The usual gubernatorial campaign in Connecticut begins with brave platitudes and ends, once office has been achieved, with whimpering platitudes.
We recall a triumphant Governor Lowell Weicker warning during his gubernatorial campaign that instituting an income tax in the midst of a recession would be like “pouring gas on a fire,” then, having achieved office, hiring as his Office of Policy Management Director Bill Cibes, who ran an honest but losing Democratic primary campaign by agitating for an income tax. Before you could say, “Let’s pour gas on the fire,” Connecticut had its income tax. State businesses have taken note of the ungovernable growth in spending and now have their eyes fixed on the exit signs.
Republican Governor John Rowland was wafted into office on a pledge to repeal Weicker’s incendiary income tax; once in office, the pledge was quickly moved to Rowland’s back burner, where it expired from lack of air.
Governor Jodi Rell, who replaced Rowland when he was sent to jail for the first time for corrupt activity, proved to be an imperfect “firewall” preventing progressive Democrats in the General Assembly from piling up debt through reckless spending. Having declined to run for a third term, Rell passed the gubernatorial reins to then Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy and retired to Florida, far from the hurly burly of tax increases and spending binges.
Enter Governor Malloy, who imposed on Connecticut the largest and second largest tax increases in state history, having hinted in his own campaign that the weight of debt in Connecticut would be more or less evenly distributed between state employee unions and taxpayers.
One political commentator in Connecticut, weary with all the folderol, has now declared war on platitudes and artfully misleading campaigns. Other journalists committed to telling it like it is may follow suit.
“There may be many differences between Republican and Democratic candidates,” Kevin Rennie tells us. “One unhappy trait, however, unites them. They all want to be governor and no one wants to say how they would solve the state's most pressing problems. With the state facing a $5 billion budget deficit this is the ideal moment to unveil detailed, serious solutions before an engaged public. Let a thousand ideas bloom. If they possess the talent to be a successful governor, tell us what you would do right now, in a forbidding hour for Connecticut.”
Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck put such misgivings more succinctly: “A statesman cannot create anything himself. He must wait and listen until he hears the steps of God sounding through events; then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment.”
In progressive Connecticut, belief in God waxes and wanes in proportion to the trust one places in blind fate and cowardly politicians; today, public faith in Connecticut politicians is at its lowest ebb. We pray to politicians when times are good and to God when politicians are bad, which is often. Bismarck again: “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.”
And Bismarck again: “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” Official denials are rarely convincing, such as: “Just as he said during the 2014 campaign ‘there is no deficit, there will be no deficit,’ the Governor has no clothes,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides in October, 2016. The state’s present biennial deficit, as Rennie notes, is hovering around $5 billion.
The upcoming elections in 2018 promise to be somewhat different for a series of reasons: 1) progressivism – the notion that if government is good, bigger government is better – has been a conspicuous failure; 2) mindful of Napoleon’s advice – when your enemy is making mistakes, don’t interfere – leading Republicans in Connecticut are fully prepared to exploit in a general election the opposing party’s tactical and strategic errors on tax increases; 3) in the long run, Republicans are committed to substantial reform, including wresting political power from unions entrenched within a solicitous administrative state, while the Democratic Party has been for a half century defenders of the status quo; 4) it is true that there is no Bismarck in the Republican Party gubernatorial line-up for governor so far, but the Democratic Party's gubernatorial roster screams “more of the same,” and its program for the future promises to be chock full of Bismarckian “official denials” that many political watchers will regard as desperate, despicable and laughably untrue.