Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Amann Bows Out

Jim Amann, the Speaker of Connecticut’s House of Representatives, has announced that he is surrendering his position, very likely to Majority Leader Chris Donovan, though others are vying for the position.

Before he was elected to his leadership position, Donovan served as House Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. A key sponsor of health care reform, he has worked strenuously to create a system of universal health care in Connecticut.

The insurance pool bill – which ought to be named after Bill Curry who as state Comptroller suggested the measure in 1991 – glided through the House on a party line vote shortly after Amann threw in the towel. Gathering votes for its passage was Donovan, who said “What's not to like about it? Its time has come.”

According to his legislative biography, Donovan “is a labor representative with the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges and teaches part-time at the University of Hartford. Rep. Donovan formerly worked for the Connecticut Citizen's Action Group where he focused on environmental, energy and housing issues. He also worked for the Service Employees International Union on day care, family leave, and pay equity issues.”

The Majority Leader’s political resume is the kind that will stand him in good stead with Ned Lamont Democrats; one cannot imagine a former Citizen Action Groupie backing Joe Lieberman in any contest with Lamont, the Greenwich millionaire who challenged and beat Lieberman in a primary. Lieberman ran for the US senate as an independent and won in the general election; currently Lamont is pawing the ground waiting for an opportunity.

The outgoing Speaker did back Lieberman, earning Amann the undying disrespect of people like Tom Swan, who took a leave of absence as Executive Director of CCAG to manage Lamont’s campaign against Lieberman.

His friendly gesture toward Lieberman, two old ships passing in the night, cost Amann dearly, and what happened to Lieberman in his party is on a par with what happened to Amann. Since there is in Connecticut no enemy to the left in the Democrat Party, politicians like Lieberman and Amann, both moderates, are slated for removal by leftists whose time has come.

Possibly, Amann saw the writing on the wall, or perhaps the weariness of politics whittled him down.

Amann’s position likely will be taken by Donovan, a man of the left acceptable to the numerous grindstones who will not bid Amann goodbye with tears in their eyes.

Amann’s goodbye is also a hearty hello. While bidding goodbye to his position as speaker, he hopes to become governor over the mild protest of the sitting governor, who said she wished Amann well “in nearly all his future endeavors.”

In the age of YouTube, it would be nearly impossible for Amann to juggle both balls; his every move as Speaker would be interpreted as a clever campaign ploy. But there is a downside to his leave taking as well. The phone won’t ring as often and money, which moves in the rut of power, tends to dry up as the power baton is handed over to others.

And then, of course, there is Amann’s standing within a party now heavily influenced by left of center san culottes. One reporter dryly noted that that Amann had successfully pigeon-holed himself as a “moderate,” a label that would do little to endear himself to activists within his party.

Connecticut may now expect a resurgence of the kind of Democrat liberalism that was in vogue when Curry was Comptroller and the insurance pool bill was no more than a glint in the eye of the Young Turks who hoped to refashion their party on more progressive lines.

In Connecticut, they have broken through gates and successfully stormed the castle, all but abandoned except by some old Democrat warriors dressed in antique “moderate” coats of mail that offer little protection from assaults launched by the now aging Young Turks.

Though nationally the Democrat Party is murdering itself by a primary system that is too long and too brutal, the state Democrat Party still is in good order. The national Party should switch back to winner take all primaries and then allow voting in primaries only to registered Democrats, but the party, a prisoner of its own radical egalitarianism, will not do this.

The state Democrat Party is under assault from reformers as well, but they have not been able to make much headway – until now. Given the economic condition of the state and the tone-deafness of party leaders, that way will lead downward to more taxes, higher spending, business flight and an even more profligate legislature, at which point a weary public just might turn for succor to a “fiscal conservative”, moderate Democrat like Amann to bail the state out of bankruptcy.

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