Those who have witnessed the methodical derailment of the Pelto campaign may be forgiven for thinking that Mr. Visconti is dreaming dreams in an imaginary universe of his own making. Public employee unions support Mr. Malloy because they recognize as one of their own a governor who, when push came to shove, imposed burdensome new taxes on the middle class and locked in contractual arrangements beneficial to unions. In his budget negotiations with SEBAC in 2011, the then current benefit agreement between the state and SEBAC was extended to 2022, and the state agreed to forego layoffs for four years. Virtually all important unions in Connecticut endorsed Mr. Malloy over Mr. Pelto, and it is highly fanciful to suppose union leaders -- or the rank and file members whose votes are commandeered by union leadership messaging -- will support either Mr. Visconti or Mr. Foley in the upcoming general election.
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