Punishing GOP candidates for Trump will only punish our state
Should every Republican on the party's ticket with President Trump this year be defeated if he or she won't denounce or at least criticize the president for his demeanor, policies, or both?
That's the suggestion of Day columnist David Collins, who complained the other day that he could not find one Republican candidate in eastern Connecticut willing to discuss the president. Noting the president's unpopularity in the state, Collins wrote for the New London-based newspaper: "Surely I can't be the only one who wouldn't consider voting for anyone who won't even comment about the head of their party and his agenda for the country."
Of course Collins isn't the only one who feels as he does, but there are a few problems with his position.
First is that turnabout is fair play, and Collins lately has expressed outrage about Governor Ned Lamont's disregard for the New London area. Since the governor is a Democrat, won't re-electing Democrats to the General Assembly vindicate the governor's disregard? Will electing Republican legislators produce any better results for the area? Republicans don't seem to have given much reason to think so.
The second problem, a bigger one, is the difficulty of punishing Trump's ticketmates for his offenses without also punishing the whole state. Yes, in general Republican state legislators are uninspired and timid, not much interested in gaining a majority, mainly content with escaping responsibility for governing, but at least they are much less enthusiastic tools of the government employee unions and welfare class than Democratic legislators are.
So what is one to do if he detests Trump but also would prefer not to pay more in state taxes for Democratic policies and patronage that only impoverish the state? What if someone wants to avoid not just highway tolls, but more raises and pension benefits for government employees while the private sector is crashing? Someone who feels that way and sets out to punish all Republicans for complicity with Trump ends up punishing himself as well.
The third problem is that political landslides such as Collins seems to be advocating can bring out the worst in elected officials, making them arrogant, corrupt, and stupid, as Connecticut might have learned after electing John G. Rowland to a third term as governor in 2002.
President Lyndon B. Johnson's big win at the top of the Democratic ticket in 1964 unleashed his escalation of the Vietnam War. But by 1967, even as the war was plainly a futile enterprise incompetently pursued, few Democratic officials dared to say a word against the president, just as few Republican officials dare to say a word against Trump today. Only when public opinion, without any help from most Democratic leaders, turned against Johnson in 1968 did the president withdraw from re-election − and only after a Republican, Richard Nixon, was elected president did most Democratic leaders decide that the war was a disaster.
Similarly, Nixon's landslide re-election in 1972 only deepened his administration's criminal corruption. In less than two years both he and his vice president, Spiro Agnew, were exposed and compelled to resign.
Connecticut already suffers inefficiency and corruption in state government because of the state's lack of political competition. Shrinking the Republican minority in the General Assembly to spite the party of Trump won't provide any incentive for state government to improve. It will just give the majority party more license.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.
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