Monday, October 23, 2006

Out You Go, Baby

The Hartford Courant’s across the board endorsements of Democrat liberals this year begs the question: Are newspaper endorsements effective?

First of all, it should be noted that in choosing to endorse all Democrats and no Republicans for U.S. congressional positions, the paper invites speculation that it is throwing babies out with the wash water. The Republicans against whom Courant editorial board members voted this year are all moderates, not the fire breathing conservatives that swarm past the Mason Dixon line.

The Courant -- which tends to react to conservatives pretty much in the way the devil reacts to holy water – has somewhat plausibly supported moderate Republicans in the past, arguing that the vital center in American politics, the intersection where liberalism and conservativism meet and conspire to compromise, is worth preserving.

By any rational accounting, Rep. Chris Shays, is a moderate Republican: He is the author and enabler in the House of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill. In countless editorials, the Courant sweated and groaned to bring forth campaign finance reform, both nationally and at home. Shays is deep blue on the matter of abortion, as are other Connecticut Republican congressional moderates and the Courant. In the past, Shays has had no difficulty garnering the support of the usual liberal interest groups, including Courant editorial writers. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987, Shays regularly passed the Courant’s sniff test – until now.

Off with their heads, says the magisterial Courant of all moderate Republican incumbents. There will be no room in the new congressional delegate inn for Reps. Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons.

Why the rush to purge Connecticut’s congressional delegation of hitherto inoffensive Republican moderates? Because, says the Courant, political positions nationally have been captured by Republicans and, in order to redress this imbalance, Connecticut’s national delegation must now be captured by Democrats – and never mind that the altered political environment, considered by the Courant necessary on the national front, will move Connecticut even closer to a one party state.

Deep blue Connecticut very nearly is a one party state now, if one withdraws Governor Jodi Rell from the political equation. Rell, a moderate Republican amenable to Democrat Party interests, is the kind of Republican only Courant editorialists could love, but only until, some fine day, a more attractive candidate wanders down the political pike and captures their hearts. And then – off with her head!

There are some lessons to be learned here beyond the obvious one: that Republican moderates are dispensable at will. Ned Lamont’s more energetic supporters now are suggesting that the Courant’s editorial endorsement is but a preparation for a low-down let-down: The Courant, they suppose, is preparing to endorse the “Lieberloser,” current Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman, and the Lamontites are in full cry against the paper, which they perceive as being – try not to laugh -- too conservative.

The chief lesson Republicans may draw from the Courant’s purge is that moderates, the only kind of Republican officeholders long tolerated by the liberal paper, are, and ever will be, dependent, as Blanche DuBois used to say, on the kindness of strangers.

While the Courant endorsed Diane Farrell, the former selectwoman of Westport, as “fiscally moderate,” someone who “knows how to build bipartisan coalitions to get things done” and an “effective change agent to clean up Congress,” these plaudits were once bestowed by the paper on Shays, who has had extensive practical experience in fiscal moderation – the Courant, in the very same editorial, dubbed him a “fiscal hawk” – building bipartisan coalitions, Shays-Meehan being the prime example, and serving as an effective agent of change.

No, all this is useless patter. It’s the war, stupid. Opposition to the war in Connecticut has emboldened the Courant to throw the moderate babies out with the wash water -- that and nothing else.

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