It took no more than a few hours after Bob Stefanowski had formally announced he was running as a Republican to cast a pall over his nascent campaign.
The title of a Hartford story read: “Stefanowski seeks rematch: Strident conservative throws hat into the ring for second time by blasting Lamont, Democrats.”
The lede read: “Outspoken conservative Republican Bob Stefanowski jumped into the race for governor Wednesday morning, looking for a get-tough-on-crime and cut-taxes agenda to lead a successful rematch against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.”
One may well wonder: are all conservative Republicans “outspoken?” Do all of them, or just this one, carry verbal bombs in their pockets with which to assault innocent, unoffending Democrats? What are the limits of campaign oratory, and do only Republican conservatives transgress the limits?
Stefanowski is quoted in part: “’Over the past three years, our state has become less affordable and more dangerous,’ he said. ‘We already have some of the highest taxes, utilities, and child care costs in the country, and runaway inflation is making it even worse.’”
These items, lightly touched by Stefanowski while throwing his hat into the ring, are pretty much common knowledge. Many Connecticut papers have reported on the state’s high taxes, its costly utilities and rising child care costs. Inflation has raked everyone in Connecticut, rich or poor, conservative or moderate, progressive or socialist. No rhetorical bombast here.
The report noted that Stefanowski’s announcement “drew immediate attacks from Connecticut Democratic leaders, who repeated their accusation that he’s far too right wing for a blue state.” The attacks in the story, quoted at length, were aimed at the messenger, not his message.
“'CT (sic) knows that Bob Stefanowski [is, sic] a die-hard Trump supporter who has proposed slashing money for schools and rolling back health care,’ said Connecticut Democrats on Twitter, minutes after his announcement. ‘He stands with the conspiracy theory-promoting, insurrectionist fringe.’”
The “insurrectionist fringe” is a reference to the crowd of bitter malcontents that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. There is no indication that Stefanowski was present fomenting the mob. A simple phone call from a reporter asking – Where were you when…? would have been sufficient to provide Stefanowski with an ironclad alibi.
No matter. The purpose of the rhetorical blast is to associate in the minds of possible voters the “strident conservative” with the mob, detached from a Trump rally, that stormed the Capitol on January 6, the worst instance of insurrection, some Democrats intimated, in U.S. history.
“Worse,” a few calming voices asked at the time, “than the Civil War, an authentic insurrection?”
Apparently so. The bandwidth of the word “insurrection” can accommodate anything from armed rebellion to violent protest to, in Stefanowski’s case, membership in a Connecticut Republican Party associated with a National Republican Party connected with President Donald Trump, who may or may not have incited a mob to attack the U.S. Congress.
In happier days, this intemperate free association might have been denounced by reporters, every one of whom should be dedicated to right-naming things, as a bit over the top. Was the apostle Peter, along with Judas, guilty of deicide – fortunately, temporary -- because both belonged to the same apostolate? What about the present Pope? Is he also tainted with deicide? Is President Joe Biden, on occasion a practicing Catholic, also culpable?
Whatever else he may be, Stefanowski is no Donald Trump. After years of political character assassination, Americans have developed a tough, resistant hide. They have long since come of age at a time when reigning parties, fearful of defending their own failed policies, resort to methods successfully deployed in the past by “Big Lie” masters of political propaganda.
One hopes that Stefanowski during his campaign will be courageously outspoken. A conservative governor might have something to offer a seriously wounded state that has not yet been tried and found wanting. Stefanowski's nascent campaign appears to rest, so far, on stout pillars. As any dispassionate observer who has met and talked with him knows, the conservative bomb thrower is highly analytical and pretty much the opposite of theatrical.
His opening first ad burns no one’s barns and responds well to real rather than politically manufactured issues: “Over the past three years, our state has become less affordable and more dangerous for the good people who live, work, and go to school here. We already have some of the highest taxes, utilities, and childcare costs in the country, and runaway inflation is making it even worse… People in Connecticut are not asking for a lot. They want to be safe, to trust that state government is being open and accountable, and to be able to afford to live, work, and retire here. Unfortunately, these are not the priorities of the current state leadership, who continue to serve the political insiders more than they do the people they represent.”
Such statements are fearful to the reigning power because they are, all of them, true.