Sunday, November 04, 2018

After Effects, What We Can Learn From Orwell

This writer has said several times in various columns and in his blog, Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes from A Blue State, that the off-year presidential election on November 6th would test whether people in Connecticut trusted the dubious claims of politicians or the obvious empirical evidence displayed right under their noses.

He has quoted George Orwell on the point, who once said that the most difficult thing for a writer to do is to see the thing that lies right under his nose. “To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle,” Orwell wrote in an essay titled In Front of Your Nose. “The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right...”

What lies under Connecticut noses that voters should be mindful of when they go to the polls to cast their votes?

The poor condition of the state, obviously. About a week before Vote Day, a staff writer for a major newspaper in Connecticut lamented the lack of optimism in Connecticut.

“I think it is a defining characteristic in Connecticut politics,” he wrote, “where the only optimism I hear comes from Democrats.” The writer may have been thinking of the ebullient Democrat nominee for Governor Ned Lamont. “Like Republicans on the national stage,” he continued, “with a dark message about immigration and demonizing a ragtag caravan of frightened Honduran refugees, I hear only pessimism from Connecticut Republicans. I know there is a financial crisis here, one that has festered through the administrations of Republican and Democratic governors and through the most recent General Assembly sessions, which were at almost bipartisan parity.”

Actually, there has been little bipartisan parity in recent General Assembly sessions.

Indeed, the one moment of real bipartisanship, the production of a Republican budget that passed the General Assembly -- in itself a near miracle, since Republicans have not controlled the legislative chambers for about four decades -- was vetoed by outgoing Governor Dannel Malloy, whose approval rating, according to a Quinnipiac poll cited by the Hartford Courant, is hovering at 15 percent.

The staff writer wrote that it is the lack of “enthusiasm, confidence, advocacy for good and fair public policy and an optimistic spirit toward this great state that will save us, not mean-spirited budget cutting, scapegoating the unfortunate, decrying diversity and providing windfall tax breaks for the wealthy.”

The political writer’s dip into pessimism was directed for the remainder of his column at President Donald Trump who, whatever his deficiencies, has been neither a Connecticut Governor nor a member of the state’s General Assembly.

The writer’s calls for optimism and confidence, in a state in which optimism and confidence would be obscenely inappropriate, are the sounds ostriches make when their heads are buried in the sand. Voltaire warned us against a destructive optimism in Candide. If things are really bad, they cannot not be made better by the optimist who tells us that ours is “the best of all possible worlds,” when we know it is not true.

Adding together Malloy’s two massive tax increases, we arrive at the largest tax increase of any administration in state history. The administration’s tax increase was meant to fix future budget deficits, but the budget deficit for the current biennium is around $4 billion, not a figure that is likely to produce enthusiasm among Connecticut taxpayers. Connecticut is one of only seven states in the union that has not yet recovered from the  Great Recession that ended way back in June 2009, not the sort of thing that tends to  boost confidence in anyone but Candide, the eternal optimist who insists, after being visited by multiple calamities, that his is “the best of all possible worlds.”

Orwell, who wrote luminously about totalitarian states in Nineteen Eighty-Four, reminds us in his essay Right under Your Nose, that politics “is a sort of sub-atomic or non-Euclidean word where it is quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously. Hence the contradictions and absurdities I have chronicled above, all finally traceable to a secret belief that one's political opinions, unlike the weekly budget, will not have to be tested against solid reality.”

Connecticut voters, one may hope, will know solid reality when they bang into it.

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