I know you’ve all been waiting for me to explain why I get to drive
around for the next two years with a “Don’t Blame Me I’m From
Connecticut” bumper sticker. Here goes.
The citizens who showed up at polls in the Nutmeg State last Tuesday were somewhat older, whiter, richer, and more college-educated than their counterparts in the rest of the country.
They were also a whole lot bluer. All five (Democratic) members of
Congress retained their seats, a Democrat was chosen as Chris Dodd’s
successor, and it looks like we’ll have a Democratic governor for the
first time in 20 years.
Why did Nutmeg voters tell exit pollsters that they wanted government
to do more rather than less (50 percent to 46 percent) when nationwide
it was less rather than more (56 percent to 38 percent)? Why did they
oppose the Tea Party 42-35 when all voters supported it 40-31? Why were
Obama’s approval numbers 54-45 instead of 45-54? What gives?
more Democrats than Republicans voted (in the rest of the country the
proportions were equal), and the number of self-described liberals
almost equaled the number of conservatives (as opposed to being
outnumbered more than 2-1). But these facts beg the question.
is a small, densely populated state with scores of municipalities–186
towns and cities where residents tend to know their elected officials
and participate in policy-making. If, to someone who’s lived in
Massachusetts and Georgia, Connecticut politics seems smaller than life,
it’s because all politics here is really, really local. The
disfunctionality of state government has to do with an excess of local
control, not the opposite. If you’re from the government, we really do
think you’re here to help–or should be. In a word, Connecticut voters weren’t about
to buy the anti-government goods the GOP was selling so hard this year.
that they’ve been inclined to buy the Republican goods of the past few
cycles either. The state’s Catholic plurality, remembering when it was
victimized by a Yankee majority, has little interest in imposing its
church’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage on the rest of the
populace. The GOP moral values playbook just doesn’t play here. This
year, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, a Protestant, pronounced
himself pro-choice and promised not to mess with the state’s same-sex
The one salient social issue where he put daylight
between himself and Democratic opponent Dan Malloy was the death
penalty. There, Foley promised to follow the lead of current Gov. Jody
Rell, who vetoed legislation that would have put an end to it. Malloy, a
Catholic and death penalty opponent, has said
he’d have signed the bill. The issue had salience because through the fall,
Connecticut has been riveted by the murder trial of Stephen Hayes,
charged with committing one of the most horrific home invasions in U.S.
history. (Having voted to convict, the jury as of this writing was still deciding whether to impose the death penalty.) The point is:
in a very close contest sufficiently marred by voting irregularities in
Bridgeport that it may go to court, the death penalty may well have cost
Malloy some votes.
Speaking of Bridgeport, a month ago Bishop William E. Lori delivered himself of an extended pastoral letter for the election season entitled “Let Freedom Ring.” In it, the bishop waxed eloquent on the Danbury Baptists of yore, who wrote
to Thomas Jefferson in hopes that, by emphasizing humankind’s natural
right to religious liberty, they might get some help in overturning
Connecticut’s requirement that all taxpayers help pay for the support of
some religious body.
Lori went on at length regarding the evils
of abortion and same-sex marriage, alleging that the state’s positions
on both endanger religious liberty. But respecting the death penalty–a
major concern of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops re-emphasized in September–he
had nary a word to say. Presumably doing so might have encouraged some
of the lay faithful and clergy to vote for a pro-choice Catholic: The
Horror, the Horror! (Lori is, be it noted, cut from the cloth of
Chaput.) So as Connecticut prepares itself to take a significant step in
the direction of the “culture of life,” the state’s most politically
engaged hierarch will not be able to take credit.
Update: The Hayes jury returns a sentence of death.
Later update: And Foley concedes.