OP-ED | Republicans Need to Wake Up, And So Does the Electorate
In a column for the Hartford Courant last week, Colin McEnroe described Connecticut Republicans as “torpid and lazy,” with “no instinct for the jugular,” and after watching some of the coverage of the convention from last weekend, I think he’s at least partly right.
But it isn’t laziness — maybe overly cautious, or fearful. Losing elections will do that to you. But unless Republicans get over that and inject some passion and aggressiveness into their approach, they will stay out of statewide office and in the minority in the statehouse.
I don’t think the answer, however, is that the Republicans need to act more like the Democrats, which is what former governor, and former Republican, Lowell Weicker seems to think.
And while yes, Republicans do need to do more to attract a diverse slate of candidates, like McEnroe suggests, they also need to reassert that conservative values like fiscal restraint, limited government, and personal responsibility have a place here in Connecticut.
Republicans need to show voters that they can do what Democrats won’t — which is to start reining in government spending, and cutting the debt, bloat and regulations that slow our economy.
While the state GOP seems cautiously optimistic that they have a chance of winning the governor’s race this year, the party is not going after Malloy aggressively enough for the state’s abysmal economic performance. Why would voters re-elect the governor who led his state to the worst economic performance in the nation?
But Republicans can be sharp without being mean. If there’s one thing Gov. Malloy has shown us he can do, it’s go for the jugular. On WNPR this week, Jonathan Pelto — who is considering a third-party run for governor — called Malloy “angry, defensive and belittling,” based on an exchange Malloy had with a voter.
We don’t need to elect another bully in chief. The Republican candidate for governor — whether it’s Tom Foley, Mark Boughton or John McKinney — needs to show that a person can be energetic, passionate, and sharp without being belligerent.
Can one of them do that? Republican voters need to ask themselves that question before the primary, and they need to ask the candidates that as well.
Part of the problem is that the electorate feels a little sluggish, too. Despite its Democratic leanings, Connecticut is still fairly conservative in terms of temperament. I’ve heard lots of people complain, but their complaints are colored by this resigned, oh-well-nothing’s-going-to-change attitude.
Is that why we’ve left our cities to decline in such a dramatic fashion? We’ve given the urban poor pity and platitudes instead of figuring out what will foster the spirit of entrepreneurialism and industry that can help lift people out of poverty.
Republicans need to hold Democrats in our cities publicly accountable for years of failed leadership, which has led to high unemployment, high crime, and the breakdown of the family.
The focus on cities can’t just be for the sake of votes — anyone can see right through that — it has to be about offering the urban poor a vision of where the principles of smaller government and greater local autonomy can take them.
Because big-government Democratic policies at the state and local level have only made things worse.
Republicans also need to continue to focus on education and school choice, but also on supporting teachers and bringing them into the conversation on how to help struggling students.
There are bright spots all around our state, people who are building businesses and supporting their families, and who are volunteering in their communities and helping their neighbors. The question for all of us is how do we turn Connecticut around so that this kind of activity can spread?
I met a family recently who came from Peru and settled in East Hartford. They came here with very little, but they worked really hard and eventually saved enough to buy a house, which they then rented out. And then they continued to work hard and they saved enough to buy another house to rent out, and then another after that. They’ve done very well for themselves.
What I want our politicians to talk about is how to encourage this kind of economic activity — about how to wake up our state’s economy so it fosters this kind of entrepreneurialism and optimism.
Suzanne Bates is a writer living in South Windsor with her family. While traveling across the country as an Air Force spouse, she worked for news organizations including the Associated Press, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and Good Morning America Weekend. She recently completed a research fellowship at the Yankee Institute. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.