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OP-ED | Do we want to be Wisconsin?

by | Jul 26, 2013 2:26pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

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Tom Foley revealed a lot about himself and what he plans to do as Governor when he said he sought “a Wisconsin moment” for Connecticut.

“I keep talking about ‘when is the Wisconsin moment going to come to Connecticut?’‘’ Foley told the Hartford Courant in an interview, referring to the Republicans’ seizure of that state’s political machinery in 2010 and the resulting transformation of its political culture.

Foley may have revealed more than he intended in making that comparison. It raises two critical points. First, Connecticut is not likely to have a Wisconsin moment. Second, and even more important, Connecticut might not want to have a Wisconsin moment.

Let’s start with the first proposition.

Connecticut is a much more Democratic state than Wisconsin. This has not always been true but it certainly is over the last four Presidential election cycles, as Democratic presidential candidates have won the state of Wisconsin in four consecutive elections by varying degrees. (See chart).

This makes Connecticut, on average, about 11 percent more Democratic than Wisconsin. That truth has two primary effects. First, it makes it harder to win as a Republican. Foley may have gotten very close in 2010, yet it was the core Democratic tilt of the state that saved Dannel Malloy.

Second, part of what made the Wisconsin moment in 2010 is that the legislature went Republican at the same time that Scott Walker won the governorship. That is not likely to happen in Connecticut in 2014. The makeup of the districts in Connecticut, combined with the quality of the Democratic incumbents and the number of safe seats, makes a Republican takeover of the legislature nearly impossible. Wisconsin did not wake up and find Democrats swept out of safe Democratic seats, it just had nearly all the swing seats fall to the right.

This means it would be very hard to implement a Wisconsin moment here. Still, in assessing Foley as a gubernatorial candidate, it’s important to remember what Wisconsin actually means.

Since Walker became governor in Wisconsin, he has refused federal funds for Medicaid expansions that will keep many people from receiving healthcare, denied public workers the right to collectively bargain, cut funds to public education, repealed equal pay for equal work provisions, and massively increased spending on private school vouchers. The state passed an abortion bill that included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, created trap provisions to close clinics, and forces women to get an unnecessary ultra sound before receiving an abortion. During Walker’s term, Wisconsin has lagged the nation in job creation.

In addition to all of this, Walker has created an incredibly divisive political culture that led to his recall, though not his defeat. Walker even pulled the appointment of a student to serve on the University of Wisconsin board when it was discovered that the student had signed the recall petition. The state has become a constant political battle, which almost never ends.

Is that something we want?

Foley may not want to embrace this entire legacy, but his rhetoric suggests that he bears watching. In his “Wisconsin moment” interview, Foley is quoted saying Malloy is “trying to out-Vermont Vermont. Taking care of the unions, feeding all the people who are benefiting from public spending and sending the bill to the taxpayers.’’ This sounds like Foley plans to follow the Walker playbook.

Foley may want to claim he’s just arguing for greater balance in Connecticut politics, yet the dismissive way in which he refers to unions implies he means more. His comment indicates he doesn’t realize that by “unions” he means state workers who work hard and protect us, care for children without homes, and help keep our air, water, and food safe. This doesn’t mean there is no need for reform of state government, but his approach is to attack workers rather than work collaboratively.

When he talks about “feeding all the people who are benefiting from public spending,” it seems as if he might very well cut Medicaid funding. Certainly state Republicans don’t have a solution to our problems -–  something other than crippling cuts -–  or they would have been willing to propose a budget in the legislature.

Foley seems to want to walk the entire Walker way. And governors can make a huge difference. In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, decided the Medicaid deal was simply too good to pass up. She worked tirelessly to do what was right for her state in the face of opposition within her own party. It would have been right for Wisconsin, too, but Walker wouldn’t let it happen. On this and so many other things, do we want to be Wisconsin?

Jason Paul of West Hartford is a partner in a campaign consulting company called What’s Next. He is also a student at the University of Connecticut Law School.

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(9) Archived Comments

posted by: brutus2011 | July 26, 2013  3:33pm


Foley, are you nuts?

You have a chance to unseat a Democratic governor because the Dem has totally p*ssed off key constituents.

And you are going to invoke Walker and Wisconsin?

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | July 26, 2013  3:47pm

Foley just opened the door for McKinney. Because he really doesn’t get it.

posted by: Joe Eversole | July 30, 2013  9:19am

Wisconsin has a growing economy, and a budget surplus. In addition, mass starvation and homelessness haven’t occurred.  Sounds like Governor Walker got it right.  Care to compare Walkers record with Malloys?  I believe Danny will come up short.

posted by: SocialButterfly | July 30, 2013  12:26pm

Gov. Dannel Malloy “could not even shine Gov. Scott Walker’s shoes” as he is fiscally incompetent “and sleeps with the unions”—as the state heads for bankruptcy—through his continued financial blunders of judgement “marking him as politically incorrect.”  Sadly, taxpayors paid for Malloy’s winning election campaign against Tom Foley—who paid for his own campaign.

posted by: SocialButterfly | July 30, 2013  7:45pm

Sarah Darer Littman: What is it that McKinney does not get—or is this just a “reverse love note?”

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | July 31, 2013  12:30pm

Foley doesn’t get it - not McKinney. And for all you conservatives who think Foley/Scott Walker is the solution, you are just flogging the losing horse AGAIN. Ask yourselves a question…why am I receiving emails from Dem State Central EVERY SINGLE DAY telling me how awful McKinney is and how he isn’t a friend of the middle class. They aren’t spending nearly that kind of energy on Foley, because he’s an easy target.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | July 31, 2013  2:08pm

BTW, all you Foley/Walker lovers - might want to look at this:

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 31, 2013  2:11pm

jason I think you’ll understand more as you get older, have a family, and pay taxes out the ying yang for them to live in a nice town.

This state is headed for a semi-Wisconsin moment. That moment wont be like Scott walkers but it will be a discussion that will go something like this.

CT state employees, no one is challenging your work ethic but the reality is that too many people are leaving this state to make their lives elsewhere. You have a choice. You can either cut a deal that allows you to know that when you retire you will have most of your pensions or we wont have a deal and your neighbors will not put up with what is happening in this state and you will have little pension. The days of working 30 years to be retired for 40 on great pensions are over.

As for the unions, we are going to do our best to keep as much of the promises made to existing employees, but kiss the power you have as it impacts new employees good bye because we will not allow people that work in the public sector to have much better plans than what people have in the private sector. The public sector is about a good decent living and about service. These jobs are paid for from private sector jobs and companies, and yes you pay taxes on the income you get as well as sales taxes, but it still all started off with money coming out of the private sector.

Finally if you’re going to retire on a public sector union pension, you can enjoy 100% of what was promised as a resident of CT. Decide to move residency to another state and enjoy 75%. People are tired of paying for you to take your nice pensions and benefits and moving to a Southern state. Spend your money here for most of the year.

posted by: SocialButterfly | July 31, 2013  7:49pm

Sarah Darer Littman:  I am not necessarily a Foley/Walker lover—but you automatically dislike both of these gentlemen because they are Republicans—which is a NO-NO for you.  Why can’t you praise Gov. Dannel P. Malloy instead? Obviously you can’t praise Malloy - so it’s easier for you demean Foley/Walker. Sometimes if you can’t say anything nice about someone—it’s better to say nothing at all.  Unfortunately, you never have a good word to say about any Republican. Your commentary is always predicatble You remain steadfast in your way, but I like you Sarah.

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