OP-ED | Nostalgia for Governor
Log into Blogger dot com and protest the Iraq War, it’s 2006 again!
Does anyone remember the last time progressives in Connecticut were all genuinely excited about the same candidate? It’s been a long time.
After all, the left never warmed to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy; during his original run for governor 12 years ago they derided him as “DLC Dan,” referring to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. They like members of the congressional delegation like Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, but they aren’t head over heels in love with them. And for 2018, the left first had and then lost Comptroller Kevin Lembo, former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei, and Middletown Mayor Dan Drew — none of whom generated all that much excitement.
No, to find the one candidate who united pretty much the entire herd of cats that is the left, we have to go back to the George W. Bush administration and the wild, quixotic summer of Ned Lamont.
Lamont ran against incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary, taking the increasingly frustrated and grouchy senator to task on his support for the Iraq War, then entering its most deadly-to-Americans phase. He didn’t have many other positions, but that was fine, Iraq was all he needed.
That race blew up; it received loads of national and international attention because a lot of people saw it as an indicator of how things were going to go in the 2006 midterm elections. Lamont won the primary, if not the general election, and the antiwar left propelled Democrats to a crushing victory against Bush’s GOP.
That race also drew so much attention attention because people were organizing for Lamont online in a way that hadn’t quite been done before. 2006 was smack in the middle of the four or five years when blogs were a big deal, and massive national blogs as well as smaller, local ones helped drive fundraising, organizing, and activism in support of Lamont.
Back then it all felt new and exciting; the political internet, blogs and bloggers, antiwar progressives, the opening of politics to everyone with an internet connection ... The left felt powerful and determined, especially here in Connecticut. 2006 felt like the start of something.
It wasn’t. The trolls of the right started to dominate online discourse, turning it into the toxic sludge heap we all swim in today. Blogs on the left first got into a bitter shouting match over the 2008 primary and then promptly went down the toilet as bloggers moved on to other things. Ned Lamont resurfaced to run for governor in 2010, but he turned out not to be as liberal as everyone had assumed when it came to paid sick days, and lost.
After that, the Great Recession began to eat up the state budget and Dan Malloy became governor. Progressives got some of what they wanted, but labor fell under siege and the basic social safety net began to fray. Instead of victory, they had to compromise, and settle.
In short, 2006 was about as good as it got. How depressing.
So here were are, it’s the godawful Year of Our Trump 2018, and Ned Lamont’s back — this time as a boilerplate progressive. His opening campaign video touts hiking the minimum wage, passing Paid Family and Medical Leave, and undoing the mistakes of the “political class” that have been ruining things for so long. He’s like a shorter, more awkward Bernie Sanders.
But what Lamont is really selling here is the same thing he tried and failed to sell in 2010: that sense of nostalgia for the high water mark.
It’s so tempting. Remember when we were a decade younger, and we beat old Droopy Drawers Lieberman that one time? Remember when the state had surpluses every year, and we could do things with the money? Remember the year when Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons lost, and when the future seemed wide open?
It was all summer, every day, and the sunlight felt like it would never fade.
I don’t know if it’s possible to ever get that sort of feeling back. I don’t think it’s a good idea even to try; the gauzy memory of the past isn’t the solution to the present. But here’s Ned Lamont again, and he has nothing new for us, so what else is there but the fading memory of hope?
After all, if there’s one thing my generation has learned, it’s that wallowing in nostalgia is way more fun and profitable than making anything new. So here’s to another Lamont candidacy, and you can put that on your blog.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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