It seems clear that state Democrats will be running against President Donald Trump in the 2018 elections. They already are doing so. Will this be a winning strategy?
Ned Lamont is the Democrat Party nominee for governor. His hand-picked Lieutenant Governor running mate is Susan Bysiewicz. Lamont is facing within his own tribe a primary challenge from Mayor of Bridgeport Joe Ganim. A straggler, Guy Smith, has bowed out of the race. Ganim, despite his recent graduation from prison, may present a real threat to Lamont.
The two Democrats will be running against each other in a party primary, the winner of which will, it seems likely, be running against Trump, if only because the primary victor will not be able to win in a general election as a Malloyalist progressive.
Progressivism in Connecticut has produced bitter fruit. Because of massive tax increases and the inclination of progressives to regulate everything that moves until it assumes room temperature and stops moving, the state has been slow to emerge from its recessionary cocoon.
Owing to the state's highly progressive income tax, Connecticut is over-reliant on tax producing financiers who for many years have set up shop in the state’s “Gold Coast,” all of whom have wings on their feet. A move out of Connecticut to some other state that does not have designs on their wealth is much less complicated for a hedge funder than it has been for, say, General Electric.
Progressive Democrats running for governor must follow a course laid out before them by Governor Dannel Malloy, perhaps the most progressive governor in state history, and Malloy, union friendly and a scourge to state taxpayers, is a tough progressive act to follow. Malloy is unpopular because his progressive governance has been disastrous for his state. So, a sly and crafty Democrat for governor will be well advised to plot a different course in the general election. But primary elections are horses of a different color. The primary system, here and elsewhere in the nation, inevitably ends in gaudy hypocrisy.
A leftist or progressive candidate for governor in Connecticut stands the best chance of winning a Democrat primary. However, given recent history, a moderate Democrat would stand a better chance of winning in a general election. And among Democrats, any change from a progressive primary challenger to a centrist general election candidate is likely to be seen by a dubious public and a non-snookered media as rank hypocrisy, a capital sin in politics. You can be a felon and win the mayoralty of Bridgeport, as Ganim has done. But the media tends to draw a red line on hypocritical politicians.
Connecticut is suffering from a long bout of modern progressivism, a strain that cannot succeed in a state in which a large proportion of tax revenue is deposited in public coffers by evil captains of industry who make their living grinding the faces of the poor. Indeed, the modern strain of updated progressivism already has failed – spectacularly.
There are no repetitions in history, just musical chords that employ similar notes. But the chords are different; World War II is NOT World War I. Modern progressivism of the kind currently hawked on Democrat soapboxes by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, very much unlike its parental strain, though it hits similar notes, is particularly discordant. It is a doctrine that kills the goose that lays the golden eggs, after reading over its corpse a pleasing obit to a crowd demanding death to all golden geese.
But this is only a part of the pickle in which Democrat candidates for governor find themselves. Republicans who want to eliminate the state income tax – unlikely as that may seem – at the very least have their turn signals pointed in the right direction. The idea behind tax and spending cuts is to reposition Connecticut among progressive New England states. Otto von Bismarck used to say that any fool can learn from his own mistakes, but only a wise man will learn from the mistakes of others. It will not be clear until the primaries are over whether winning Democrats are able to learn from their own mistakes. This kind of un-wisdom is a grade lower than stupid; it is suicidal – in the long run.
Progressives in Connecticut are running out of road. Bysiewicz, who wrote a book on former Democrat Governor Ella Grasso, acknowledged in a brief run for governor, that Grasso was a stellar politician, but the first woman elected governor in her own right did have a dark side. Grasso succeeded former Republican Governor Tom Meskill, during whose administration the state passed, and quickly repealed, its first income tax. Grasso was an inveterate foe of the income tax – because she perceived correctly the causal connection between permanent tax increases and permanent spending increases. Grasso, Bysiewicz says, was wrong about the income tax.
Sorry – Grasso was right about the income tax which, rather than saving the state, saved legislators the necessity of making permanent, long term cuts in spending. In Connecticut, spending – the real devil in the details – has increased threefold since former Governor Lowell Weicker evened the political playing field between the state and its neighbors by gracing Connecticut with an income tax.
Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls have yet to unveil their plan to un-level the playing field through permanent, long term cuts in spending. Maybe after the primaries, they will unveil their battle plan.