|Nast Tammany cartoon|
The question “Why do Democrats win elections in Connecticut?” is intimately bound up with the question “How do Democrats win elections in Connecticut?”
It helps a great deal to have a 400 pound gorilla in your corner.
What shall we make of the proposition that we have the kind of government we have in Connecticut, left of center and increasingly progressive, because we have the kind of media we have in Connecticut, left of center and increasingly progressive?
The media, as a political campaign amplifier, is not unimportant in campaigns. If you have a message and do not have a media to relay it objectively, you are at a considerable disadvantage. The media may not be the message, but you cannot present yourself adequately to voters if your message is damagingly edited by a media that has, in effect, chosen sides.
Is this the case in Connecticut?
The answer to the question is – maybe.
There has got to be some reason, other than superior numbers, why there has not been for many years a Republican sitting on Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation. It is true that registered Democrats in Connecticut outnumber registered Republicans roughly by a ratio of two to one, and there are in the state slightly more unaffiliated than Democrats. But that was the case as well when the distribution of Republicans and Democrats within the U.S. Congressional delegation was more or less even.
Money remains important in campaigns. Incumbents, of course, are always able to out-finance challengers, even though challengers in Connecticut may, provided they are willing to abide by stringent regulations, garner money for campaigns through tax dollar contributions. Self-financing of campaigns is also an option, limited, we are told, to the sort of people who own yachts and do not worry overmuch about the price of beef and gas.
Increasingly, the Democrat not the Republican Party is becoming the party of the rich and the disenfranchised poor. The usually productive Middle Class is the real orphan of postmodern politics.
According to IRS Data, Democrats have now become the party of the wealthy, a turnabout when it was the party of the poor and middle class decades ago. “In 1993, the last time a president asked Congress to vote in a significant tax hike,” Bloomberg reports, “the typical congressional district represented by a Republican was 14% richer than the typical Democratic district, according to household income data from the Census Bureau. By 2020, those districts were 13% poorer… Democrats now represent 65% of taxpayers with a household income of $500,000 or more, according to pre-pandemic Internal Revenue Service statistics.”
Still, the amount of money poured into campaigns is not alone decisive. Linda McMahon self-financed a campaign in which she had spent $50 million, and yet she was not successful in overthrowing a popular Democrat, Dick Blumenthal, also a millionaire. Many regard this as a hopeful sign, indicating that elections cannot be bought.
Ah, but we know they can be bought, usually by incumbents whose campaign bank accounts are flush, swelling with about a million in cash even before their campaigns have officially begun.
U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, also a millionaire, has consistently out financed and outspent all of her Republican opponents. Such is the distribution of forces in DeLauro’s 3rd District that DeLauro likely need not spend a single campaign dollar to win against any Republican challenger. That rule holds true in Congressman John Larson’s gerrymandered 1st District as well. Exceptions that prove the rule, such as McMahon’s campaign against Blumenthal, do not invalidate the rule. And the rule is: majority incumbent Democrat politicians, moderate or otherwise, tend to rule. Money and political entropy win elections. In the land of steady bad habits, elections lie in the hands of those disposing of superior political force, mostly incumbents, and de-energized opposition voters.
“Stefanowski to put $10 million into bid,” the front page, above the fold story in a Hartford paper announced. That would be $40 million less than was spend by McMahon on her campaign against Dick Blumenthal for the U.S. Senate. And Stefanowski’s contribution to his own campaign will be dwarfed by the money Lamont will deploy in his own campaign, the insuperable advantages of incumbency, and Connecticut’s 400 pound media gorilla, no mean advantage. The endorsements of the 2022 gubernatorial campaign likely have already been written.