Former US Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker – now retired from public affairs and living the life in Old Lyme – once again has stepped forward on the public stage to tell Republicans in Connecticut what they must do to save themselves from the destruction wrought upon their party by Lowell Weicker, among others.
The first thing they must do is to abandon the ideas of former President Ronald Reagan and embrace the ideas of Mr. Weicker. And of course if Republicans in his overtaxed and over-regulated tottering state saw fit to nominate for public office people just like Mr. Weicker, that would be a cherry on the state’s cake. And, oh yes – let us not forget – Mr. Weicker and his enablers on the Hartford Courant’s editorial board want the Connecticut GOP to open its primary doors to unaffiliateds.
Republicans in Connecticut, Mr. Weicker told the Courant, are quite literally insane, because they are always doing the same thing and expecting a different result, Einstein’s definition of insanity.
“The ‘same thing’ in your case,” Mr. Weicker told the Courant, “is losing elections by trying to duplicate the GOP of the Reagan years. Moderate Republicanism was successful until William F. Buckley and the tea party conservatives staged their Trojan horse coup. It's time to broaden the tent by changing party rules permitting unaffiliated voters to vote in Republican primaries. Republicans had that rule once, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, only to have conservatives toss it and attain greater exclusivity resulting in greater vulnerability.”
Let’s examine these over masticated “ideas.”
The Tea Party – not really a “party,” but rather a spontaneous reaction in Connecticut to years of progressive rule culminating in the largest tax increases in Connecticut history, an income tax authored by Mr. Weicker and yet another broad based tax increase authored by present Governor Dannel Malloy – has little or nothing to do with the present shape of politics in Connecticut. The Tea Party counter revolution is too recent in the state to have produced any positive legislative results.
While it is true Mr. Weicker’s bete noir Bill Buckley, the father of the post-World War II American conservative movement, did play a back stage role in ridding the US Senate of Mr. Weicker, Mr. Buckley’s political influence reaped a much larger harvest elsewhere in the nation. Republicans reclaimed the US Senate in the last election and now control both houses of Congress. In the aftermath of the Reagan revolution elsewhere in the country, Republicans now have the largest majority in the US House since World War II, and they control 31 state legislatures, 11 of which are controlled by Democrats, not a bad haul.
Meanwhile, in the land of steady habits, conservativism has left no imprint on the Connecticut Republican Party, which has continued to be decimated by progressives. Mr. Weicker cannot name more than a handful of prominent Republican office holders who are boastfully conservative. In Connecticut’s US Congressional delegation, all moderate Republican office holders have been replaced by progressive Democrats: Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays, and Rob Simmons, all of whom served in the Congress with Weicker, were MODERATE REPUBLICANS. This is not to say Mr. Weicker was in any sense a moderate.
As US Senator and the nominal head of his party in Connecticut, Weicker avoided campaigning conspicuously for GOP members of the state’s US Congressional delegation. Weicker himself was an uber-liberal Republican. Really -- he was. Any of the political columnists writing at the time easily could have looked it up, if they so wished. Indeed, according to Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal rating service, Weicker was, in ADA’s 1986 rankings, 20 percentage points MORE liberal than fellow Democratic Senator Chris Dodd. Weicker called himself, approvingly, “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl” and reverenced his own bristly, maverick brand.
There was no effective opposition to Senator Weicker in Connecticut among active conservative Connecticut politicians, largely because nearly all active Republican politicians during Weicker’s twenty year reign were moderates.
The coup against US Senator Weicker was brought on largely by Mr. Weicker. In the end, Mr. Weicker was tossed aside by a) Democrats who decided to vote for a real liberal Democrat, former US Senator Joe Lieberman, rather than a liberal Jacob Javits Republican, and b) Connecticut Republicans whose ribs had been battered for years by a maverick who had been using his own party as a foil to secure election in a state in which Democrats outnumbered moderate Republicans by a margin of two to one.
Now that Mr. Weicker has been evacuated, the Republican Party in Connecticut may develop organically. In time -- if the party does not succumb to Mr. Weicker’s latest attempt to blow it up by opening its primaries to unaffiliateds -- the GOP in Connecticut might even elect a non-progressive Republican governor, as did Massachusetts, formerly known as Taxachussetts.