Dan Malloy

Chris Powell: Democrats underestimated the rage that has given us a repellent president-elect

Storming the Bastille.

Storming the Bastille.

Donald Trump has been vile, a megalomaniac, and ignorant when he has not been vague or incoherent, and has been distrusted even by many people who voted for him. So now that he has been elected president, what does that say about Hillary Clinton?

Probably it says that the Democratic Party managed to nominate the only candidate who could lose to someone of Trump's character -- managed to nominate a candidate who had spent decades as part of the country's political establishment and who was manifestly corrupt and a robotic campaigner but who was offered to the country anyway just when it seethed with resentment of declining living standards and wanted change.

Indeed, Trump's platform was little more than contempt for the establishment and even for the decencies themselves. But the more contemptible his demeanor became, the more support he gained.

Trump himself was the first to figure this out. Campaigning in Iowa in January he marveled, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." Nor, as it turned out, did he lose voters -- or at least not too many of them -- even for boasting about his career of grabbing women by the crotch.

Clinton, the Democrats, the elites, and  many national news organizations never appreciated the rage to which Trump appealed, even when, toward the end of the campaign, opinion polls showed him rising. The polls still underestimated his support because people who were surveyed feared being perceived as politically incorrect.

But then Clinton, the Democrats, the elites, and national news organizations never understood, or at least never admitted, that for years now most economic figures issued by the federal government have been lies or deliberately misleading. Most of what national news organizations report about the economy has been mere spin meant to please the government.

The collapse of the labor-participation rate is not just a political scandal but a journalistic one, given the refusal of  most national news organizations to examine and emphasize it. The federal government's constant and surreptitious intervention in the financial markets to keep them from falling and thereby exposing the decline of the real economy is also both a political and journalistic scandal.

In telling people that the economy is improving when they see it deteriorating in their daily lives, the government and national news organizations only deepened people's political rage.

The gamble taken by Gov. Dan Malloy, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, and other leading Connecticut Democrats with their constant attacks on Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, might have paid off well if Clinton had won. Instead these attacks likely will prove costly, depriving Connecticut of any sympathy from the new national administration for the next four years.

Now no federal appointment will rescue Malloy from the perpetual disaster of his budgeting. Connecticut's congressional delegation, all Democrats, will spend another two years in the minority in Washington, though maybe the shock of Trump's election will make the Republican majorities a little less rabid and more inclined to work reasonably with the other side.

In their travels in support of Clinton the governor and the congressmen don't seem to have noticed the political rage of "flyover America." But while Connecticut went comfortably for Clinton, the gains made Tuesday by the Republican minority in the General Assembly hint at the possibility of rage even in this state, whose elites may be the most smug, especially since state government's finances keep deteriorating, compelling more tax increases or spending cuts.

State government's financial problems are not going to be fixed in two years; pension underfunding, among other things, will only make them worse. By then the rage may be explosive here too.

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

 

Chris Powell: Hartford protesters just irritated the public

  MANCHESTER, Conn.

Yes, as the protesters chanted and their signs read in downtown Hartford last Monday, "Black lives matter." But the protesters were in the wrong place.

For of course all lives matter, and the protesters were blocking afternoon rush-hour traffic as if no one else mattered.

The protest was nothing like the brave civil-rights protests of old, the lunch-counter sit-ins, where the targets were perpetrators of injustice. No, on Monday everyone passing through downtown Hartford was punished.

Further, despite its many faults, state government lately has been sensitive to the concerns of the protesters, quite without any prodding from them, as those concerns are widely shared among state residents of all races and echoed by newspapers.

With support from legislators of all races, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy has been advocating his "Second Chance Society" legislation to eliminate felony charges for simple drug possession, charges that disproportionately snag city residents, who are disproportionately from minority groups and live disproportionately in the silly "drug-free zones" around schools. Also a major issue in the General Assembly's recent session was legislation to equip police officers with body cameras.

Both bills might have passed if the legislature had been well-organized and will be considered again soon in a special section.

The legislature's recent session did pass a bill to restore the accessibility of police arrest records and to require disclosure of police body and dashboard camera video of arrests. Meanwhile, police departments throughout the state are generally recognizing the public's right to observe and record police work.

Last Monday's protesters would have helped their cause by showing up at the state Capitol a few weeks ago to speak at hearings and approach legislators for earnest discussion. Their blocking rush-hour traffic didn't call attention to any particular culprit and didn't win sympathy. To the contrary, it merely alienated and was just an exercise in self-righteousness.

If this exercise is repeated in Hartford or anywhere else, the police should not indulge it as long as they did last Monday before arresting the 17 protesters who refused to get out of the street. No one has the right to shut society down.

* * *

Serving a population that is largely impoverished and drawn from ethnic minorities, Hartford's police department long has worked not to seem to be an occupying army. This hasn't been easy, especially lately amid an increase in deadly violence in the city as the warm weather has brought fatherless and predatory young men outside to go after each other with guns.

Maybe because they live among so many predators, most Hartford residents seem to appreciate their police. But an incident of police misconduct in April, recently reported by The Hartford Courant, has left a serious question.

A pedestrian using a cellphone to take video of a trap that police had set up to catch drivers using cellphones was rushed by a police officer who yelled, "Turn the phone off before I smash it." Fortunately the officer's threatening and illegal behavior was captured by the pedestrian's cellphone and shown to the newspaper and then to police administrators.

In no way had the pedestrian interfered with the police, and the police department quickly repudiated the officer's misconduct, summoning him for "retraining" and affirming that police must accept being recorded.

But that wasn't enough.

For any police officer who would lunge at and threaten an unoffending observer that way is not just oblivious to what is going on in police work around the country. He is also psychologically unfit to be a police officer and should be fired -- and would be fired if government in Connecticut weren’t controlled by the government- employee unions.

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

Chris Powell: Of Newtown and Coltsville National Park

MANCHESTER, Conn. 
Horrible as the massacre at the school in Newtown, Conn., two years ago was, it is not 
justification for whatever its survivors and allied politicians want to make of 
it. Indeed, they have gone too far with their class-action lawsuit against the 
manufacturer of the military-style rifle used in the massacre, the AR-15. 

The rifle is legally sold throughout most of the country and was legal in 
Connecticut at the time of the massacre. So the lawsuit claims that the rifle is 
beyond proper operation by civilians and thus should not have been made 
available to them -- a claim of "negligent entrustment." 

While the lawsuit asserts that the AR-15 "has little utility for legitimate 
civilian purposes," it has been sold to civilians in the United States for 50 
years, about 3 million are in civilian hands, and, because of its light weight 
and accuracy, it is the most popular rifle in shooting competitions. Further, 
federal law exempts firearms makers from liability for criminal use of their 
products. 

Maybe the lawsuit still will win damages, through settlement or trial. It has 
been filed in state court in Bridgeport, just a few miles from Newtown, to 
exploit local sympathies. But victory for the plaintiffs could put the 
manufacturer out of business and effectively outlaw the AR-15's manufacture 
through risk of more liability. 

That seems to be the plaintiffs' objective, and then the lawsuit's theory could 
be applied against  any gun manufacturing. Something that 
big should be accomplished democratically, by repeal of the Second Amendment, 
not by a mere state court verdict in a damage case. The Newtown people already 
have intimidated state government into weakening Connecticut's 
freedom-of-information law. 

Of course, the country has an appalling problem with gun violence. But it's not 
really a gun problem at all, and even if it was and the Second Amendment could 
be repealed, there would be no way of confiscating enough guns to make a 
difference, since about 300 million are estimated to be in civilian hands. 

No, most gun violence arises from the financial premium bestowed on drugs by 
futile criminalization and by the welfare system's subsidies for childbearing 
outside marriage, which deprives young men of the parenting they need to become 
civilized. Those issues remain largely beyond political discussion in 
Connecticut. 

Meanwhile, even as they advocate curtailing gun ownership, Connecticut 
politicians this week were congratulating themselves on the approval of federal 
legislation to designate the Colt Manufacturing Co. buildings in Hartford as a 
national park, Coltsville. 

Colt wasn't just the developer of repeating guns. A half century ago Colt was 
the first to manufacture AR-15s for civilian use. But the national park's 
advocates never mention guns at all. No, the Coltsville National Park is said to 
be a tribute to Connecticut's leadership with "technology." 

* * * 

Former Connecticut House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden), is following 
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. (D-Thompson), into the employ of the 
state's largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association. Now if 
the CEA can hire a former governor and a former chief justice, it can claim 
ownership of the whole of government in a state whose subservience to special 
interests has become shameless. 
 
* * * 

Having refused a couple of weeks ago to explain the firing of the longtime 
director of the state Office of Labor Relations, insisting that "we don't 
comment on personnel matters,"  Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy's communications director, Andrew 
Doba, this week somehow managed to distribute a dozen detailed announcements 
about personnel changes in the Malloy administration -- including one about his 
own departure. Former Malloy campaign aide Mark Bergman will take charge of the 
non sequiturs and contradictions. Now that they won't have Doba to kick around 
anymore, Connecticut political writers may hope that Bergman is as good a sport. 

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

Chris Powell: Last stand for Conn.'s private sector

With Quinnipiac University's final poll on Connecticut's election for governor calculating once again that the race is essentially tied, two conclusions may be drawn.  

The first is that the supporters of petitioning candidate Joe Visconti, the gun-rights fanatic, are breaking somewhat in favor of the Republican nominee, Tom Foley, as they realize that Visconti has no chance of winning and that votes for him will be only protest votes.

 

The second is that the success of the Democratic nominee, Gov. Dan Malloy, will depend on mobilizing city voters, who are disproportionately tax consumers -- government employees and welfare recipients -- rather than taxpayers.

 

The decline in voter participation in non-presidential election years like this one favors Republican candidates. But since opinion polls under-represent the urban poor, who vote Democratic overwhelmingly, the governor probably already has the support of more people than the polls show and so he seems more likely to win.

 

Indeed, since the two major political parties are really just accumulations of interests rather than proponents of political principles, and since the candidates have avoided issues of substance, choosing instead personal attacks, contrivances, and hysteria -- the governor because his record is weak, Foley because his knowledge of government is weak -- this election is largely a contest between government itself and what remains of Connecticut's private sector. If Malloy wins it may be the final triumph of Connecticut's government and welfare classes, the triumph Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. felt he could not win when, having imposed the state income tax to rescue those classes, he declined to seek re-election in 1994.

 

But after imposing a tax increase even bigger than Weicker's and for the same purpose, Governor Malloy is seeking vindication. It will be construed as license for unlimited government and taxation.

The governor essentially confirmed as much in his comments to the NAACP meeting in Waterbury last weekend. "We did not balance our budget as other states did" by reducing financial grants to municipalities, he said. "Not a single teacher, not a single policeman, not a single fireman has lost his job because I took my problem and shifted it to Waterbury, Bridgeport, or New Haven."

 

This was also to say that by raising taxes and increasing financial grants to municipalities, the governor insulated their employees against union contract concessions just as he had insulated state government's employees -- that only private-sector workers have to sacrifice, their concessions being extracted via higher taxes.

 

The Democratic campaign also is touting to the most fearsome special interest, teacher unions, that the Malloy administration is fully funding the state teacher retirement fund, though this is only required by a law enacted under the governor's Republican predecessor and though it inadvertently demonstrates state government's perverse priorities. After all, no law guarantees public safety in Connecticut's anarchic cities, maintenance of the state's decaying transportation infrastructure, or group homes for the mentally retarded. No, inviolability attaches only to the pensions of teachers.

 

Since he has so little to say, Foley's election will be construed as mere repudiation of the governor and dissatisfaction with the state's lengthening hard times. The Republican will not be able to claim a mandate for any particular policy, having demonstrated little familiarity with or even interest in state government's operations. If he is elected that stuff will be assigned to the hired help.

 

As for Visconti, he has defaulted on tens of thousands of dollars in debt over the years and has posed for photographs bare-chested with odd expressions on his face, and still he sometimes has seemed more sensible and candid than his rivals. In this disgraceful campaign it might be hard to blame voters for wondering if guns really are the answer.

 

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

Don Pesci: The 'extremists' among us

  VERNON, Conn.

Somewhere along the line, national and state Democrats discovered that most Americans do not cotton to extremists. For this reason, progressives in Connecticut – nearly all politically active Democrats -- have taken to calling “extremists” those who oppose some of their more radical political positions.
V. I. Lenin, an extremist of the first water, knew that if you effectively labeled an opponent or an idea, you would not have to argue with either. If you have successfully identified in the public mind as an extremist anyone who disagrees with you on a political or social point, you need not address his nuanced arguments. You need not bother to confront his arguments at all; the mud you throw – knowing full well that some of it will stick – will be sufficient to convince a majority of people that your position is superior to his, because you are superior to him: He is an extremist, and you are not. In cases such as these, arguments are won not through debate or the presentation of compelling evidence, but rather through the brute force of demagoguery.

We have been told through ads created outside Connecticut that the Republican candidate for governor, Tom Foley, is an extremist. Mr. Foley is an extremist principally because he is in sharp disagreement on some points with his political opponents who doubtless will gain an advantage from the ads.
Generally, we like to reserve the word “extremist” for those people who go out of their way to violate social norms.  It may come as a severe shock to out of state political ad makers who wish to boost the political prospects of Democrats by featuring Mr. Foley in their ads as an extremist to learn that Mr. Foley is a rather bland Everyman.
That, in any case, is the gravamen of the charge brought against him by some Republicans who have urged Mr. Foley to be a bit more passionate and lively in his presentations. Barry Goldwater, one of Lowell Weicker’s favorite politicians – so Mr. Weicker has often claimed -- was the guy who said about those charging him with extremism, “Let me remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me also remind you that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue,” a sentiment heartily accepted by Sol Alinsky politicians on the left such as Hillary Clinton, said to be a shoe-in for president on the Democratic Party ticket in 2016, and President  Obama, organizer extraordinaire, both of whom are much more far gone in extremism than Mr. Foley or, for that matter, Peter Wolfgang, the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC).
Both Mr. Foley and Mr. Wolfgang have come under fire in a new campaign ad endorsed by Gov. Dan Malloy. The ad claims that Mr. Wolfgang, an orthodox Catholic who simply refuses to go quiet into Connecticut’s good secularist night, is said to be an extremist because he has been captured by what G. K. Chesterton once called “the romance of orthodoxy.” Mr. Foley is said to be an extremist because he had been endorsed by Mr. Wolfgang who, in the view of Democratic Party progressive extremists, is an extremist.
It so happens that Mr. Foley and Mr. Wolfgang part ways on some issues dear to progressives. For instance, Mr. Foley supports what progressive Democrats would call “a woman’s right to choose.” But both Mr. Foley and Mr. Wolfgang agree that a bill now before Connecticut’s General Assembly permitting assisted suicide should be aborted, and it was this agreement on a bill some might consider extreme that induced FIC to endorse Mr. Foley in the gubernatorial race.
Put another way, Mr. Wolfgang’s endorsement of a man whose views he disagrees with on issues important to him is an indication that Mr. Wolfgang may not be the right wing bomb thrower indistinctly pictured in the ad that seeks to paint him as an enemy of womankind, a difficult point to sustain: Mr. Wolfgang is the father of six children, ages 14-3, one boy and five girls, all potential women, and he has been happily married to his wife, Leslie, a woman, for 17 years. He and his family are orthodox Catholics.
Among some libertines in Connecticut, Mr. Wolfgang’s marital arrangement is considered quaint; his defense of traditional marriage is considered passé; his objections to euthanasia are thought to be extreme; and his endorsement of Mr. Foley is thought to be obscene. But it is important to understand that much of the criticism leveled at Mr. Wolfgang has been launched by groups that operate on the periphery of the great experiment in Western thought that has brought us a form of civilization highly accommodating to reasoned argument and equally impatient with those who wish to gain a political edge by caking their opponents with mud.
Don Pesci (donpesci@att.net) is a political writer who lives in Vernon.

 

Chris Powell: Conn. politics bathed in bile

MANCHESTER, Conn. On  Aug. 11, Tom Foley's commercials were disparaging his rival for the Connecticut Republican gubernatorial nomination,  state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney,  as a "career politician." But  the next night, after McKinney conceded the Republican primary election, Foley praised him for having spent "15 years defending Republican principles at the state Capitol" -- praised him for being a "career politician."

At their debate Aug. 10,  McKinney scorned Foley for taking positions that effectively made him a Democrat. But conceding  the next night, McKinney pledged to help Foley defeat that  other Democrat, Gov. Dan Malloy.

While the knives were sheathed so ironically on the Republican side, they were being drawn on the Democratic side.

The governor remarked that the winning Republican would repeal Connecticut's recent increase in the minimum wage and requirement for paid sick leave.

That's not likely, since repeal would be possible only with a Republican majority in the General Assembly, which hasn't happened in 30 years. The 16 years that Connecticut has had with Republican governors since then showed that a Republican governor can only put a little restraint on the legislature's Democratic majority -- can only slow the growth of government, not shrink it.

Besides, Foley has taken precious few positions on issues and they don't include repealing the minimum wage increase and paid sick leave.

The impending nasty theme of the Democratic campaign was indicated by its other statements  primary-election night. Foley was called "the quintessential 1-percenter" who "has spent his career making millions while destroying jobs."

That is, the Democratic campaign will be mainly character assassination, since, as Connecticut's decline continues and people are generally dissatisfied, emphasis on policy issues would favor the Republican candidate -- if he had any grasp of them.

Foley doesn't have such grasp yet even as the best deflection of character assassination might be the candidate's obsession with policy issues, an obsession conveyed by frequent addresses to the state rather than reliance on the usual empty or vicious ads.

People outside Connecticut's government and welfare classes sense that the state, as Foley says, is going in the wrong direction. But his claim of qualification -- his experience as a high-finance businessman -- is not likely to win him trust while the governor's campaign maligns him and while business is considered to be just as venal as government itself.

Desperate as Connecticut's circumstances are, generalities and inoffensiveness may not be mistaken for leadership.

* * *

Expectation of low turnout in the Republican primary renewed calls for Connecticut to adopt an open primary system, at least for letting unaffiliated voters help choose Republican nominees, the nominees of the minority party. The argument is that opening its primaries to unaffiliated voters would broaden the party's appeal and nominate more attractive and moderate candidates.

But open primaries are actually the  destruction of parties and political choice. For if anyone can vote in a party's primary without making even the slightest commitment to the party -- the commitment of registration -- there really is no party at all; the party is everybody.

The New Haven Register, Torrington Register-Citizen, and Middletown Press complained editorially the other day that Connecticut's 800,000 unaffiliated voters, the largest bloc in the state, could not participate in the Republican primary. But unaffiliateds could have participated easily just by enrolling as Republicans as late as the day before the primary. Unaffiliateds have no say in nominations only because they choose to have none.

Maybe in other states open primaries would favor more moderate candidates, but even extremists should have the right to form parties and get their nominees on the ballot, and the problem of Connecticut's Republican Party is not that it is too conservative. The party here is largely indifferent to the social issues that drive the left and right to hysteria. The problem of the party here is that, like its nominee for governor, it has so little to say.

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