OP-ED | State GOPers Run Away From ‘Banana Republicans’
While Connecticut Democrats came away largely satisfied and united as their national party’s convention ended this week, many of their Republican counterparts were grinning and bearing it the week before, as the GOP convention delegates adopted one of the most socially conservative platforms in memory and many key speakers attacked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton rather than say anything nice about their own guy, Donald Trump.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a Trump delegate, didn’t show up in Cleveland until Thursday morning, though she insists her tardiness had nothing to do with distancing herself from the party’s nominee but stemmed from a need to tend to an ailing relative.
Ditto Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, an alternate delegate. He didn’t put in an appearance until Wednesday night, attributing his late arrival to business obligations.
Klarides sat on the Republican platform committee four years ago at the national convention in Tampa. She was not on the committee this year but told WNPR’s Colin McEnroe, “I don’t know if I would have been able to handle sitting there for this one.”
Rising Republican star Tim Herbst, first selectman of Trumbull, avoided using Trump’s name, telling Hearst’s Neil Vigdor, “I support the Republican nominee. I’m certainly not going to be voting for Hillary Clinton.”
The platform was particularly galling for the party’s LGBT community. Clay Cope, the gay first selectman in Sherman who is the Republican nominee challenging incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Esty for Connecticut’s 5th District congressional seat, was an enthusiastic participant in the convention until he got wind of the platform, which does not mention LGBT rights at all and instead includes a laundry list of items offensive to gays.
There are provisions in the platform that promote state laws to restrict which restrooms transgender people can use, that suggest the validity of so-called “conversion therapy” for gays by saying that parents should be free to make medical decisions about their children without interference. And, without offering any evidence, the platform states that “natural marriage” between a man and a woman is most likely to result in children who are healthier, less likely to become drug addicts and less likely to get pregnant out of wedlock.
Cope and his partner, Andres Sanchez, had felt inspired by the words of businessman and convention speaker Peter Thiel, who uttered words I never thought I would hear at at GOP convention: “I am proud to be gay.” Thiel further described the transgender bathroom issue as “a distraction from our real problems.”
But Cope was stunned to read a GOP platform that not only contained offensive language but contained no words acknowledging the rights of the LGBT community at all. In a Facebook post the week of the convention, Cope said he and Sanchez felt “left out in the cold.”
“The R platform is decidedly not gay-friendly, and I’m confused: they (The CT R’s) embraced me as their unanimous Connecticut Congressional nominee for the 5th: ‘We have broadened our tent!’ they said. ‘We are the party of inclusion!’ they said.”
Cope tagged J.R. Romano, head of the state GOP, in the post. Romano offered some words of encouragement: “I’m with you buddy” and “I will stand proudly with [you] when you win in November.”
These are tough times for New England Yankee Republicans. Not only did the GOP maintain its very hard line against abortion rights, but convention goers were treated to barbaric chants of “Lock her up!” — a reference to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. This led GOP analyst Steve Schmidt to call them a bunch of “Banana Republicans.”
“It’s something that you’re not used to hearing in this country,” Schmidt said on MSNBC. “We don’t lock up our political opponents.”
Now it’s true that conventions and platforms won’t necessarily carry a lot of weight with the electorate going forward, especially in a year or so when memories of the anger and intolerance have faded. But in a little more than three months, every Republican seat in the General Assembly will be up for grabs and Democrats would like nothing better than to bang them over the head with the militancy of the national GOP’s social agenda. It plays pretty well in a state like Connecticut.
There has been talk of Republicans taking back the state Senate. They have 15 of the 36 seats and would only need to flip five of them to gain control. The Republicans have a lot of factors in their favor, including an unpopular Democratic governor presiding over an anemic economy and a budget with deficits as far as the eye can see in a state that’s had one-party control since John Rowland resigned 12 years ago. Oh, and there is that little campaign finance scandal, too.
If Trump continues to say outrageous things — his latest about inviting Russian hackers to find and publish Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails has been branded possible treason by a respected Harvard legal scholar — then Trump’s presence on the ballot could dampen the Republicans’ hope of taking back the Senate. And that would be a shame because something has to change at the Capitol in Hartford.
Then again, if Hillary wins, Gov. Dannel Malloy will surely be leaving the building for a cabinet post in Washington, setting up a possible showdown in 2018 between Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and talking head Joe Scarborough. Don’t despair, J.R. There’s hope!
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