Monday, January 04, 2016

Connecticut, Three Chinese Curses, And Esty’s Prospects

“May you be born in interesting times” – a Chinese curse

U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty, elected to office a little less than four years ago, is up for re-election in 2016, and Republicans may have a good shot at the seat for a number of reasons.

The 5th is a swing District; the Democratic Party’s nominee for President likely will be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not as charismatic a public figure as President Barack Obama, who has lost considerable luster during his second term; world events have cast a dark shadow over foreign and domestic policy prescriptions that appear to have failed; and Ms. Esty is the least politically adept of the seven members of Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional Delegation.

In past times, when Democratic Presidential nominees have carried Connecticut, Congressional nominees have been swept into office on their coattails. The figures are especially dramatic in the Senatorial theater. Since 1940 eight U.S. Senators have been swept into the Congress when a Democratic Party nominee won the Presidency, a perfect 8-0 score. But coattails are sometimes trimmed by events, and we live, as the Chinese adage has it, “in interesting times.”

The often quoted Chinese adage is one of three sly curses. The other two are: “May you come to the attention of those in authority" and, perhaps the most poisonous of the malisons, “May you find what you are looking for."

Our times are “interesting” in the Chinese sense: unquiet, ever changing and, as such, subject to the whimsy of brute force, fraught with danger, big with misery. Abroad, the fires of a violent Salifist insurgency rooted in Islamic religious prescriptions are raging across the Middle East, and a demographic doom hangs over Western Europe. Its loins have faltered; in most of Western Europe, the replacement population has dwindled to dangerously low levels. Western Europe – the center of Christian civilization since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Europe of Charles Martel, of his grandson Charlemagne, of the Protestant Reformation, of the answering Catholic Counter-Reformation, of Britain’s Glorious Revolution, of the Enlightenment period, of the American Republican Revolution – all this and more is being bred out of existence. In Italy, the number of people who die exceeds the number born.  In much of Europe, the story is the same. The replacement Total Fertility Rate (TFR) per woman for population lost to death is 2. The TFR in the United States 1.87, in Europe and Canada 1.6, compared to 2.3 in 1970. The TFR in Iraq is 4.12. In the Western World, what has not been lost culturally to a civilization that brought us the genius of Homer and Dante and the world view of John Locke and John Adams will be lost to insufficient fertility. Demography is destiny.

In a democracy,  people get the kind of government they deserve. Democratic civilizations wax or wane depending upon the civic virtue of the general population that elects or appoints its representatives. The expression “civic virtue” here is used as it was understood by John Adams: “Free society lives under the rule of law not the rule of man." Virtue is a power of acting, and virtue in this sense is crowded out by a bureaucracy of experts: The more powerful the government, the less powerful the people; the more virtuous the government, the less virtuous the people.

Which brings us to the second Chinese curse: All of Connecticut, it seems, has “come to the attention of those in authority.” Progressivism is the anti-democratic doctrine that experts know best – that the rule and reign of experts should, when necessary, supplant the rule of constitutional, statutory and moral law and ought, always and everywhere, to be given full rein. In Connecticut, we are all progressives now. Moderate Democrats in Connecticut have long since given up the ghost and, among Connecticut’s progressive Democrats, one does not often find convincing appeals to the vanished breed.

There are no Republicans among Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation, the last moderate Republican, Chris Shays, having fallen in 2008 to present U.S. Representative Jim Himes, who was swept into office on Barack Obama’s hope and change coattails.

Representative Esty defeated her erstwhile Democratic primary opponent Chris Donovan, a progressive hot-shot, only after Mr. Donovan’s campaign had been weakened by the prosecution and arrest of his finance director and other Donovan aides. Mrs. Esty then defeated Republican Party nominee Andrew Roraback in the general election. Mr. Roraback’s creds as a fiscal conservative-social liberal were impeccable; his cousin, Catherine Roraback, was the feminist lawyer who successfully defended Estelle Griswold and Dr. C. Lee Buxton in a 1965 Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut, that legalized the use of birth control, first in Connecticut and later across the nation. Despite his positive creds on social issues, Mr. Roraback was unable to secure the endorsement of the left-leaning Hartford Courant editorial board a paper that regularly sees Tea Party threats in every political pot. In the end, Mr. Roraback suffered the same fate as past Republican moderates, though the socially liberal Roraback was rewarded by Governor Dannel Malloy with a position on the Waterbury District Superior Court.

So then, it would appear that Mrs. Esty’s prospects are good if Mrs. Clinton’s prospects are good. Connecticut, the land of steady bad habits, will likely continue to pull its U.S. Congressional Delegation into the orbit of successful Democratic Presidential Candidates. In Connecticut, all the Constitutional offices, the entire U.S. Congressional Delegation, the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly are dominated by Democrats. Connecticut is the most comfortable sinecure for progressive Democrats in the nation, and the state’s only remaining countervailing force, a critical media, has long since surrendered  its traditional mandate – to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable – to the far too comfortable party in power.          

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