They will be carrying a heavy load. When Governor Dannel Malloy does step aside in January 2019, he will have left behind him a state in near collapse. The use of the word “collapse” here is not intended metaphorically. By almost any measure, Connecticut is a state with its feet firmly planted on the road to ruination. It is the only state the nation that has not yet recovered from a national recession that officially ended in June 2009.
There are many reasons for this, but the principal one is: the state cannot rely on tax increases to discharge future indebtedness. The tax well has dried up. Both companies and people have for some time past been voting with their feet against a tsunami of tax increases. The Weicker income tax in 1991 has been followed by Malloy’s two tax increases, the largest and the second largest in state history.
The present condition of the state is a heavy ball and chain for any Democrat – but most especially a progressive Democrat – to drag though what promises to be a hotly contested election. All the important indicators point to an effective Republican Party insurgency. Republicans are now even with Democrats in the State Senate, and they are drawing near to even in the State House.
It may seem odd to think of Malloy as a ball and chain. He steamed into office as a fire belching progressive -- as did President Barack Obama. It takes a while for the evil chief executives do to show up on the political radar screen. Obama was a progressive, Malloy was a progressive. The state of Connecticut has been a progressive Democratic Party hegemon for far longer than Malloy’s two terms in office. Much of New England is a progressive political bastion, which is why Barry Goldwater, a 24K conservative, once said, “If you lop off California and the east coast, you’ve got a pretty good country.”
The question foremost on people’s mind is: can Republicans in Connecticut rely on the bitter winter of our discontent to blow them into office?
No, they can’t. Can Republicans rely on the failed policies of Democrats to win the governorship and one or two houses of the General Assembly? The answer is no. The question reduces to this: Can Republicans win elections on the cheap? The answer is no. That was tried unsuccessfully with two Tom Foley gubernatorial campaigns. In his first campaign, Foley lost to Malloy by 6,400 votes, a squeaker. In his second campaign, Foley lost by 25,000 votes.
This time around, Republicans will have to commit to radical changes in tax collection, spending and government operations. Nor is it any longer possible to avoid speaking of the thousand pound union pink-elephant in the room. Republicans, outnumbered by registered Democrats two to one, cannot hope to win the governorship and at least one House of the General Assembly by conceding to Democrats, without a principled struggle, half the battleground on social issues. There are no economic issues that are not also social issues. There are no social issues that are not also economic issues, as Malcolm X observed before he was assassinated by the Islamic terrorists of his day.
The possible entrée into the gubernatorial field of former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz introduces a principle of uncertainty. Some Republicans seem to think Bysiewicz may be the Democrat’s most formidable candidate so far-- precisely because her historic and formal attachment to the Malloy regime is tangential. The Malloy baggage may weigh less in her hands. One cannot be certain at this point of Bysiewicz’s views on issues that doubtless will take center stage during the gubernatorial campaign, and it is important to acknowledge that she has not announced her candidacy either for governor or the 13th District State Senate seat now held by Republican Len Suzio. In the past, Bysiewicz has had some difficulty deciding which political position she might prefer, sometimes behaving like the proverbial child with two stomachs in a candy store. But should Bysiewicz enter the gubernatorial race, she would quickly become a non-progressive Democratic candidate and, as such, she would be able to project cross-over appeal to moderate Democrats and mistrustful independents in Connecticut stung by the progressive’s “eat the rich” political philosophy.
Even Malloy, a true-blue progressive, appears to have come to understand that wealth producing milch cows are for milking, not eating.