Cold Election Day winds whistle in, from all directions

I hate to admit that I spent part of Election Day 2017 listening to talk radio jock Laura Ingraham complaining about Democrats inappropriately suggesting gun control — imagine that, in the wake of the country's latest senseless mass shooting.

I generally loathe Ingraham and her guffaws and smug pronouncements, in this case suggesting that pagan Democrats are not putting enough faith in prayer and more guns and gun-carrying vigilantes to solve the problem.

And yet while driving on Tuesday from poll to poll in Trump country throughout eastern Connecticut — pretty much every town above the shoreline — I found it hard to tune out Ingraham's usual gloating bile. It's hard to escape. I can hear it almost without tuning in.

Just hours earlier, I had read in The New York Times the astounding statistic that Americans make up 4.4 percent of the world's population but own 42 percent of the world's guns.

Ingraham's Tuesday rant, pumping up the base with the usual hot buttons — guns, Hillary Clinton, the undocumented swarming the gates — came back to me as I chatted with voters outside the Sprague polling station, at the Baltic Fire Department firehouse.

Nearby, the fire department flag, at half-staff in respect for the Texas shootings victims, was tattered at the edges, another sign that this old mill town, which voted for Donald Trump in the last election, has seen more prosperous times.

And it struck me how little the results of Tuesday's vote on municipal office holders is going to explain Connecticut's fractured politics today.

Even as the state lumbers toward a more Republican tilt, approaching parity in the General Assembly and a wide-open race for governor, the Democrats' national agenda still carries the day.

Every delegate Connecticut sends to Washington is a Democrat, and there is no sign of that shield cracking any time soon. I take comfort thinking those Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal voters hear Ingraham the same way I do.

This political schizophrenia couldn't be more obvious anywhere than Sprague, where First Selectman Cathy Osten, also a state senator and supreme Democratic loyalist, on Tuesday secured another municipal victory, in a town that chose Trump over Clinton despite voter registration overwhelmingly supporting Democrats.

This strange mixture of voter loyalties is not lost on Mark A. Lounsbury, the retired Norwich police detective running for Osten's first selectman seat on the Republican ticket.

"I'm going with the smiles," Lounsbury told me Tuesday, as he waved to voters leaving the polls. But he wasn't predicting a win, despite an aggressive social media and door-knocking campaign.

"We're going it blame it on Russian collusion," joked Michael Meadows, Republican town chairman, helping Lounsbury keep a poll-side vigil Tuesday.

You might think that larger political winds would have an impact on Tuesday's voting. The only winds I felt Tuesday were part of a brisk November chill that had sign-holding demonstrators bundled up, what seemed like the first sign here that winter really is coming.

But neither the budget dysfunction by Democrats who control Hartford, nor the ever-tightening treason noose around Republican necks in Washington, seemed to be heavy on voters' minds around here.

Asa Palmer, the 22-year-old farmer running for first selectman in North Stonington, told me Tuesday he felt pretty confident, if voters could accept his age.

"We'll see," he said.

Indeed, if I detected any trend in my chats with voters Tuesday, it seemed to tilt toward throwing the bums out, turning the page, having your voice heard.

In that sense, Palmer seemed to hit it on the head with his campaign lawn signs.

"Had enough?" the signs ask. "I have."

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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