The morticians are palavering over the corpse of the Foley campaign. Two of them, former U.S. House Representative Chris Shays and former Republican U.S. Senator and Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker, are quoted in a story in a urban newspaper.
Mr. Weicker, who declined to run for a second term as governor after he had fathered Connecticut’s income tax and who as a Maverick Republican Senator often described himself contentedly as a “turd in the Republican Party punchbowl,” thought his former party had pandered to the National Rifle Association (NRA). He said, “I absolutely reject the pandering to the NRA and the gun lobby in Connecticut. They didn't want to rock the boat. Well, Jesus, the boat needing rocking, if you look at what happened up there in [Newtown] with that nutcase.”
Mr. Shays, the last moderate Republican U.S. House member in all of New England, echoed Mr. Weicker ardent feelings: “Our party is so hurting. You don't let one group determine who a candidate should be when gun control is a non-existent issue compared to what our state is faced with. We're losing jobs and we're losing wealth."
Both Mr. Weicker and Mr. Shays thought former Republican Party state Senate leader John McKinney would have made a more formidable candidate than Tom Foley. When Mr. McKinney lacked a sufficient number of delegate votes at the Republican Party nominating convention to continue his gubernatorial candidacy, Mr. Foley, it was rumored, made certain that he received a sufficient number of cross-over votes to continue his campaign.
It simply is not true that the Republican nominating convention had been captured by the NRA. Mr. McKinney more likely was voted down by the convention because he was perceived to be a creature of the legislature. Mr. Foley had run against Mr. Malloy previously, losing by a very narrow margin, and it would have been awkward for the Republican convention not to have affirmed a second run. The notion that the NRA is directing the tiller of the state Republican Party is part of the political mythos created by the National Democratic Party machine, which is at least as progressive as Mr. Weicker, if not more so. Grownup Republicans who have the best interests of their party at heart will not fall for the imposture. But then they are not quite as susceptible to Democratic campaign propaganda as are most members of Connecticut’s left of center media. Dangle a hook with a left of center worm on it before the lips of Connecticut’s media, which has too many friends among the state’s hegemonic Democratic Party machine, and they will lap it up like candy. It was Joseph Pulitzer, after whom the Pulitzer Prize is named, who memorably said “A newspaper should have no friends.”
Mr. Weicker and Mr. Shays do, however, raise an important question: Where have all the moderates, both Republicans and Democrats, gone? One is tempted to reply in the words of the old Pete Seegar folk song -- “gone to graveyards, everyone.” The “moderate” in modern politics is deader than the Foley campaign. All the moderate Republican members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation, which once included Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons and Chris Shays – have been replaced by progressive Democrats, and they were not dislodged because they were proponents of the NRA. They were dislodged because they were Republican moderates thrown out on their tails by a resurgent progressivism.
Rob Simmons -- who ought not to be lumped in among gun averse politicians that regularly and shamelessly pander to the anti-NRA crowd – would have made a much better Republican candidate for governor than either Mr. Weicker or Mr. Foley. Anti-NRAism has become the fetish of the left, and Mr. Simmons’ real service as a Colonel in the U.S. Marines during a real shooting war, Vietnam, has inoculated him permanently against such stupid fables. As a candidate for governor, Mr. Simmons would not have carried with him into a gubernatorial campaign the taint of having been a creature of a state legislature that had deprived Connecticut of its character as a prudent tax and regulation averse state. Mr. Weicker is more than the father of the state income tax: He is the Grand Seigneur of a budget that has tripled on the tax and spending side within the space of three governors and, as such, should not be offering advice to a party poised to embrace more modest governance.
The Republican Party in Connecticut is dying because it is poor and out of power. It is poor because campaign financing regulations divert campaign funds from parties to people, usually deathless progressive incumbents. It is out of power because it is timid and too moderate at time when progressives are at their weakest, at least nationally. In a political campaign, you cannot beat something with nothing; you cannot beat someone with no one.
If Connecticut’s Republican Party were really smart, party members would begin today to groom Rob Simmons as Republican Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016. Mr. Simmons is not gun-phobic; he is not afraid to fight the good fight; unlike Mr. Weicker, he is tied by strong bonds of affection to his party; and Mr. Simmons is a real marine who, unlike present U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, fought in a hot war, while Mr. Blumenthal was passing out teddy bears to children in Washington D.C., falsely claiming later,on numerous occasions, that he was a veteran of the Vietnam War.
If these remarks seem to some a prelude to a movement to draft Mr. Simmons to run against Mr. Blumenthal, I can only plead guilty. Mr. Blumenthal, however, is among the half dozen richest members of the U.S. Congress, and the state Republican Party is the poor cousin of the major parties. Where, then, will Mr. Simmons get the money to wage a creditable campaign?