For Connecticut Republicans and Democrats alike, former Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker’s maturation was a wondrous thing to behold.
Weicker had reached the end of his political road when he decided not to run for a second term as Connecticut’s governor. Few supposed he could be reelected, and no one in the Republican Party was astonished by his decision after he had forced an income tax down the gullets of his statewide constituents.
In an oral history recorded in 2009, CTMirror’s Mark Pazniokas tells us, Weicker explained the remarkable twists and turns in his 30 year course in Connecticut politics. “When we start in politics,” Weicker said, “if we’re going to be successful [emphasis mine], we’re going to mature in politics. I started out, as first selectman of the town of Greenwich, as a very conservative Republican, and even when I was in the state legislature, I might have moderated a little bit, due to my interaction with representatives from the other towns and cities of the state…. But when I became a congressman and all of a sudden I was no longer representing just Greenwich, I was representing Bridgeport, I was interacting with a different set of circumstances, that’s going to be the critical point as to whether you mature in terms of your constituency or whether you’re going to be an ideologue” – like Ronald Reagan, President Bush the elder and younger, or Roger Eddy.
Maturation, for the shifty politician, covers a multitude of sins.
Who, the reader may ask, is Roger Eddy?
Eddy, a gentleman farmer and Republican National Committeeman, long forgotten and buried, ran against the formidable Democrat U.S. Senator Chris Dodd in 1986. Before Eddy announced his run, he had traveled to Washington DC to secure Weicker’s support. He was warmly received by Weicker, who told him he had planned to throw his considerable weight behind Eddy’s campaign. Weicker said he planned to support Eddy a thousand percent.
And why not?
When battered Republicans considered dumping Weicker in a convention battle, Pazniokas tells us, Eddy rose to defend Weicker. “’Make no mistake about it,’ said Eddy, then the state party’s treasurer, ‘this is more than a Republican convention — it is a Republican trial, an inquisition. A few angry people have defined Republicanism in their own narrow, intolerant image, and whoever does not accept their definition as Republican gospel will, if they have their way, be burned at the political stake.’”
Alas for Eddy, Weicker was maturing. That is to say, he recognized the road to political success in Connecticut ran through the Democrat Party.
A couple of weeks before Connecticut voters were due to march to the polls to select their U.S. Senator, Weicker went on the radio and fulsomely endorsed Dodd.
Shoved off the political stage by Weicker and charred on the Republican senator’s private political stake, Eddy never forgave Weicker’s self-serving betrayal, nor did many Republicans.
In both politics and business, said Henry David Thoreau, the road to success leads downward, but not until one has fully matured.
Eddy may serve as a synecdoche for the entire bruised and battered Connecticut Republican Party.
After confiding to Tom D’Amore, Weicker’s right hand man, “Why doesn’t someone take over the [state] Republican Party? It’s so small,” D’Amore, with Weickers’ blessing, took over the small Republican Party and became its chairman. D’Amore proposed allowing non-affiliateds to vote in Republican Party primaries, to broaden the party’s reach he said. But some in the party suspected the broadening was a scheme to assure that Weicker, a stone in the shoe of state Republicans, would not in the future be ousted by his disgruntled party – which was exactly what happened some years later when Weicker was bested in a general election by then Democrat State Attorney General Joe Lieberman. Weicker’s battered party had finally and effectively served Weicker his divorce papers.
During Weicker’s last year in the Senate, his liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) rating was twenty points higher than Dodd’s. The Republican Senator had matured his way out of the Republican Party.
Now he is gone, perhaps blinkered Connecticut reporters and commentators will bring themselves to admit that former President Ronald Reagan, a true conservative, did the world, if not Weicker, a favor by ridding it of the Soviet Union and, with the help of the non-Stalinist Mikhail Gorbachev and a clever diplomatic emphasis on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), reduced the prospect of nuclear annihilation.
There will be two political eulogists at Weicker’s funeral mass in Greenwich, Governor Ned Lamont and Dodd, both Democrats. Neither will mention Reagan’s amusing sole reference to Weicker in his diary: “Weicker is a fathead.”
Blaise Pascal says, “In the end, they throw a little dirt on you, and everyone walks away. But there is One who will not walk away.”
May that One receive Weicker in his saving arms.