Saturday, March 09, 2019

Enfield Republican Town Committee Address for Lincoln Day Dinner

Be The Storm

I’d like to thank Mary Ann Turner, the Chairman of the Enfield Republican Town Committee, for inviting me here today. It’s a pleasure to be with you. Enfield, everyone in the room may know, was the place where prominent theologian Jonathan Edwards delivered his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon. The sermon provided one of the sparks that lit the spiritual conflagration later called “The Great Awakening” and was  so fearful and effective a sermon that people in the pews broke out in tears. I think I can assure everyone in the room that my keynote may not have a similar effect.

Republicans have just been through a bruising election. I’d like to touch very gently on a few sore topics, but we don’t want to end up at a funeral here. Mark Twain, asked if he had attended the funeral of a man he intensely disliked, replied – No, I didn’t. But I sent along a message to the grief stricken that I heartily approved of the ceremony.

Before we leap forward, I’d like to take a step back and review the nature of the political parties in Connecticut before the Democrat Party came down with a severe – and, I think, fatal --  case of progressivism, which is a close relative of socialism.

As you all know, there are two political party money making events in Connecticut. The Republican event is the Prescott Bush Dinner, named after Prescott Bush, President George H. W. Bush’s father and President George W. Bush’s grandfather. Prescott Bush was a Wall Street executive investment banker who represented Connecticut in the United States Senate from 1952 to 1963, not a bad run.  At that time, there were few Democrat progressives who had the chutzpah to suppose that all rich people supped on the blood and bones of poor people. And there was during the post-World War II era a rightly understood connection between wealth, as in Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” and the general prosperity of what we have since come to call the “middle class.” It was Democrat President John Kennedy who reminded us that “a rising tide,” that is an increase in the real wealth of a nation, “lifts all the boats,” poor and rich alike. In those golden days of yore, nearly everyone in Connecticut understood reflexively former Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher’s notion that the trouble with socialism is that “sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.”

Socialism and its variants, such as progressivism, are distributive not wealth-producing economic vehicles. Unlike Lowell Weicker, a putative “Republican” U.S. Senator from Connecticut, and former Democrat Governor Dannel Malloy, Prescott Bush did little during his time in office to destroy his state.

Republicans do not have the same problem that confronted Connecticut Democrats when, amusingly, they were forced to rename their annual money grab. The gathering of the Democrat faithful had been called “The Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner.” Andy Jackson, the architect of the modern Democrat Party and its first populist president, was responsible for moving Indians off their ancestral lands, among them, so it has been intimated, a distant relative of Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, she of the high cheekbones. Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and a font of libertarianism, owned slaves, as did the combative and irascible Jackson; so, these two unsavory Presidents were unceremoniously booted off the Democrat State Party money grab.

Almost immediately, the Hartford Courant issued a commendatory editorial. “Good for state Democrats for changing name of the Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner,” the editorial rhapsodized. “Give the Connecticut Democratic Party high marks for coming to terms with history in removing the names of two slave-owning presidents from the title of their annual fundraising dinner. The Democrats have struck a blow for inclusion and sensitivity with the name change. They have also signaled that theirs is a very different party from the pro-slavery, limited-government party of the 1800s that those two [the ejected Jefferson and Jackson] had a hand in shaping.” Nice how the Courant editorialists managed to get “pro-slavery” to do a waltz with “limited government” in the same sentence there, isn’t it?

As to “limited Government,” no one today could reasonably argue that the current Connecticut Democrat Party has even the slightest aversion to government growth; indeed, unchecked by serious resistance in the General Assembly, the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Bailey has become the party of government growth and union interests. Malloy famously and brashly marched in union strike lines. However heartfelt Prescott Bush’s connection may have been to Planned Parenthood, one cannot imagine him marching in a government employee strike line.

On the question of the unionization of federal and state workers, Prescott’s position likely mirrored that of former President Franklin Roosevelt, the chief presidential autocrat in the Democrat pantheon.

Asked whether he favored the unionization of federal workers, Roosevelt wrote in a letter to National Federation of Federal Employees President Luther Stewart in 1937:  “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”

Roosevelt went on to remind Stewart, none too gently, that a public strike of federal employees was not in his cards: “Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare requires orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that ‘under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.’"

Connecticut’s General Assembly, long the captive of the Democrat Party, has tripled spending and taxation since former Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker graced the state with an income tax.  In Connecticut, progressives, the pro-government-kudzu party, still struggle, sensitively of course, to include in their party moderate, old white Democrat males. But not to worry: The old guys are as progressive as the young bucks. President Pro Tem of the State Senate Martin Looney, now serving his 13th term in the General Assembly, is 70 years young. On the bright side, no leading progressive in the New Model Democrat Party currently owns slaves.

Democrats are big on “association taint.” The ownership of slaves is supposed to taint everything else Jefferson and Jackson did and said. Not only do Democrats visit the sins of the fathers upon their sons; such sins are carried, by association, to all who touch the poisoned relative – important proviso -- provided the relative is a member of the GOP. Lately, Democrats attempted to snuff the nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, largely because he was nominated by the intolerable President Donald Trump, who has been compared to Jackson, a sometimes violent and intemperate President. When Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall ruled that the removal of Indians by Jackson was unconstitutional, Jackson is reputed to have said – the remark is apocryphal, but highly characteristic -- "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" Lyndon Johnson was also highly esteemed for his occasional tempestuous eruptions.

Prominent Republican politicians – Abe Lincoln, after whom this gathering is named – did not look kindly on slavery; nor did the Whig Party, a precursor to Lincoln’s Republican Party, formed expressly to oppose “King Jackson’s” policies, one of which included the removal of the Cherokee nation from east of the Mississippi River, across a trail of tears, to present day Oklahoma. For good reasons, statues of Republican Party Civil War heroes remain largely untoppled. No ANTIFA-like maenads from the party of slaveholders Jefferson and Jackson have yet to demand the removal of a statue of Prescott Bush, if there are any statues of Prescott Bush in Connecticut. Most of Prescott’s progeny, as we know, fled south during the early days of the destruction of Connecticut – prescience perhaps.

This may be the place to add that there are a number of Warren critics who believe that her relative was among the movers of Cherokees rather than the moved. In any case, even if true, the charge that Warren’s native American relative was responsible for the tears in the trail of tears is not likely to harm the Massachusetts Senator too much. Massachusetts is forgiving of the sins of the fathers and the sons, provided neither are Republicans. Senator Edward Kennedy, some Republicans have noted, survived Chappaquiddick to become the “conscience of the Senate,” words applied to Kennedy by more than one eulogist after his death.

Massachusetts is solidly Democrat, as is Connecticut after the recently concluded elections. The urbanscape in Connecticut has been reliably Democrat ever since President Lyndon Johnson inaugurated his Great Society Programs, promising his Democrat comrades that the unmentionable N-word vote would be theirs for generations beyond his terms in office. Largely owing to his prosecution of the Vietnam War, Johnson was a prophet unloved in his own party. There was no love lost between Johnson and John Kerry, an anti-Vietnam War soldier noted for having besmirched his fellow comrades in arms when he returned, war weary and medal ladened, from Vietnam.

“I would like to talk,” Kerry told Senators on April 22, 1971, two years after Johnson had announced he would not run for re-election to the presidency, “on behalf of all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia…

“They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion (sic) reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravages of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.” Kerry has been addicted since the early 70’s to run-on sentences.

Such was the anti-military petard that hoisted Kerry into the U.S. Senate as a congressman from Massachusetts. Republicans in Connecticut seem unable to match these soaring flights of political fantasy.

Connecticut has been called “the land of steady habits,” but not all the habits within the ruling party are the same as they were in the early and mid-50’s when Prescott Bush was plying his trade in the Senate.

Prescott’s route to the Senate was beset with grave difficulties. A Rockefeller Republican and a social liberal, Bush was involved with the American Birth Control League as early as 1942, and he served as treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947. Both associations hurt Bush in strongly Catholic Connecticut when he ran against Democrat Sen. William Benton. These associations were deployed against him in the campaign, which he lost by only 1,000 votes. Connecticut loves squeaker elections. When Senator Brien McMahon obligingly died the same year, Bush defeated Abraham Ribicoff, and he was in. The Bush dynasty was off and running.

It is very important to note – as Connecticut’s left of center media rarely does – that the state’s present Connecticut Democrat Party is not U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro’s mommy’s party, or even Chris Dodd’s daddy’s party. Former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd was DeLauro’s mentor before she succeeded in 1991 in becoming a congresswoman for life in Connecticut’s change-resistant 3rd District.

The French have a saying: the more things change, the more they remain the same. Here in “the land of steady habits,” Dick Blumenthal has become “the senator from Planned Parenthood.” Both Blumenthal and DeLauro are extreme progressives on the question of abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Partial birth abortion does not bruise their too tender consciences. Abortion, a critic of Planned Parenthood advises, is certainly not about parenthood, because the termination of life in the womb does not lead to parenthood. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently has carried the Planned Parenthood flag to new heights with a bill that facilitates infanticide.

Following the brief tenure of Jacob Javits Republican Lowell Weicker, who ran for governor as an independent, and current lame-duck Governor Dannel Malloy, Connecticut has turned into a spending casino. People in Connecticut used to be able to count on moderate Democrat politicians to watch their pennies. Governor Ella Grasso, for one, was a notorious pinch-penny politician and unalterably opposed to an income tax, first introduced into Connecticut’s economic bloodstream by Republican Governor Tom Meskill; the bill establishing Meskill’s income tax was quickly repealed. The moderate Connecticut Ella Grasso Democrat, is now a seriously endangered species, moderates having been replaced in the state by progressive Democrats with knives in their brains.

So much for “steady habits.” In Connecticut, the Republican Party has become, at least theoretically, an agent of change, but it is an agent of “potential change” that has not been able to capture the General Assembly. And an agent of change not in power is a power cord looking for an outlet.

I wish to touch briefly on the current political scene in Connecticut. The late election was dizzyingly confusing. Both party nominees for governor, Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, had little to no direct experience with Connecticut politics. Governor Lamont must now rely, like Blanch Dubois in “Streetcar Named Desire,” on the kindness of political strangers. Both gubernatorial contestants were wealthy businessmen whose lack of political experience is considered a plus by many people disenchanted with the major political parties.

In happier days, when he was President of the United States gaily bypassing Congress and ruling through presidential edicts, Barack Obama would have considered both Connecticut gubernatorial contestants as junior league politicians. There are, of course, sound reasons for favoring JV league politicians as governors, legislators and presidents. If party politicians are responsible for Connecticut’s long winter of discontent, the arrival of spring, some think, may lie outside of traditional party structures. That is the principal argument raised by political discontents who see no difference – none at all – between Democrat and Republican parties in Connecticut and who look for deliverance with weary but hopeful eyes towards a future fusion party. In Connecticut, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a two thirds margin, and unaffiliateds outnumber Democrats. Would it not be possible to construct a new majority party that would draw from all three voting pools?

The brief answer to this question is -- no. A utopian future of this kind would be theoretically possible in any political world but the present one.

The two major political parties in the United States, Democrat and Republican, are the vehicles through which politics happens. They may be reoriented; under a questionable progressive upsurge, the Democrat party has been radically reordered, some would say disordered. But the notion of a third party rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the two major parties is a foolish dream bursting in the brains of political revolutionists of both the right and left. Oz Greibel, who ran for governor as an anti-party agitator, managed to achieve about 8 percent of the vote. The Hartford Courant – its spine collapsing -- gave its prized gubernatorial endorsement to Griebel rather than Lamont.  If anyone in this room supposes the Courant’s largely progressive editorial board did not prefer to endorse Lamont, the exit is over there.  

The banner headlines on Tom Dudchik’s Capitol Report pretty much said it all on the day after Connecticut voters went to the polls and turned back the clock to out-going Governor Dannel Malloy’s first election win eight long years ago. Here are the headlines:

The November 6th election was a washout for Republicans and a signal victory for Democrats, as noted in Connecticut Commentary.

In every state-wide election, Republicans always have a high hill to climb. Connecticut’s unaffiliated voter population rings in at 41%, followed by Democrats at 37% and Republicans at 21%. The media in Connecticut is inescapably left leaning, and the ability of incumbents to generate campaign funds far exceeds that of challengers. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy disposed of a campaign kitty of $15 million, while his Republican opponent Matt Corey drew on a cache of $128,000, according to Open Secrets.

Analysts will be probing the corpse of the recently concluded mid-term elections for some time to come, but it is not too early to present, in no particular order of importance, a few points it would be foolish to ignore, such as:

1. Incumbency and the ability of politicians to raise capital for their elections are crucial.

2. Democrats’ success during elections depends upon an unvarying, auto-pilot support from three major cities in Connecticut – Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven – places where the Republican Party maintains only a ghostly presence. Republicans must be able to challenge Democrats in at least one of those cities.

3. The media matters. And the media in Connecticut is a victim of its own prior choices. In Connecticut, for instance, most media outlets favored former Governor Lowell Weicker’s successful effort to install an income tax as the state’s primary revenue producer. After repeated tax increases, followed inevitably by repeated spending increases, followed by repeated budget deficits, some papers finally were constrained to point out that Connecticut had a spending rather than a revenue problem. In many cases, these acknowledgements were merely perfunctory, as demonstrated by their political endorsements and the papers fulsome support of Malloy’s two bone crushing tax increases.

4. Factional interests in the state do not always support their own genuine political interests, an observation made most stunningly by V. I. Lenin, who said that capitalists would provide the rope with which communists would hang capitalists. Corporation campaign contributions to Democrats in Connecticut and the nation do not diminish in proportion to the relentless march of progressive Democrats towards their freedom crushing nirvana. The Democrat progressive caucus in the General Assembly is approaching 50%, and they are weaving ropes for the capitalists idiots who contributed to their campaigns.

5. The more you get, the more you spend. Connecticut has long been spending more than it has gotten in tax receipts for a number of reasons. The Democrat dominated governor’s office has continually over estimated tax receipts and underestimated program costs. There is a point of diminishing returns at which more is less; tax increases reduce revenue. There is also a tipping point in taxation, the point at which people decide they can no longer afford increasingly burdensome taxation and respond to impositions the way a finger close to a flame responds to a burning sensation – instinctive repulsion. Republicans are right in supposing that Connecticut has reached this turning point. The Malloy administration began “broadening the tax base” and, it is clear from Lamont’s recent budget that the Democrat majority in the General Assembly is fully prepared to finish the job.

6. You cannot expect to win elections in the state by focusing on the economy alone, because it is the culture – therefore, social issues – that produces politics, not the reverse. We have now had three major Republican elections in which politicians who have had little connection with the usual political networks – i.e. fellow legislators in the General Assembly and Town Committee worker bees – have conducted campaigns centering on Connecticut’s failing economy and unbearably high taxes. Republicans have consistently won the economic arguments and lost the elections. Not only in baseball is the axiom true -- three strikes and you’re out.

7. Finally – beware of out-of-state political consultants bearing gifts. Linda McMahon, Tom Foley and Bob Stefanowski all rented out their campaigns to Washington DC political consultants unrooted in the rich soil of Connecticut politics.

Asked after the elections to examine the Republican Party campaign corpse, former State Senator and Lieutenant Governor Nominee of the Republican Party Joe Markley gave his assessment. Republicans, he said, were too narrowly focused on what he called “redder communities” rather than hitting “all 169 towns and cities, including New Haven.” Stefanowski decided to “limit media interviews” though he probably would have done reasonably well even among hostile reportorial pecksniffs. The Republican campaign was not sufficiently focused on “an in-state vote-pulling ‘ground game’ to compete against the Democrats’ operations.” One-issue campaigns, Markley noted, are rarely successful; focusing solely on tax cuts was short-sighted. And renting out your campaign to DC consultants, my own personal bugbear, is nearly always treacherous. Posing the question “Do we lose because we’re not conservative, or do we lose because we’re not clear enough about where we stand?” Markley answered -- the latter.

I find myself agreeing with this assessment. Generally, Markley’s view of politics and human nature is expansive, like Shakespeare’s. The Republican Party would do well to expand its repertoire and take a lesson from the biblical verse: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Democrat prescriptions have not helped to lift from poverty those who are, largely because of those policies, poor of spirit.

This may be a good place to end and invite questions. I want to thank Mary Ann in particular for asking me to speak to you. She was concerned that, following disappointing Republican losses in the recent elections, I might tread heavily on sore corns. I told her I would leave everyone with an uplifting message. And it is this: It is a sin to despair. My favorite living philosopher, Roger Scruton, as in scrutinize – find one of his books and read it – was asked by a National Review reporter this question: “Whittaker Chambers, in leaving Communism for conservatism, said he was consciously leaving the winning side for the losing side. Do you think conservatism is destined to lose?”

Scruton’s answer: “All the best people lose.”

My advice: Progressivism has been brewing in Connecticut for many years. Nationally, progressives are now storming the moderate Democrat citadel.  The best way to seek shelter from the storm is to BE the countervailing storm. Don’t disappear – fight. You have a state to win and only statist, autocratic chains to lose.

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