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A Primer on Connecticut’s News Business, 2024


What is the difference between political commentary and reporting?

The distinction between the two is not as sharp now as it once was, or pretends to be.

Pretends to be?

I do not think a convincing case can be made that print media in the United States had ever been politically unconnected. News writers gather their news from working politicians – that is politicians holding office.

Here in Connecticut, Democrats have ruled the political roost, particularly in the state’s large cities, for almost half a century. The last Republican mayor of Hartford, Connecticut’s Capital City, was Antonia (Ann) Ucello, who left office in 1971, a distant 53 years ago. The state’s General Assembly is dominated by Democrats; all the members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation are Democrats, the last Republican U.S. House member, Chris Shays, having been defeated by Jim Himes in the 2008 election; the last two governors are Democrats. And registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by a two to one margin.

There are no indications that this radical imbalance between Democrat and Republican elected officials at the state level will be more equitably adjusted any time soon. And this means that reportorial clients are majority Democrats. Reporters do their business with Democrat office holders. Republicans from time-to-time may be permitted to shout out alternative political programs from the sidelines. But they really fall outside of Teddy Roosevelt’s political “arena,” powerless lingerers in the audience, among other non-participating witnesses to political events.

Roosevelt is often cited: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

I doubt that Republicans in Connecticut’s political arena may properly be characterized as “cold and timid souls” bereft of “great enthusiasms” or “great devotions” who dare not dare. I do know they are underrepresented by a state media whose business it is to fill their papers with news hawked by Democrat officeholders.

But this was not always the case. How did things get this way?

There is a synchronicity, as mentioned above, between Connecticut’s media and politicians, and not all of it is business related. State Democrats are anxious presently, for campaign reasons, to portray the Republican Party in Connecticut as having been abducted by “Trump the Terrible.” But Trump’s influence upon Connecticut’s GOP as such is not likely to extend much beyond his possible last term in office.

There are -- thank God and the authors of the Federalist Papers, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison – constitutional bars that prevent muscular presidents from the ever-present temptations of tyranny. Or, as my dear old mother used to put it, speaking long ago of an obnoxious candidate for president, “He only has four years, eight at the most,” to unravel America’s unique experiment in personal liberty.

The claim that Trump, if re-elected to the presidential office, will “destroy democracy in America” is clearly absurd, little more than a campaign bumper sticker. One wonders whether any of the Democrat politicians making this claim, largely for campaign reasons, have ever read Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America.

“The American Republic,” Tocqueville wrote in a stunning prediction, “will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

Other elements that have transformed Connecticut into a Democrat sinecure are, in no special order of importance, reportorial timidity, a too friendly business relationship with politicians in power, intellectual sloth, a crushing long-term Democrat Party majority in the state, and political inertia.

Chris Powell is far more dangerous, both as a commentator and a newsman, than most political operatives in Connecticut, primarily because thinking about politics is, for him, not just an entertaining pastime.  He was, when he first began working for the Journal Inquirer over in Manchester, the youngest managing editor of a newspaper in the state. The paper he worked for, once independently owned, is now a part of the Hearst chain of newspapers. The Hartford Courant, once independent, is now part of the Tribune chain of papers. Newspaper chains tend to have their own stables of reporters and commentators and live in quiet despair that imprudent commentators will disturb their carefully groomed sources, most of them in-office Democrat politicians and their staffs. 

Powell thinks people are becoming politically illiterate, especially in the cities, and the remaining lonely literati have been captivated, if not captured, by outworn credos, among them noxious post-Marxian claptrap, refabricated and updated of course. These are two permanent stops on Powell’s commentary organ. Some people may have noticed that rational argumentation no longer plays a decisive part in political discussion. Powell still believes – he has always believed – that rationality should trump the media-political complex, and he has quoted in an approving manner Joseph Pulitzer’s maxim that a “good newspaper should have no friends.”

Powell’s columns may be found at Chris Powell Columns. He once butted heads with the editorial staff of the Hartford Courant concerning an editorial he wrote, and the collision produced an entertaining and instructive point-counterpoint preserved by Connecticut Commentary under the titleThe Stink War.”

Journalism should be a dangerous and disruptive enterprise. In Trump’s case, there is no lack of opposition within the legacy media, but Biden is left to graze undisturbed in fields of grain. Not so long ago, op-ed pages in most newspapers carried vibrant contrary opinion. But presently contrary opinion on the shrinking op-ed pages of many Connecticut newspapers invites stern and humorless opposition from politicians who generally think they have cornered the market on prevailing political opinion. What is the point, after all, in enraging in-office politicians from whom many reporters and commentators get their news?

A good news editor would from time to time dare disturb the political universe and assign his reporters the task of presenting to majority politicians in his state important questions that might ruffle the feathers of the political birds in office.

It is not at all difficult to cite examples of politicians in Connecticut who have not been grilled on important matters.

We know that the border crisis has produced a corresponding fentanyl crisis in the United States, and we know that the product used to produce fentanyl comes from China.  That is, Peter Schweizer tells us in his newest book, Blood Money: Why the Powerful Turn a Blind Eye While China Kills Americans, but the tip of the spear.

“You look at a situation like the fentanyl crisis,” Schweizer recently told Mark Levin. “It’s killing 100,000 Americans a year. And a lot of people know that the precursors come from China. What they don’t know is that China is involved in every single chain in this link that leads to the deaths of Americans. The precursors come to a port at the port of Manzanillo in Mexico. It’s run by a Chinese company. They send those precursors up to a small border town in Mexico, where 2000 Chinese nationals help them turn it into fentanyl. They take pill presses that are imported from China, that are sold to the drug cartels at cost by the Chinese. They make these pills. They then bring them across the border into the United States.”

According to a CNN report, “More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States during the 12-month period ending April 2021, according to provisional data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a new record high, with overdose deaths jumping 28.5% from the same period one year earlier.” By comparison, In 2021, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the CDC.

South American drug cartels have been enriched considerably by a border they regard, correctly, as little more than a demarcation line on a map. Border patrol agents, the last line of defense against aggressive South American drug runners and their Chinese enablers, are now busily processing illegal migrants, a change in function necessitated by the sheer numbers of illegal immigrants crossing the border, 7.2 million since Biden assumed office. Major sanctuary cities in the United States have been overrun by illegal immigrants. Leading urban Democrats such as Mayor Eric Adams of New York City have long felt the pinch.

Most recently, according to Fox News, “Adams on Monday doubled down while speaking to a group at a town hall meeting in Canarsie, Brooklyn, saying the sanctuary city law needs to be modified so that any migrant who commits a felony can be turned over to ICE and deported.

Statutorily, Connecticut’s relationship with ICE, particularly on deporting illegals in the state’s sanctuary cities, is icy. Legislation barring sanctuary cities in New Hampshire failed in 2022, according to a piece in National Public Radio (NPR) ironically titled “State House Republicans pursue focus on illegal immigration even as data shows few border crossings.”

A competent news editor would suggest to his or her paper’s best investigative reporter that he or she put the following question to every one of the all-Democrat members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation: There were in the United States in 2021 twice as many deaths from fentanyl than reported deaths from firearms misuse.   Recent reports indicate that China is implicated in the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl over what appears to be a highly porous southern border. What bills have you written or supported that would reduce the mass chemical murder of American citizens?

The question, well worth asking, will no doubt ruffle the feathers of current Democrat officeholders up for reelection in 2024. But ruffling the feathers of office holders is what an instructive and honorable media is supposed to be doing.

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