Saturday, September 08, 2018

The Wizard Of Oz And Republican Government

Chris Powell begins his column on Nelson "Oz" Griebel with a backhanded compliment: “Griebel is a substantial guy and more familiar with state government than the gubernatorial nominees of the major parties, Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski,” followed by a backhand, “But Griebel has gone completely establishment now and it is hard to distinguish his positions from Lamont's. They both support raising taxes again to avoid offending influential interest groups that deserve offending. They argue that economic growth is what Connecticut needs most though the state will never have it as long as those interest groups keep first claim on state government's revenue.”

The pursuit of the elusive unaffiliated vote has destroyed more politicians in Connecticut than the usual and expected corrupt political activity.

On the left, most state politicians have now become progressives who needn’t worry about such fantasies. Griebel is not one of these. A putative Republican, he has now joined forces with a leftist Democrat, Monte Frank, his Lieutenant Governor partner, and is hoping the great unwashed will understand the math: Republican + Democrat = moderate. Moderates, according to Griebel’s calculus, are those who have managed to shake themselves free of stinking party orthodoxies. These two just want to solve problems and bring warring parties together. The two most recent Republican governors, Jodi Rell and John Rowland, were famous for bring warring parties together, Rowland, more often than not, by whipping Republicans in line. The results of these amiable tete a tetes, a smoldering ruin, now lies before us as an object lesson in political accommodation.

The notion of the virtuous outsider refashioning politics in a state gone bad has become a totem of national and state politics. In a New York primary just recently, Democrats reached very far outside the political box and chose a leftist community organizer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to replace incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in New York's 14th congressional district. Before he became President, community organizer, civil rights professor and attorney Barack Obama was a little known U.S. Senator from Illinois who ran for the presidency, and won, having completed only three of his six year term in the Senate. In the last Presidential election, businessman Donald Trump beat back 17 Republican politicians with substantial political experience – and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal’s bosom pal -- to become the 45th U.S. President.

The two principal gubernatorial contenders in Connecticut are both wealthy businessmen. Bob Stefanowski has clean political hands, never having occupied public office before, and Ned Lamont’s prior political experience might fill a thimble. Both are Junior Varsity teams, to employ a phrase incorrectly deployed by Obama against ISIS.

It is a grave error to go a’ courting unaffiliateds with empty hands.

The unaffiliateds in Connecticut have been in a rebellious mood for decades. They gravitated towards Republican turned Independent Lowell Weicker’s gubernatorial bid in 1991 because as senator Weicker had been a Republican Party “maverick” for the greater part of his political career. Senator Weicker had been voting with Democrats for years before finally being dispatched by then Attorney General Joe Lieberman. Weicker then shook the dust of the Republican Party from his feet, as Griebel has now done, and proceeded as Governor to grace Connecticut with an income tax, after having given assurances to voters during his campaign that establishing an income tax in the middle of a recession would be tantamount to pouring gas on a fire. The additional tax prolonged and deepened  the recession. Connecticut has been in perpetual recession since 1991. Having tripled taxes and spending since Weicker vacated the governor’s office, the state is still struggling to lift its head above water years after virtually every other state in the union had recovered from the recessionary undertow. After imposing on Connecticut the largest tax increase in its history, Governor Dannel Malloy – present approval rating 21 percent, who forgot everything and learned nothing from the Weicker years  – threw more gas on the bonfire, imposing on his state the second largest tax increase in its history. The additional gas prolonged and deepened a second Connecticut recession.

So, we’ve had experienced governors, Rowland and Rell, and outside-the-Republican-box governors, Weicker, and a tax and spend Democrat Governor, Malloy, and a Democrat hegemon in the General Assembly, all of whom have driven Connecticut’s ship of state on the rocks – while Connecticut’s media somnolently supported the status quo .

And now…?

Unless a new governor and – hopefully – a radically reformed legislature adopts a swift remedial change in policies, Connecticut will continue sleepily to wander towards the gates of Hell, over which is written “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” Everyone, not least those politicians and political commentators who have championed a ruinous quarter century old status quo, knows this to be the case. We are not witnesses to a failure of intelligence; our failure lies in the spines of those who have not loved the state passionately enough to tell us the truth. When Connecticut's ship goes under – as will happen, unless a course correction is adopted -- honest analysts and historians will not be kind to these robotic and cowardly politicians.

Nor will Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliateds, because they too will be swimming with the fish.

There is one and only only one question that should rest on the minds of voters who next November will seal their own fates, and it is this:  Is the candidate I am voting for competent enough, courageous enough and persistent enough to lash himself to the mast and set a course radically different than that taken during the last few decades by my state’s assassins? In a democratic republic, the people always get the ruined governments they deserve.

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