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Connecticut GOP doomed by embracing all things Trump

Do Connecticut Republicans really want to follow President Trump and the national party off a political cliff?

The 2018 election should have been a good one for Connecticut Republicans. An unpopular Democratic governor was finishing up a second term. Normal political physics suggested a Republican would be pulled into office. And Republicans had a chance, after having made big inroads in recent elections, to capture at least the state Senate.

Instead the Democrat, Ned Lamont, became governor, and Democrats won big majorities in the House and Senate.

The reason? Trump.

Anti-Trump sentiment probably won’t be as big a factor in the 2019 local elections, though it could play a role in a close vote here and there. Most of the cities will remain firmly Democratic, while Republicans will prevail in Fairfield County and in the suburban and rural towns where they usually do well.

But 2020 could get really ugly for the Connecticut GOP, with turnouts swelled by a presidential election. It all points to Democrats continuing to hold all five congressional and two U.S. Senate seats and maintaining their dominance in the Connecticut General Assembly.

Republicans need to find places to distant themselves from Trump and his most abhorrent policies and behaviors, but there is no sign of that.

This past week the Trump administration doubled down on its seeming mission to alienate Hispanic voters, announcing a regulation change allowing many green card and visa applicants, or reapplicants, to be turned down if they have low incomes or little education, and have used benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers.

While the rule doesn’t explicitly target Hispanics, they will be disproportionately impacted because these immigrants tend to come from poorer Latin countries and the process of establishing middle-class status is going to take longer.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, didn’t hide the thinking behind the administration’s rule. Asked if the approach reconciles with the Emma Lazarus poem found on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," Cuccinelli suggested that poem was meant for a different kind of people, white European people to be exact.

“That poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies, where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class,” he said.

Combined with Trump’s manufactured crisis at the southern border, his doing away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that had provided temporary protection for the Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children, the aggressive deportations and his racist-tainted rhetoric, it has made for the most anti-Latino/Hispanic administration in modern U.S. history.

Politically speaking, this approach makes no sense nationally and certainly not for Connecticut.

Connecticut’s population is 15% Hispanic, the 11th largest share among the states, and growing. Hispanics make up about 11% of eligible Connecticut voters. With their silence, Connecticut Republicans are abetting the Trump administration in alienating this large and growing voting bloc.

Last week, Democrats were quick to condemn Trump’s new plan targeting legal immigrants if they dare turn to the government safety net for help.

“This cruel policy will cause many eligible and needy families — including children and U.S. citizens — to go without essential food, housing, and medical services,” Lamont said.

And Department of Social Services Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford warned that if implemented, the rule would shift costs from the federal government to the state, as legal immigrant families are forced to seek essential care from local community health providers and food kitchens subsidized by the state.

Connecticut Republicans, with their silence, appeared to acquiesce with the Trumpian approach, as they have consistently done during his administration.

This does not end well for Republicans nationally, either. In Texas, 30 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic, and the number is growing, putting the state in play for the presidential election. Lose Texas and it is hard to see any Electoral College path to victory for a Republican candidate.

Rather than trying to feed the prejudicial fears of portions of white America — that these new immigrants and asylum seekers just want to stay on the public dole, that they want your jobs (I know, that’s contradictory), that they are criminals and invaders — why don’t Republicans compete for the support of the Hispanic community in the arena of ideas, making the case that conservative policies provide them the greatest opportunity for economic growth and social mobility?

Yet instead of finding an independent voice, Connecticut Republicans choose to cling to the anchor that is Trump.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor. 



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