“The future ain’t what it used to be,” an often quoted remark by the irrepressible Yogi Berra, might very well be the new guiding principle of a recovering Democratic Party that, during the administration of lame-duck progressive Governor Dannel Malloy, leaned a bit too far left and fell into a dizzying abyss.
Some Democrats – one thinks immediately of Senator Paul Doyle – have not yet fallen away from right reason and prudent moderation. Along with other moderate Democrats, Doyle voted against his party in favor of a Republican budget that was affirmed by the State Senate on September 15 and the State House on September 16.
Neither the Governor nor his partisan generals in the field -- among whom David Collins of The Day newspaper numbers President of the University of Connecticut (UConn) Susan Herbst -- are comfortable with the only budget presented to the General Assembly that yet had passed on a bi-partisan vote.
Malloy does not like the Republican budget because it is not his budget, and he has in reserve destructive political weaponry that, once deployed, may keep wavering, moderate, non-progressive Democrats in line.
When Democrats chose not to present a budget to the state legislature, Malloy was invested with plenary powers that might have made a pre-Revolutionary King George of Great Britain dance with joy. Now that Malloy has vetoed the bipartisan budget passed in the General Assembly, as promised, he will bring his hammer down on the bowed heads of those municipal administrators from whom he has threatened to withdraw ALL state educational funding. The threat hanging like a Damoclean sword over the heads of Connecticut municipalities could not be plainer: If you spurn my budget, I will reduce funding to 85 towns, 38 of which will receive no state funding at all. Political demographers have not yet determined how many of the unfunded municipalities are Republican rather than Democratic Party strongholds. When push comes to shove, force is still the most potent political weapon. “Government,” George Washington rightly said, “is force.”
But force engenders political opposition, as Sam Adams, the father of the American Revolution, well knew.
The Republican leadership, and some few moderate Ella Grasso Democrats, are in a revolutionary mood. An appearance in Avery Point, Groton by Malloy and Herbst aroused a steely opposition among Republican leaders – and others. Among the others was David Collins, a New London Day staff writer and columnist. During their joint appearance at the UConn Avery Point campus, Malloy and Herbst were “faking a possible closing of the university's Avery Point campus in Groton,” Collins wrote. “There were so many things dishonest about the news conference, I find it hard to wrap my brain around it all… the bogus underlying narrative of the news conference, the suggestion that the Republican budget cuts for UConn could require closing the Avery Point campus… [is] just not true… It was a stage threat from Malloy and Herbst, classic posturing at budget time, choosing scary targets to suggest eliminating to win hearts and minds. I'd like to see it backfire.”
Rep. Lonnie Reed, one of the breakaway Democrats in the State House who voted in favor of the Republican budget – the only budget presented to the General Assembly – defended her vote in the Branford Eagle. Reed had hoped, she said, “that a legislatively approved budget would force the governor and the Democratic legislative leaders ‘to finally negotiate a responsible, rational consensus budget’… Moody’s Investor Service termed Connecticut’s long-term fiscal outlook ‘stark,’ citing heavy debt, pension liabilities, lower tax receipts, a structural budget imbalance, and growing fixed costs.” Many of these matters were seriously addressed in the Republican budget. Reed speaks for all the Ella Grasso, moderate Democrat voters in Connecticut buried in the party’s progressive avalanche. Reality does not always fit on a campaign bumper sticker. “The Democratic amendment became more rat invested than a London sewer,” Reed said. “More rats make our bottom line redder. I decided I was going to do the right thing. I found it very liberating. And come what may, I know I have done the right thing.”
For Democrats in Connecticut, arranging the political future has been an effortless task, largely because of their superior numbers; registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of two to one. In the past, winning at the polls involved a handful of simple steps: 1) convince voters that there is but one way to discharge a deficit – through tax increases, never through long-term permanent cuts in spending; 2) whenever possible, inflate revenue projections and underestimate costs, and 3) take care of your friends, punish your enemies and do not forget Henry Mencken’s sage advice: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
There are signs (see above) that the old tried and true bromides don’t work anymore. In the not too distant future, Democrat politicians may discover that the future ain’t what it used to be.