Friday, October 28, 2016

In Praise Of Mathew Corey, With Interior Footnotes

Matthew Corey is the Republican Party’s sacrificial lamb this year in the 1st District’s U.S. Congressional contest (“Sacrificial lamb,” a term derived from Abrahamic religion traditions in which a lamb is prized as a highly valued possession and then sacrificed to a higher power).

Mr. Corey is running in a gerrymandered district that Republicans last held in 1957. In fact, the District has been a Democratic satrapy for all but six years since 1931. The demography of the District is a very picture of fate as it was understood by the ancient Greeks – powerful, tragic or comic and always inescapable.

The voter breakdown in the District runs like this: Democrat active voters 156,784; Republicans 71,932; Unaffiliateds 172,626.  The Harford Courant, not unexpectedly, has recently sprinkled its endorsement over Democrat U.S. Representative John Larson. Two days before aspersing Mr. Larson with journalistic holy water, the paper encouraged the nation to replace former Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi with Mr. Larson, assuming Democrats are able to seize the House, because, among other reasons, Mr. Larson holds a safe seat and therefore will not be in danger of being upended by folk like Mr. Corey.

The endorsement surprised no one. Most recently the paper has endorsed Elizabeth Esty over Republican challenger Clay Cope in a 5th District election for yet another House seat. Previously, the Courant had endorsed Mrs. Esty over Andrew Roraback who, following his loss, was appointed to the Superior Court by Governor Dannel Malloy. That endorsement was highly irregular, given the usual tick-off list deployed by the Courant’s Editorial Board. Mr. Roraback had more experience than Mrs. Esty. He was, if possible, more progressive than Mrs. Esty on social issues (Mr. Roraback’s cousin, Catherine Roraback, litigated several landmark cases, including Griswold v. Connecticut, the first successful challenge to Connecticut’s restrictive  birth control law), and he might easily have sprung fully grown politically from the foreheads of the Zeuses who write editorial endorsements (See Hesiod, who has Athena, goddess of war, springing fully formed from the head of Zeus). In the paper’s most recent Esty endorsement, the editorial board reckons that Esty’s readmission to an all-Democratic Connecticut U.S. Congressional delegation will be a triumph for bipartisanship (Go figure).

Mr. Corey is the Republican Party’s Promethean figure. Prometheus, it will be recalled by anyone who attended High School in Connecticut before the silly 1960s, after which classical curriculums in Connecticut schools were thrown on the ash bin of history, was that figure in Greek mythology who brought fire and light (wisdom) to men. The gods, of course, wanted men and women to remain weak and stupid, the better to rule over them. Light and wisdom allow men and women to share in godly forethought (“Promethesus” means forethought; the Titan’s brother was Epimetheus, after-thought. There now – see what the kids are missing when they take courses in White Privilege rather than Greek Mythology?)

For his service to mankind, Prometheus was tied to a rock by the gods and an eagle that visited him daily fed on his liver, a punishment that was to last as long as gods ruled the affairs of men, and women too.

To bring all this back to our glorious 21st century -- which has hauled the gods down from heaven and appointed them editorial page editors and political commentators and media talking heads and political consultants and PAC leaders and Corey critics – we should be asking ourselves the all-important question: Is democracy dead yet?

We have a Democratic Party, but do we have democracy? We have a Republican Party, but do we have a republic? Is democracy alive and well in the 1st District? Can democracy coexist peacefully with gerrymandered districts in which a politician, once having achieved office, can be dislodged only by the grim reaper?

Political philosophy is political theory filtered through common sense. The philosophic answers to the two above questions are no and no. Gerrymandered districts are Party fortresses impregnable to any democratic assault. A politician hunkered down in his gerrymandered district is safe from the usual democratic incursion pretty much in the same way Zeus was safe from Prometheus.

There are three solutions to hegemonic politics in gerrymandered districts: 1) Redraw the districts so that they are, as much as possible, contiguous to town lines, a measure that would strengthen the bond between municipal and state government or 2) institute term limits. This may not dispose of the problem altogether, but it would recirculate politicians-for-life in safe party districts throughout the wider political system and re-energize voters on autopilot. Denied a sinecure-for-life in the 1st District, the occupant of that office -- after, say, four terms in the U.S. House -- would move on to some other political slot and become available as a candidate for Governor or the U.S. Senate, these positions being term-limited as well. Yet another possibility: From a sense of fair play – and a tortured conscience -- politicians occupying impregnable districts for more than four terms might take a leaf from the playbooks of self-abnegating politicians and limit themselves appropriately.

No doubt the change would disappoint the Zeuses of the nation, but democracy would at long last be liberated from its rock.

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