I want to be sure to thank Pam Salamone and Mary Beeman for inviting me to speak to you today. I’ll begin by saying something about liberty and heroism, move on to discuss the status of Connecticut’s two political parties, and close with a Q&A session that, I hope, will open my own eyes to your genuine concerns. I won’t take much more than 20 minutes of your time.
You probably will not mind if, along the way, I take a paddle to the deserving backsides of Governor Ned Lamont and President Joe Biden.
People in this room will be aware that they are outnumbered by registered Democrats in the state by about two to one. Unaffiliateds outnumber Democrats by a small margin. Connecticut’s larger cities have been in the Democrat hopper for a half century or more – and it shows. Democrats in the General Assembly have nearly a veto-proof majority. All the state’s Constitutional offices are held by Democrats. Jodi Rell was the state’s last “moderate” Republican Governor. She was followed by a bristly Dannel – please don’t call him “Dan” – Malloy, now Chancellor of Maine’s higher education system. And Malloy was followed by Ned Lamont, Lowell Weicker Jr.’s protégé. Need I mention that Connecticut’s media was positioned during all these years to the left of center?
The state’s media has quite given up its necessary role as a contrarian force for good in Connecticut. Where’s my proof? Show me three contrarian editorials in any newspaper that hold Lamont’s feet to a right of center bonfire.
I’ve just described the condition of the Alamo prior to Santa Anna’s successful attack upon it.
John F. Kennedy, running for the presidency, visited the Alamo and delivered a short speech there – short because his schedule was tight and he was due somewhere else. He kept looking at his watch, finished his speech to a smattering of applause, and turned to the tour guide, a young woman, to ask, “Where’s the back door?”
“Senator,” the young lady responded, “There are no back doors to the Alamo – only heroes.”
It will take a heroic effort to reform Connecticut, but the thing can be done. And when it is done, it will be found that activist women and politically oppressed minorities had played a major role in the state’s reformation. “Reformation” is a solid word suggesting a return to a politics centered in the liberty of the person, combined with political action that enriches people rather than government, lifting them up from despair and poverty to independence and self-reliance.
The relationship between governors and the governed throughout history has always been an inverse one. It goes like this: the richer the government, the poorer the people; the more active the government, the more sluggish and inert the people; a government of experts will produce a citizenry of dolts; where the government does everything, the people need do nothing, and nothing, as my dear old Italian Mom used to say, leads to nothing.
Where the liberties of the government extend to infinitude, the natural freedoms of the people are reduced to a reluctant obedience. And unease eventually leads to a reassertion of the natural liberties of the person.
Davy Crockett did not die at the Alamo so that Santa Anna could clothe himself in glory.
When King George of Britain heard that President George Washington intended to give up his presidency and resume his life at Mount Vernon as gentleman farmer, he said, “If Washington does that, he will be the greatest man alive.”
Despite the strenuous efforts of our Educrats – mostly over-schooled and undereducated “experts” – to redraft and reform the historical record, we know who our heroes are. We know they are modest, self-effacing – and fiercely determined to carry forward to our progeny the grace and power of liberties bathed in the blood, sweat and tears of our forbearers.
Shut Up and Obey
As everyone here surely knows, the two contestants for Governor of Connecticut – Democrat incumbent Governor Ned Lamont and Republican nominee for Governor Bob Stefanowski – debated each other at the end of September. Postmodern debates, unlike the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are little more than media availabilities.
Democrats seem determined not to allow Republicans too many mano-a-mano press availabilities. Lamont has graciously agreed only to one and two thirds debates. In his previous gubernatorial contest with Stefanowski, Lamont allowed four debates. Apparently, his confortable lead in early pre-debate polling, convinced Lamont and his debate coaches that mano-a-mono exposure would not be helpful.
Present at the September debate was the Independent candidate for governor Rob Hotaling , whose media availability cut by a third the face-time of the two principal gubernatorial contestants. There were no serious editorial objections in major Connecticut newspapers to a foreshortened debate schedule. I leave it to you to wonder why.
During the debate, Lamont made one serious unforced error, considerably downplayed by Connecticut’s pro-progressive, left of center media. I leave it to you to wonder why .
During their debate, Stefanowski objected to Connecticut’s obscenely large surplus. In a letter to Comptroller Natalie Braswell, CTNewsJunkie reported at the end of September, OPM [Office of Policy Management] Secretary Jeff Beckham wrote “The fund balance at the end of FY 2023 will exceed $5.6 billion, or 25.4 percent of net General Fund appropriations for the current year. The maximum allowed by law is 15% which means anything over that will automatically be used to pay down pension debt.”
A $5.6 billion surplus, 25.4 percent of net General Fund appropriations for the current year, most hard pressed Connecticut taxpayers would agree, is not pocket change.
In 1986, Massachusetts, a deep blue New England state like Connecticut, passed a piece of legislation – 62F – that mandated the return to taxpayers of all tax collections that grow faster than the three-year average of wage growth.
“Gov. Charlie Baker,” NBC Boston reported in mid-September, “filed a fiscal year 2022 closeout budget that sets aside $2.94 billion to be returned to taxpayers and leaves the Legislature about $1.5 billion in surplus dollars to spend.”
Could there be a 62F statute, which ties tax growth to wage growth, in Connecticut’s future?
Lamont responded that his surplus would serve as a hedge against a coming RECESSION, and later, at a regional Chamber of Commerce session, Lamont said, according to CTPost, "Maybe we're going to have a surplus at the end of this fiscal year, maybe we're not, but don't spend the surplus we don't have.” How it’s possible to spend a surplus you don’t have may be a mystery to accountants.
Lamont continued, “That's the type of thing that got this state into such a mess over the last 30, 40 years.” Wrong, what got the state in trouble was spending beyond its means. Lamont continued, “I did a debate the other day and my opponent [Stefanowski] spent that surplus, you know, five times over. We're heading into what could be a REAL RECESSION."
Here, a trap door should have sprung open and swallowed whole Lamont and all the king’s debate coaches.
In the scale of economic evils, inflation is a step down from recession. And yet here was Lamont claiming a swollen surplus was necessary to offset the ravages of a recession steaming round the corner.
For months and months, the Biden administration had been hotly and falsely claiming the nation was not suffering from INFLATION, universally defined as “too many dollars chasing too few goods.” It was and is and will be for some time suffering from inflation. Any Soccer Mom filling up her gas tank in preparation for a match could have told the economic “experts” advising the inattentive Biden that they were all wet.
These implausible denials – there is no inflation; the coming recession is a figment of fevered Republican and Make America Great Again (MAGA) imaginations – are exploding, like a fireworks display, all around us. And the denials here in Connecticut are all of a piece with majority Democrats’ successful attempts in the General Assembly to deny the realities lying right under their noses and to discourteously deny Republicans legislators an opportunity to effectively propose workable, non-progressive solutions to our most pressing economic and cultural problems.
Economist Don Klepper-Smith, the Hartford Courant tells us, very late in the game, “said he believes Connecticut is in a recession. ‘Nothing here in this data takes me off the fact we are in a recession.”
What data? “Connecticut’s economy shrank by 4.7% on an annual basis in the three months ending June 30, as earnings weakened in manufacturing and finance and insurance, three key industries, the U.S. Commerce Department reported. The state ranked 49th in its economic performance in the second quarter. Only Wyoming’s economy was weaker. Overall, the U.S. economy shrank by 0.6% on an annual basis.”
Lamont’s solution to the recessionary monsoon already upon us -- pass around the bailing spoons -- is laughable. And his solution to such dire economic problems – the state’s governor and representatives are aboard the ship; tow up the lifeline – is a treacherous betrayal of a gubernatorial mandate.
The Democrats want you reform-minded Republican women, and any reform persistent Democrats and Unaffiliateds to shut up and obey their infallible prescriptions. The good news is -- I sense some ardent resistance in this room. Pam Salamone has said very clearly in her past campaign that you cannot grow your way out of a recession through excessive taxation.
That resistance has been very lively in Boards of Education meetings across the state, and the pushback against unnecessary mask wearing and racy books introducing very young children to erotic experimentation, has been fierce.
It seems that mothers, if not Democrat politicians, fully understand the doctrine of subsidiarity, which holds “that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level.”
With respect to educating children, the doctrine means that the central authority – whether it be the state, municipal government or local Boards of Education – should not override parental authority. Indeed, subsidiary authorities are authorized, in a well ordered republic, to enforce the will of parents, which is why we have elected Boards of Education. The whole notion of democratic representation rests – always uneasily – on the principle of subsidiarity. The very right to govern, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, still rests, always uneasily, on the will of the people. And the law of the land is the law laid down by our founders in the U.S. Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,[promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Republican governance, no one in this room need be told, does not depend upon the will to govern – it depends upon the will of the people to be responsibly governed. And good governance depends upon the will of publicly appointed representatives to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of LIBERTY to ourselves and our posterity. Every tax, every regulation, every executive authoritarian dictat – we’ve had our fill of them during the COVID crisis – is a deprivation of the liberty of the person, which is why all of the above should be applied sparingly – very sparingly -- and judiciously.
I began this talk by hitting some rather somber notes. But I’d like to leave you with a light note. Newt Gingrich wrote yesterday:
“I recently received an email from Barry Casselman, an old friend and long-time election analyst who writes a regular newsletter on politics. On Saturday, he wrote to me, ‘Now Connecticut?’ He explained that a new poll found that Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal was only leading Republican challenger Leora Levy by five points (49 percent to 44 percent). Two weeks ago, a poll had him above 50 percent and leading by 13 points. Casselman simply asked, ‘Can CT be in play?’
“I checked with people who know Connecticut politics a lot better than I do, and the answer was surprisingly affirmative.
“This is a year when any Democrat incumbent below 50 is potentially vulnerable. In addition to Levy on the Connecticut ticket, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski now trails Gov. Ned Lamont by only six points (40 percent to 46 percent), according to a Connecticut Examiner poll.
“Importantly, the poll was taken before the brutal killing of two police officers in Bristol, Connecticut. The police declined to let Gov. Lamont speak at a memorial service for the officers, because Lamont signed a law during the Black Lives Matters protests that restricted law enforcement and let criminals go free.”
Thank you all for being so patient and attentive. If you have any questions relating to anything on your minds, we can toss them around. Or if you have a comment, that will do just as well. I’d be very interested in hearing what you think an effective resistance to political stupidity in Connecticut might entail.
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.