Governor-elect Dan Malloy, with an impressive assist from big cities such and Bridgeport and New Haven, won the election with enough votes to satisfy pretty nearly everyone, including outgoing Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, which means that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, who had pledged during the campaign to settle the state’s massive debt without an tax increase, lost.
The winners in the elections decide all important matters, including the two most important questions in politics: What is to be done, and who decides what is to be done? The answer to the second questions is heavily implicated, as the cops might say, in the first question, since deciders map the future.
Connecticut has now become a one party state, all the deciders being Democrats. For the foreseeable future, the Republican Party will be a loyal opposition that lacks the power to oppose, except on those rare occasions when it may make common cause with moderate legislative Democrats or a governor who has placed himself in opposition to a dominant Democratic legislative caucus. The real power vectors are to be found in the governor’s office and the state legislature, both commanded by Democrats, ever obedient to their traditional interests.
Occasionally, the media may play a role in shaping the direction of these vectors; but in a one party state, its countervailing influence is much diminished. And in a one party state in which the media leans to the left – welcome to Connecticut – the media, as a traditional left of center opposition useful in states that lean to the right, tends to disappear into a power structure that like-mindedly leans to the left, co-opted by a system of governance in which the enemy lies always to its right. Useful news, as opposed to cleverly concealed party propaganda, is for the most part opposition reporting. News is most alive, alert and visible when the media opposes the status quo. It disappears altogether when the media assents internally to a left or right regime. In a one party state in which both the government and the media are either left or right of center, news consumers tend towards cynicism and news producers lose their customers.
Government in a one party state tends to be conducted through movable caucuses that operate behind impenetrable veils either with the assistance or reprobation of a media that is entirely dependant on news shaped by unchallenged governors, administrators and legislators, all working in tandem to advance the interests of the governing sector.
To put it briefly, the power vectors in a one party state bend towards authoritarian rather than democratic means and solutions. In a one party state in which both the media and the governing power is reflexively leftist -- welcome to Connecticut – a feeble opposition from the right can easily be ignored. In a one party state in which an assenting media permits itself to be absorbed by the governing power, intelligent opposition, including the corrective opposition one expects in a vibrant democracy, tends to disappear.
One party states on the right tend to eliminate opposition on the left; one party states on the left tend to eliminate opposition on the right.
The most important attribute of a vibrant democracy is opposition to the status quo.
It is not difficult to paint a picture of the status quo in Connecticut. The General Assembly has been dominated for years by Democrats. Republican governors have done little more than tap the breaks on the state’s forward moving, increasingly progressive spending machine. The inability of two Republican governors and a faux Republican governor, Lowell Weicker, to reign in spending is one of the principal marks of a one party state. For two decades, there has been little effective opposition to spending from the state’s left of center media. And even now that a crippling recession is growling wolf-like at the door, important media outlets continue to insist that scarce money should be dumped into dubious projects such as an improved rail line that will more efficiently carry a hand full of employed commuters across a state teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The state’s current bonding debt is a little less than $20 billion; its budget debt two years out is about $6 billion.
With the ascension of a Democratic governor, the possibility of an effective opposition to a continuing status quo that will render Connecticut uncompetitive with other states, once the weight of a recession is removed, becomes ever more remote.
That is why some small “d” democrats now are sifting through Mr. Malloy’s past and recent media interviews for indications that he is not captive to a political narrative incapable of restoring Connecticut’s competitive edge in a post recession period. Some cynics would be satisfied with an unambiguous signal that Mr. Malloy’s brake foot is in good order. So far, there is little reason for celebration.