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OP-ED | Republicans Need to Wake Up, And So Does the Electorate

by | May 22, 2014 11:59pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

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.

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(27) Archived Comments

posted by: art vandelay | May 23, 2014  2:45pm

art vandelay

As a life long Republican in this state, I couldn’t agree more.  It’s my theory that the Democrats are so powerful in this state that they have actually infiltrated the higher echelons of theRepublican Party with Democrats. If any conservative element emerges it is immediately crushed.  Susan Bigelow pointed this out in her recent article when John Rowland’s bid for Governor was squashed in 1990.  Tom Scott was also pushed to the wayside.  It seems the Republicans WANT to loose this election.  They are doing an excellent job of it.

posted by: ASTANVET | May 23, 2014  3:01pm

Honestly I don’t care what party wins the election.  I am looking for a GOOD candidate period.  GOP/DEM doesn’t matter.  Someone who looks out for the individual instead of going along with the mob.  Someone who is fiscally responsibly, (Sometimes being in charge means ticking people off).  A moral and just person, who does not run on popularity but principle.  If you are looking for a Dem I’d say a good example is Truman - if you’re looking for a GOP guy, a calvin coolidge - restraining government from the natural process of ever expansion.  If that candidate shows up and is wearing team BLUE, i’m voting for them.  If they are Team Red - voting for them.  My point is that it is not about PARTY, it’s about quality…but as we have all said any number of times, we choose the ‘lesser of two evils’... and this is where it gets us.  We should demand better.

posted by: GBear423 | May 23, 2014  3:35pm


Art, ya nailed it. Many of us on the ground level of the CTGOP in Eastern CT feel that is precisely the case.
Nobody wants to come off as a conspiracy theorist, but the patterns are there. 2nd Congressional Candidates last couple of cycles have been plagued by self inflicted wounds coming out of the gate.
The Gov/Lt Gov races are plagued. What GOP delegate awards race identity politics??  Penny spontaneously combusted all over CT Media the day the convention started! Foley is playin fast and loose with gimmick percentages on Ed spending.  WTH??!! The convention had no affect on the number of candidates for Governor, they are ALL still running!

posted by: ConnVoter | May 23, 2014  4:25pm

McEnroe should be ashamed of himself.  He said that the Republicans lacked diversity despite the fact that they nominated an immigrant, Peter Lumaj.  Supposedly, you don’t count for diversity purposes if you are white (unless you are gay, so he’ll take credit for Kevin Lembo).  Also, the only thing “diverse” about the Democratic ticket is Denise Nappier, and she’s the biggest moron we’ve ever had in a constitutional office.  By McEnroe’s logic, dumping Nappier would be wrong, but it would actually make for a stronger ticket.

It’s all a part of his conspiracy to paint Republicans as bad for nominating a rich guy from Fairfield County as governor and a white woman from eastern Connecticut as lieutenant governor… when the Democrats did… exactly… the… same… thing. 

Good job, Colin.  Really earned your keep on that one.

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | May 23, 2014  5:43pm

@ ASTANVET: Well said. Looks like I’ll be voting for “Mr. Lesser” for Gov yet again, too.

posted by: LongJohn47 | May 23, 2014  5:56pm

Art—as a “lifelong Republican in this state”, how do you explain the shift from a consistently red state to a blue one? 

You seem to think that the Rs aren’t conservative enough.  My take is completely different.  In my view the Republican party has shifted way to the right, both nationally and locally, and has forfeited the middle as a result.

I know lots of older, establishment Republicans in Fairfield County who voted for Obama.  And when I see candidates like Martha Dean, I smile.  People like that are easy to beat.

Let’s take a look at the “I know a family from Peru” story.  There are literally millions of families like that in America today, and I would agree that they’re hardworking and probably socially conservative—fertile ground for Republican “bootstrap” ideology.

Unfortunately, for them and for you, the right calls them “illegal aliens” and wants them deported. Not very welcoming.

Or how about “offering the poor a vision of smaller government”?  What a joke!  The poor don’t care about the ideology of smaller government. 

They want jobs that pay well in working conditions that aren’t exploitive. 

They want rental housing that’s maintained to code, not run down and dangerous. 

They want public transportation and medical care that are affordable. 

They want good schools that are accessible to all, not just to the rich who can live in the suburbs or send their kids to private schools.

That’s why the minimum wage, paid sick days, city housing inspectors, bus and train subsidies, Obamacare, and local schools are important, and none of them come from “smaller government” and “local autonomy”.  They take government intervention and money.

Nixon and Ford (and to a lesser extent Bush 1) were the last national Republicans who understood that working people want effective government that protects them from harm and gives them a hand up.  In CT it was probably Weicker and (again to a lesser extent) Chris Shays who fit this bill.

Finally, it’s time for Rs to wake up and understand that most people don’t want to be entrepreneurs, that most people aren’t risk takers, that most people don’t want to be out there on their own, fending for themselves.

Please understand, I’m not denigrating entrepreneurs or discounting their incredibly positive economic value.  Yes, they create jobs.  Yes, they move society forward in many ways.  But they’re a special breed, and trying to make everyone fit the mold is self-defeating.

So I don’t see the Republican problem as lacking passion and aggressiveness.  I see them talking to themselves about things that don’t matter to most of us, and the result is that very few people are listening.

posted by: shinningstars122 | May 23, 2014  6:26pm


Oh boy that piece Colin wrote was… oh forget about it.

Mrs.Bates once again you fall back on the tired and redundant rallying cry of the GOP…“like fiscal restraint, limited government, and personal responsibility” or this one “which has led to high unemployment, high crime, and the breakdown of the family.”

Clear this narrative is ignorant of the facts, naive, and insulting to working families and single parent households no matter what their skin color is.

You really need to visit a community center, or even a food bank, in the North End of Hartford or in New Haven and broaden your perspective which I would say is ethnocentric at best and border line culturally offensive at the very least.

My take on the CT GOP is that they offer no solutions, or vision, of compromise. My state representative, who is a Republican,  proudly mails out a full color mailer each year of how he voted no against every Democrat passed law in the past year.

That may be great as a matter of “principle”, another wore out GOP excuse, but in all actually he did not contribute one bit to any progress for our state.

Always voting ” no” is not public service or doing the job he was elected for.

Its collecting a paycheck and full benefits for being a useless freeloader who instead probably plays more golf than he should or rides his mountain bike through the woods of NW CT.

Republicans needs to look back at the early 1990’s when you had people like Bill Weld from Massachusetts, who actually regularly attended Grateful Dead concerts during his term as Governor, and worked toward the middle.

That leadership/political style worked. It is not complicated to compromise and be part of the solution and work for the common good of all…not just for corporate America.

The state GOP puts up millionaire “candidates” who are so disingenuous and out of touch that they would not last 10 minutes in any Dunkin’ Donuts anywhere in the state talking to the people in line with them.

As long as they continue to do that both you and Colin will have plenty to moan…I mean write about.

posted by: art vandelay | May 23, 2014  9:19pm

art vandelay

@GBear23, I believe Janet Peckinpaugh was the most honest and respectable candidate 2nd District Republicans ever ran agains Joe Courtney. I watched her being interviewed, and she was so down to earth.  If she did not know an answer to a question, she admitted it instead of making something up.  One can’t get any better than that. The end result was that she was crushed.  My heart went out to her.  I have to admit I’m biased a bit in that I’ve had a life long crush on her.
Years ago I was a member of my town chapter of the Young Republicans.  I was asked to attend a statewide meeting in Hartford.  I walked away from the meeting feeling I was with a group of Democrats.  I’ve felt that way about Connecticut Republicans ever since. I don’t believe my first impression was wrong and that was over 35 years ago.  Nothing has changed since.

posted by: SocialButterfly | May 23, 2014  9:19pm

Suzanne: I agree with your honest assessment that Pres. Obama brand big government Democratic policies adopted by Gov. Malloy have left the state and local levels worse.  Thank you—as you tell the truth amd I’m sure your loving husband and family are proud ot you.  I enjoy relating with bright and honorable people like you—Suzanne Bates, as you do not get aggressive or confrontational.  Again, thank you for making my day.

posted by: art vandelay | May 23, 2014  11:47pm

art vandelay

It’s also interesting to note that when a Republican does decide to run against a well established Democrat from a secure district like say Beth Bye or Andrea Stillman, the State Central Committee does little or nothing to support the Republican candidate. Seems to me the Democrats have complete control of the State Central Committee.  The Republican Party in this state is PATHETIC!!!!!

posted by: SocialButterfly | May 24, 2014  3:17pm

Art Vandelay: Don’t knock them. It’s time for you to join the Republican State Central Committee to give them the benefit of your vast political expertese—instead of slamming the Republicans you claim you represent.  Start knocking the Democrats—instead of hammering your own party, if you really care about the GOP. Your independent views only help the the motley Gov. Malloy Democratic political bankruptcy state machine. If you really care—you can’t have it both ways Arthur.

posted by: recalldannelmalloy | May 24, 2014  4:01pm

If Malloy is re-elected CT will enter a death spiral.
Many more taxpayers will vote with their feet increasing the burden on those remaining.Will the last one out please turn off the Cl&P lights.

posted by: ASTANVET | May 25, 2014  5:58am

wow - lots of talking points on both sides here - two observations.  1)  there are a lot of excuses for why things are bad in CT and Nationally.  For the open border guy, what is the benefit of citizenship and what does it mean?  Is there a process and law that should be respected or not?  You can’t ask for ‘respect’ of the law and then advocate for allowing people to circumvent it.  So no legislative action i.e. law will stop lawlessness.  2)  The idea that the answer lies in government is a paradigm that has changed in CT and nationally.  The answer to our problems is NOT in the same governing body that has brought the problem to our doorstep.  Name the issue and it’s been the national legislature who has either made it worse or created it outright.  I think there are a lot of similarities between us (conservatives/liberals) but we allow the politics to divide us.  Moderation, reconciliation, temperance and virtue are the things that will help bridge that divide.  I know that’s not sexy for our snarky blogosphere, but it is the truth.

posted by: shinningstars122 | May 26, 2014  12:49pm


@ASTANVET you do offer logic and pragmatism but unfortunately that horse left the barn over 30 years ago.

Simply put it all comes down to who influences government and how that has created and compounded challenges on many fronts.

In general most Republicans and Democrats politicians have no issues with corporate America taking up all their time with their special interest concerns.

One great example is manipulating the tax codes to their advantage, so that it is bigger volume than Obamacare, or whatever pro-business legislation these “job creators” believe they are entitled too.

Sardonically what has also now become the rallying cry for the Teaparty’s overused phrase “Don’t tread on me” which sadly when it comes to corporatism and the control that is exerted on all of our lives it is perfectly fine…nothing could be father from the truth.

I guess it OK if it is a person with a black Amex who is doing the treading but if its a black President?

Add insult to injury many of these same people will go to great lengths to defend this economic system since we all hold onto the belief that our ship, more likely a winning lotto ticket, will come in and we will get our lion’s share of that unadulterated and luxurious lifestyle that Robin Leach once promoted.

There is now a big difference between many of us… do you support people or corporations?

Instead of ” In God we trust”, my preference would be ” in people we trust” it has now become in “corporate America” we trust.

Folks forget how tax rates used to so much higher than today and how excess capitalism still persevered, maybe not to the tens of billions of profits of per quarter but those folks still that had their second and thirds homes in the Hampton’s and Aspen and their families carried on for generations in splendor.

A tax increase on capital gains or even over all tax rates for those earning over $1 MILLION a year of less than 5% would solve many of the problems faced by states and towns all over the country.

Not to spend more on ” entitlements” but to maybe invest in infrastructure repair or high speed rail, which honestly should have occurred over 3 decades ago in this country, and these would lead to higher paying job than working at the Apple store at Westfarms.

I mean honestly if we look at China, they have taken one page, or rather hacked and stolen many pages from our books, of modernizing their country’s infrastructure just like we did during the 20th century.

Private companies are not solely funding this the central government is and they know why it is such a smart investment it leads to growth,better paying jobs, and increase of quality of life for their citizens.

We used to call it the middle class in our country.

Instead we bicker and bicker over the ” over reach” of big bad government while corporate profits and investment earnings soar to record levels.

Ignorance is bliss.

posted by: SocialButterfly | May 26, 2014  8:45pm

Let’s not pussyfoot around with a lot of dribble—China owns us. We are mortgaged to the hilt for Democratic-Republican-Pentagon continual wartime prosperity and the Chinese Communists are now the business rulers. Our political system has done us in—with incompetent elected leaders.  Chinese people must work for a living while our politicians do not create jobs—- but put people on welfare, and disability while our country
watched the unions send our jobs overseas.  Our President and Congress have provided us with no leadership to steady our sinking ship—and the people do not seem to realize the bad shape we are in—because they keep keep reecting the same failing politicians.

posted by: GBear423 | May 27, 2014  6:52am


She is a dish Art ;O) I read she won 40% of the vote and she was a late comer to the race. Not bad!
Sadly it seems the Establishment GOP does not care for conservative candidates, it prefers moderate Democrats.

What people like Shining fail to grasp is the Tea Party is about reduction in taxes and an over reaching federal/state govt.
Corporations are what??  Tell us??  Are they in the charity business??  NO.  They make money, its what they do, as much as they can.  So stop whining, and start lobbying. Make or join a group that wants to take govt out of corporate subsidizing, cause bashing tea party members is just not quite getting your cause taken care of, is it?

posted by: ASTANVET | May 27, 2014  7:47am

It used to be unthinkable to live your life in debt… now we have become used to it.  I’m no fool, I don’t believe that we should return to the limits of the Gold standard, but there was something to that slow growth hard backed value of the dollar.  I’m not talking about re-instating all of glass-seagall, but dang - No regulation?  That’s what I’m talking about.  Today it has to be one way or another… people care so much about winning the argument, they care less about what the argument means, and always looking for someone to blame.  It’s really sad.  Republicanism was designed so that this wouldn’t happen…we would solve problems at the lowest level (that’s the philosophy not the party).  The GOP in CT has no identity - they throw soft ball candidates up there who have been recycled through the mill over and over - yet wonder why they can’t win.  The loud “D” voices shut down dissenting opinions or even that there is another pathway from a very early age here in CT.  It’s really depressing.

posted by: art vandelay | May 27, 2014  9:39am

art vandelay

@Common Sense,  I once remember our “Competent ” illustrious Vietnam Veteran US Senator claimed he knew how to create jobs in a debate w/Linda McMahon.  Since elected he’s been excellent in bringing jobs to Connecticut.  You’re correct. China is cleaning our clock.

posted by: SocialButterfly | May 27, 2014  1:16pm

Art:  Richard Blumenthal is a follower of the failed policies of Pres.  Barack Obama—who also failed to create jobs—and put them on welfare and disability to claim them as sit-down-at home votes.  Blame our electorate for putting these people in office. Our voters have sold us out.  China has surpassed us because they require people to work for a living. We pay people to stay at home as our infrastructure is decaying of Obama-Congress Democratic prosperity neglect.

posted by: GBear423 | May 28, 2014  8:02am


Pay us to sit at home and get our medical marijuana card and some funyuns, while taking selfies with our Obama phones!!  What time is Maury Povich on???

posted by: art vandelay | May 28, 2014  8:52am

art vandelay

@CommonSense, I totally agree. I was being sarcastic.

posted by: shinningstars122 | May 28, 2014  9:22pm


@GBear423 >>>What people like Shining fail to grasp is the Tea Party is about reduction in taxes and an over reaching federal/state govt.
Corporations are what??  Tell us??  Are they in the charity business??  NO.  They make money, its what they do, as much as they can.

Is that the case? I would have never guessed. You understand of our economic system and how it has taken over our democracy is akin to how we once perceived the world as being flat.

You over simplification is typically ignorant of the fact on the grounds.

Wasn’t it once proclaimed by the Founding Fathers that corporations were only a temporary thing?


Teaparty revisionism I see?

It clear why corporations spend $10 of millions, and soon to be more thanks to two recent SCOTUS rulings, lobbying and funneling money through dark non-profits it gets then all the seats at the table.

They have fabricated and bank rolled the “teaparty” movement so they can even pay less in taxes.

If you think that is a victory for democracy sir you are as equally misguided as you are hoodwinked.

Get with the program.

If you truly believe in a teaparty platform you will have to do some soul searching when it comes to campaign finance and an unsustainable capitalist system that is riddled with special interests and corruption.

“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

posted by: art vandelay | May 29, 2014  3:55am

art vandelay

@CommonSense,  I thought Obama created millions of jobs via the Stimulus Package. Remember all those “Shovel Ready” projects?  I see the results every time I drive over the newly constructed I-84 Hartford Viaduct.

posted by: GBear423 | May 29, 2014  7:16am


SS122- I thought it had to be pointed out what Corporations do since you rail against them incessantly.
The East India Company, yes ty for the reminder. Read your own linked site, the Fathers did institute tight controls, though after 100 years or so it is easy to see why politicians loosened them.

Like I said, go make your own anti-corporate group and lobby to have corporations reigned in.  Why this suggestion offends you is a mystery.  Why you feel need to insult me is also confusing, sir. 

What you see as over simplification I see as identifying a problem and determining a solution. How complex do you need it to be? I dislike having a high tax burden, sales taxes, income taxes, vehicle taxes, and the multitude of fees. The Federal Govt growing in power is very disturbing.

Your accusations of tea party being fabricated & bankrolled is a wonder, I am looking for my check, can’t seem to find it… oh dern, I am late reporting to my corporate overlords, gotta go!

posted by: CT Jim | May 29, 2014  9:33am

This is a joke the writer tries to portray that there are no republicans in office that there wasn’t republican Governors over the last 20 years. She thinks voters are blind, stupid and don’t know what spending is. Look at Bristol, and New Britain you have 2 republican mayors raising taxes. Rowland raised taxes as did Rell. So where’s this giant advantage for republicans when it comes to spending?? There isn’t one. The difference is the democrats spend money on schools and for and housing for the poor and republicans spend money by giving it to the rich or profitable corporations while cutting schools and food and housing for the poor. I get the voter needs to wake up. You might not like the outcome if they do.

posted by: NLZak | May 29, 2014  9:47am

What a surprise that someone who recently completed a research fellowship at the ultra-conservative Tom Foley think tank that is the Yankee Institute thinks that Democrats are bad. She talks about reigning in “out of control” spending and that the only way is the Republican party. What’s been happening for the 20+ years that Republicans were in the Governor seat? Didn’t Rell and Rowland raise taxes?

Democrats do believe in spending money. This administration has done that through school and infrastructure improvements. Republicans help the super-wealthy and profitable corporations. The Republican plan for a “prosperous Connecticut” was to cut the income-tax credit for the lowest income residents in the State. So the Republican plan seems to be to take money from the poorest people and cut taxes on the wealthiest. Truly, this is the way for a prosperous CT. I suppose if prosperity is determined by drastically hurting the most at-risk people in the State then yes, prosperity will be rampant.

posted by: SocialButterfly | May 29, 2014  4:46pm

@ArtVandelay: All kidding aside—The Stimulus Package was a clever manipulation of taxpayer money to keep our dictater in office.  It worked.  He’s still there!

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