There are both advantages and disadvantages to chief executives elected to office from outside the political box. One of the greatest disadvantages relates to political navigation. Asked about Gov. Ned Lamont’s first year in office, Republican leader in the State Senate Len Fasano said, “It’s a lack of understanding in that building that has been an impediment to the governor closing the deal” on transportation. “I think the business principles and brains are of value, but they are nullified if you can’t navigate the building.”
On the matter of transportation, Lamont’s two pilot fishes in the General Assembly are President of the State Senate Martin Looney and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz. The Democrat majority in the General Assembly is headed by Looney, a fixture in the General Assembly for 26 years, and Aresimowicz, a union employee fearful of fouling his own nest.
Fasano added, provocatively, “I can’t believe I’m going to say this: He [Lamont] needs to grab a little bit of Gov. Malloy’s behavior and say, ‘This is what I want. This is what I think is good for the state. And this is what, Democratic majority, you’re going to deliver for me.’”
Arriving at the governor’s mansion from the business world, Lamont stepped abruptly into a new frontier the perils of which were unfamiliar to him.
It may be worthwhile pausing over Fasano’s observation. Malloy, who came to the governor’s office after ruling with an iron fist as Mayor of Stamford Connecticut for 14 years found the transition to governor much easier than had Lamont. And, of course, Malloy brought all his autocratic vices, as well as his virtues — persistence and hardheadedness — into his new position. During his first term as governor, Malloy assembled his budgets without any effective input from Fasano and other Republicans who, given superior Democrat numbers in the General Assembly, found themselves effectively neutered.
So then, when Fasano said Lamont should “grab a little bit of Governor Malloy’s behavior,” he was not recommending that Lamont should become Malloy, who put Fasano on an ice flow and pushed him into a frozen wasteland. Fasano wants Lamont to bring his business background with him into office. Lamont should decide in his own mind what is good for the state, and deploy more aggressively the usufructs of his office. Fasano, not without reason, is convinced that ever mounting taxes, crippling regulations, and the indisposition of Democrats to cut spending are not good for the state.
So then, if Lamont properly uses the powers of his office to lift Connecticut from its death spiral, what policies should he favor and pursue with the same energy and persistence deployed by Malloy?
Aye, there’s the rub. Lamont’s fiercest political opposition will not come from Republicans, who are out-manned in the General Assembly by progressive Democrats. An ice flow awaits them. No, the political tug on Lamont will come from members in his own party who have fallen under the spell of dreamy progressive notions, the most noxious of which is this: that the state of Connecticut IS state government and nothing more than the agglomeration of political interests passionately represented by state progressives, pilot fishes Looney and Arsimowicz, who perversely refuse to acknowledge that the interests they champion — an unabating continuation of higher taxes, more spending, the shifting of designated funding from so-called “lock boxes” to the general slush fund, the extension of debt to future taxpayers who are leaving the state in droves, a disinclination to pay down mounting debt, a perverse toleration of failing urban public schools, the false promises made by political Babbitts to the poor and needy in the state — do not contribute to the public good.
The state, properly understood, is the people who live, work and pay exorbitant taxes in Connecticut, and not the dominant ruling class in the state or the political interests they favor. These people are disorganized and await political arbiters — an honest and forthright media that will denounce political Babbittry with the energy and dispatch of a Mark Twain or a Henry Mencken, a genuine populism deeply woven into the muscle and sinew of the real state — to liberate the state from the false claims of self-interested politicians who cannot understand G. K. Chesterton’s masterful defense of tradition: “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the ‘democracy of the dead.’ Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
To be lived, the good life must first be preserved, then passed on to future generations. Connecticut is not destined to leave its children a mess of pottage purchased with their birthrights. Some people voted for Lamont because they sensed in him the possibility of a change in direction that would lead to a restoration of the best traditions of Connecticut.
Were they wrong?