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Race And Politics In Connecticut

The 2014 Democratic campaign for urban hegemony is now officially underway.

It will involve the usual tousle among Democrats for political prestige and power in Connecticut’s larger cities. During his first campaign for governor, then Mayor of Stamford Dan Malloy – on becoming governor, Dan requested that the media refer to him henceforward as Dannel -- easily captured the urban vote and slid past Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley by the slenderest of margins. Mr. Malloy, once again in his reelection contest, may face Mr. Foley -- or some other worthy Republican champion; State Senator John McKinney has announced and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is teasing from the sidelines -- and the remembrance of slender margins past has caused some wonderment among the state’s left of center media concerning Mr. Malloy’s recent campaign endorsements.

A Hartford newspaper has wondered aloud editorially whether it is politically prudent for the governor to pick winners and losers in urban primaries. Mr. Malloy recently traveled to New Haven to offer a ringing endorsement of Toni Harp as mayor, even though it had been widely reported that Ms. Harp’s now deceased husband is the city’s most celebrated tax scofflaw.  Most recently, the former mayor of Stamford publicly rejected the mayoralty choice of Stamford’s Democratic Town Committee by endorsing a non-party endorsed candidate.  People took notice. This is not the way to gain friends and influence Democrats in Stamford. Then too, the governor’s primary endorsements feed the growing apprehension that Mr. Malloy just can’t restrain himself from upsetting apple carts and sticking his thumb in every warm pie.

The Connecticut Republican Party, unfortunately, has withered away in the state’s larger cities. Urban populations, fleeing urban problems, have left behind a minority residue wholly at the mercy of a party that has made no serious attempt to drive people at the economic margins of society into jobs and social configurations that would not leave them at the mercy of urban gangs and ubiquitous social service agencies. President Bill Clinton’s noble attempt to “end welfare as we know it” has in recent times suffered a perhaps irreversible decline under an increasingly progressive regime. Any attempt seriously to address the issue of social disintegration in cities – fatherless families or single parent families locked into a ridged and unalterable social service structure -- is hooted down as an indication of racist bias.

Republicans in Connecticut are so fearful of being thus tainted that they have simply surrendered the “social issues” front  to Democrats who, especially in cities, are finding it more and more difficult to quiet a restive population that wants what Martin Luther King said it wanted half a century ago – their piece of the American dream. Among African Americans in cities, fifty years after the “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington D.C., the traditional African American family, robustly restored in Northern cities after the Civil War, is now a byword.

The decimation of the African American family has accelerated at a rapid pace from the 1960s forward. The statistics are too astonishing to be any longer ignored.  The most recent Urban Institute Report finds that 17 percent of African-American children lived in a home with their mother but not their father in 1950. By 2010, the number had increased to 50 percent. Out of wedlock childbirths from 1965 to 2010 increased from 8 to 41 percent; the figure today has risen to an astonishing 72 percent. In 1950, the number of African American women married and living with their spouses was 53 percent. That figure has been reduced today to 25 percent.

Many of these figures have been in the public domain since 1965, when then Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan from New York released “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”  The recent Urban Institute report updates the figures to 2010. The Moynihan report is not dated in its principal conclusion: “…at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time.”

There is a Berlin Wall of silence surrounding these figures – and others: On average, 1,876 black babies are aborted every day in the United States, and black women, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, are more than 5 times as likely as white women to have an abortion; African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. The conclusion that Mr. Moynihan has drawn in his earlier report is no less pertinent today than it was in 1965, two years after Martin Luther King had let loose his thunderclap before the Lincoln Memorial.

These figures, it may safely be predicted, will play NO part in any urban election in Connecticut – none. If you know what the problem is, hard solutions offer themselves. But politically, any effective remedy that disturbs the status quo causes a tighter breathing and chills the bones of politicians to zero. The road to Hell, as Martin Luther King well knew, is paved with cowardice; only courage can set you free. 


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