Democrats were entitled to celebrate on Inauguration Day in Hartford. Going into the recent election their record of eight years in control of state government was so much against them that no one of any standing in the party thought its nomination for governor was worth the trouble. So the nomination was left to two-time loser Ned Lamont on the understanding that he would finance his campaign with his own money, at least sparing the party the expense.
Whereupon, thanks to President Trump and an excess of political neophytes dividing their primary vote, Connecticut's Republicans self-destructed. So the Democrats simply repudiated their record and were rewarded with another term.
The forthcoming patronage and plunder would have intoxicated the Republicans too. But the giddy gush of Inauguration Day was a bit too much, from the invocation exalting political correctness, to the appeals to optimism and believing in the state despite its chronic insolvency and decline, to the new governor's emptily proclaiming to the General Assembly, "Let's fix this damn budget once and for all!"
Three of Lamont's four immediate predecessors as governor, who sat in the front row at the inauguration, might have wondered, "How's that again?" For fixing the budget [ITALICS] even once [END ITALICS] had been nearly impossible for them, and fixing it forever will be impossible as long as Connecticut has more special interests than civic virtue.
Saying he'll welcome "any good idea," Lamont advertises openmindedness and bipartisanship. But there is no shortage of ideas, and the basic ones are contradictory. From the start of the campaign last year right through the inaugural address there has been instead a shortage of people in authority able to distinguish the good ideas from the bad ones in any way that comes close to balancing revenue and expenditures.
People already know the choices and how politically inconvenient they are; that's why candidates avoided them. The optimism and good fellowship touted on Inauguration Day are nice but without a couple of dollars they won't buy anyone a cup of coffee at the Legislative Office Building cafeteria next week unless he has something to offer in return. Politics will devour optimism and good fellowship.
Lamont's gee-whiz manner -- Heaven help him if it is really his nature as well -- seems to have prevented him from saying what Connecticut needed to hear on Inauguration Day.
Becoming chief executive when the very survival of his country was in question, Winston Churchill offered only "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." Even so, he would add: "Do not let us speak of darker days. Let us speak rather of sterner days" -- days in which the country might be saved.
Though his times were not that stern, President Kennedy also famously demanded something of the people: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."
But on Inauguration Day the new governor barely managed a scolding: "Please don't tell me you've done your share and it's somebody else's turn. It's all of our turns."
It sounded like the policy of the discredited governor who had just gone out the door, Dannel P. Malloy -- "shared sacrifice" -- that is, raising taxes again to keep government employees happy. But why not? The Democrats are back in charge.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.