Monday, December 03, 2018

The Man Who Wasn’t There: Trump and Connecticut Losses

The notion that Republicans this year lost heavily in the General Assembly because President Donald Trump sank them is a bit too facile.

Mark Pazniokas, a writer for CTMirror, explores the notion in a story titled CT GOP had right message, but ‘Trump just trumped it.’

The quoted portion in the title, “Trump just trumped it,” is taken from a remark made by former U.S. Representative Chris Shays, the last Republican standing in Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation. Shays, Connecticut’s U.S. Representative from the 4th District from August 1987 through January 2009, lost to current U.S. Representative Jim Himes long before Trump appeared menacingly on the presidential horizon, and his loss, as well as the losses of longtime U.S. Reps. Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons, had nothing to do with Trump and much to do with changing political dynamics in Connecticut campaigns.

“State legislative leaders,” had in the past, CTMirror reported, “distanced their caucuses from the national GOP, which has made opposition to abortion, gun control and same-sex marriage part of its platform for the past decade.

“Despite losing top-of-the-ticket races every two years, the Republicans staged a remarkable comeback: In 2016, the GOP won an 18-18 tie in the state Senate and 72 seats in the House, just four short of a 76-75 majority.”

Concerning the ten foot pole Connecticut Republicans put between themselves and Trump, Shays remarked, “I think that was a smart decision, which Trump just trumped…  It began to be about God, guns and gays, and the obscene image of Trump appeal to white nationalists. Donald Trump has very harsh words about anybody who criticizes him. I never heard a harsh word from him about the far right and white supremacists.”

And Larry Cafero remarked that while Republicans had a sellable message, his own loss in a contest for probate judge in Norwalk was wholly the result of Trump: “’With all due respect to my opponent, it could have been a rock on the ballot and we wouldn’t have won,’ said Cafero, who had never lost an election before this year. ‘It all had to do with Donald Trump.’”

Right – Trump the scapegoat.

A few points should be made, none of them in defense of Trump’s vulgarian tendencies. Asked to comment on Trump, Bill Buckley remarked in Cigar Afcionado, seven years before Trump ascended to the presidency, that Trump was a narcissist. Presidents, and indeed all politicians, carry both their vices and virtues with them into office. President Woodrow Wilson was a white nationalist who viewed with approval in the White House a film, The Birth of a Nation, that celebrated Klukluxery. President of Princeton before ascending to the White House, Wilson was no vulgarian in the manner of populist Democrat Governor of Louisiana Huey Long.

There is little question that Trump was sufficiently demagogued during Connecticut’s recently concluded campaigns, but GOP losses cannot be wholly attributed to Trump’s ghostly non-presence on Connecticut ballots.

V. I. Lenin used to say that if you label an opponent or his arguments rightly, you do not have to argue with either, and there was no attempt – none at all – by the GOP collectively to defend Trump’s more successful policies. Trump’s military procurements has increased both jobs and the state’s depleted coffers.

The collective determination of Connecticut’s GOP never, ever to confront Democrats on social issues – the maladministration of Connecticut cities by unopposed hegemonic Democrats, the ascendency of union power in governmental affairs, the dangerous drift away from constitutional government towards one-party autocracy, enfeebled campaign finance laws that favor incumbents, the continual use of courts and a politicized Attorney General’s office to advance the progressive politics of  the Democrat Party, all issues that have profound social repercussions – are continually left on the shelf in GOP campaigns. It is one thing to shrink from discussing the use of birth control pills, quite another to shrink from an honest discussion of partial birth abortion, which is widely unpopular; its defense among pro-abortion extremists on spurious grounds is indefensible, except in rare cases in which a late term birth may lead to the death of the mother. Shay’s notion that Republicans face losses if they rise to the defense of God might lend itself to a nifty bumper sticker: "Vote Shays, not God."

Bob Stefanowski lost his campaign to Ned Lamont – the ONLY Democrat in Connecticut who can save his state, even at the cost of losing face with traditional Democrat Party interests -- for reasons having little to do with Trump, who served Democrats as a convenient target and Republicans as a useful post-election scapegoat. Lamont was playing, as Democrats always do, the whole social-financial keyboard, while Stefanowski was hammering only the economic note. That is why he lost. That is why there are no Republicans in Connecticut’s all-Democrat U.S. Congressional Delegation. It is why moderate Republicans, tottering left on social issues and focused chiefly on economic issues, continually lose to progressive Democrats and the progressive heralds in Connecticut’s media.

If you abandon half the field to Democrats, you will have lost half the war before hostilities have commenced – always, all the time.

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