Chris Powell: One Democratic Party Enough for Connecticut?


Benighted as Connecticut's Republican Party may be in the eyes of some, it is
obligated to reject the advice given the other day by the state's former U.S.
senator and governor, Lowell P. Weicker Jr. Interviewed by Connecticut's Hearst
newspapers, Weicker said the party should let people vote in its nominating
primaries without regard to party membership, as the party did briefly in the
1980s when its Weicker faction led the party. 

Of course no party is going to win elections without appealing to a majority of
voters. But not everyone's politics is as adaptable as Weicker's was over a long
career, in which he went from being a Goldwater and Nixon supporter, advocate of
the Vietnam War, and red baiter to hobnobbing with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro
and becoming the darling of government-dependent liberals when, as governor, he
filled their troughs with the proceeds of the personal income tax he imposed on
Connecticut, earning not just the liberals' forgiveness but their amnesia. 

That is, some people want their political views and principles given expression
more than they want to win elections at the cost of having to give up their
views and principles. By letting people participate without regard to party
registration, open primaries prevent people of distinct views and principles
from even [ITALICS] having [END ITALICS] a party. 

Indeed, when Weicker, as senator in the 1980s, sought to survive in increasingly
Democratic Connecticut by moving from political right to left and began to
alienate Republicans and risk being denied their renomination, his objective in
advocating open primaries was precisely to prevent Republicans from controlling
their own party. What may have been the most apt political cartoon drawn in
Connecticut during his years in politics depicted Weicker telling Castro
confidentially, "All you have to do is register Republican long enough to vote
in the primary." 

Besides, Connecticut's Republican Party is not very conservative anyway, largely
indifferent to abortion, homosexuality, gun control, and the other social issues
on which the national party feeds and unwilling even to challenge the major
spending policies on which the state's Democratic Party feeds. That is,
Connecticut Republicans are often hard to distinguish from Democrats, and the
state won't gain political choice and change from more Weickerism, from
Republicans becoming still more like Democrats. 

* * * 

... Rising housing prices are not really good news ... 

For the most part news stories treat an increase in housing prices as an
indicator of prosperity, something to be welcomed, as happened the other day
when the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors reported that the median
housing sale price in the Hartford area had risen by almost 1 percent over the
past year. That's because for many people homeownership constitutes the bulk of
their assets and a decline in housing prices can wipe out the heavily mortgaged. 

But housing isn't only an investment; it is also a necessity of life, like food
and fuel. Only food and fuel producers would celebrate an increase in the price
of those necessities — and an increase in housing prices means more expense for
renters and more difficulty for them in becoming homeowners. 

Of course real estate long has been highly cyclical, a boom-and-bust market,
made more mercurial by the Federal Reserve's manipulation of interest rates for
political purposes. The Fed's recent suppression of rates in the name of
stimulating the economy has worsened the country's housing situation, driving up
prices while depriving small savers of interest income without increasing
employment, wages, and the [ITALICS] ability [END ITALICS] to buy housing. Real
unemployment -- counting people who have withdrawn from the labor market, been
demoted to menial or part-time jobs, or claimed disability pensions -- is
several times the official unemployment rate. 

Reducing the cost of living is pretty much the definition of rising living
standards and progress, so rising housing prices are as much a bad sign as a
good one. 


Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.