Republican candidates in Connecticut were telling voters during their campaigns that the mess the state is in can be traced directly to the Legislature's Democrat majority.
They used variations on the theme that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Send the same people back to Hartford, they said, and nothing will change. Voters seemed to agree, at least before Election Day.
Yet, across the length and breadth of the state as well as most of the country, GOP incumbents were thrown out even if they had opposed the most unpopular of policies identified by voters. Challengers did not fare well either. Democrat incumbents, on the other hand, swept in barely without campaigning in many cases.
In Connecticut, voters even turned down, by a wide margin, an opportunity to have a direct say in some of the most controversial issues facing us, including Sanctuary Cities, binding arbitration for teacher contracts - which is the costliest item in every municipal budget - gay marriage, gun control, you name it.
This opportunity - to convene a Constitutional Convention that will identify and refer major issues to referendum - comes only once every twenty years. Yet Connecticut voters dismissed it out of hand, with a yawn and a wave, and goodbye until 2028.
Why do you suppose voters offhandedly gave up an opportunity to take back some control; to deny a handful of judges and a roomful of legislators the absolute power they now have to totally screw this state into utter chaos? Our infrastructure is crumbling, billions in budget surpluses have disappeared to be replaced by billion-dollar deficits, and yet the voters who complain bitterly all year long didn't care enough to throw out the people who created this mess?
Who opposed this opportunity? Special interests obviously. Teacher unions, well most unions actually, gay advocacy organizations, the ACLU, the top Democrats in the state. Basically, anyone who got or wants anything from the courts and the legislature without having to deal with voters directly.
Were they powerful enough to manipulate the will of a million voters? Were the polls rigged? Are the voters that disconnected from reality? Apparently so.
So what does the GOP do about this? Well, for starters, read my opening sentences. If we want different results, we can't continue using the same tactics.
What tactics are those, you may well ask? Good question. I really don't know, because for years now I haven't seen anything that remotely resembles winning tactics coming from the GOP. A close associate who played on a number of sports teams in college made the observation a few days ago that the GOP resembles a losing team. I agree.
Also, we Republicans who don't reside inside the DC Beltway have been told repeatedly by no less an authority than Rush Limbaugh - on his show, not in person - that "Country Club" Republicans want nothing to do with people like us, other than to convince us to vote for their candidates without asking any questions.
We don't have the right "pedigree." We may have descended from recently arrived immigrant stock, which apparently is a good thing if it happened generations ago, but not if it was just one generation ago.
It doesn't matter that many of us served our country not just in wartime but often in actual combat, that we came home and put ourselves through college or learned a trade through a combination of working nights and the G.I Bill. We have conservative viewpoints but no pedigree, and thus are not welcome in the GOP inner circle.
I have had conversations with GOP operatives in Washington over the years, and sooner or later the voice on the other end of the phone informs me that I am speaking to a Harvard - or similar Ivy League college - graduate. Which leads me to ask the same question today that I have been asking for years: "If you are so smart, why are you so ineffective?"
I am not criticizing someone with advanced degrees from top colleges and universities. Good for them! But what good is it to have world class expertise in international relations, or a doctorate in political science, if you can't communicate your core values to the electorate and convince voters to cast their ballots for Republican candidates?
What good is it to know everything there is to know about politics if you don't know how to fend off attacks from people who are bent on convincing the voters that Republican values are negative, elitist, out of touch, and inherently bad for the country?
If you don't know how to fight, and fight effectively, at all levels from the streets, to guerrilla warfare to conventional political war, all the brains and all the education in the world will not win you an election. You either use all the tools in your tool box to get the job done, or we will be forced to conclude that this is all just bread and circuses, a diversion to keep the mob occupied while the ruling class plays God with our country and our lives.
One of the biggest problems facing the GOP today is its central authority, emanating from inside the beltway, which decides in advance which races in far away states will get the nod, the attention, and most important the money. But this approach ignores the reality of on-the-scene intelligence that can provide a better view on the viability of candidates who may have never met the GOP leaders - or worse, curried their favor.
Take Joe Visconti for instance, the GOP candidate in Connecticut's 1st Congressional District. Visconti got zero help from DC and ran his entire campaign on less than $20,000. Yet he increased the vote tally in his district by more than 37 percent over the results from two years ago.
The incumbent, despite all the claims of a huge increase in voter registration favoring his party, and the claims of record turnout, picked up only 3 percent over his tally from two years ago! While Visconti was working with less than $1,000 for each of the 27 towns in the district, his opponent had a campaign chest stocked with well over a million dollars.
Visconti may have lost, along with every other Republican Congressional candidate in Connecticut, but he ran a far more efficient, effective campaign especially when compared to the "Franchise" candidates.
Compared to the two Connecticut congressional candidates favored by the DC power brokers, Visconti was not only a bargain, he produced far more, dollar per dollar, and may well have had a decent shot at unseating a long-term incumbent if he had received a fraction of the help that favored candidates enjoyed.
David Cappiello, who ran in the 5th District had a campaign fund of about a million dollars, and spent roughly 8 dollars for each vote cast for him. Incumbent Chris Shays had well over 3 million dollars to spend, amounting to more than 20 dollars for each vote cast for him.
But Visconti, with no help at all, while also enduring a virtual blackout from the Hartford area media including The Hartford Courant and FOX 61, spent only about 20 cents per vote and increased the tally in the 1st District significantly over the number cast for the GOP candidate in 2006. This in a year when the Obama campaign helped every Democrat running for office, and the McCain campaign hurt nearly every Republican.
Speaking of which, there were many things the McCain campaign could have done, both to win and to help down-ballot candidates. He could have stopped bragging about his "across the aisle" reputation, he could have avoided mentioning the McCain-Feingold Act.
He certainly could have avoided whining about Obama sucker punching him by claiming he would accept public financing and then reneging after McCain had accepted it, thus limiting the amount McCain would have for his campaign while Obama had limitless funds. After all, McCain's campaign financing was limited by the very legislation he had sponsored.
He could have voted against the Wall Street Welfare Act - known as the "Bailout." He could have reached out to his own base instead of seeking mythical support from people who don't agree with his views. John McCain could have done a lot of things that he didn't do, either from his own inclinations or from bad advice.
If the GOP wants to get back in the game it has to put the McCain campaign, and the mindset behind it, into the obsolete file, and start rethinking how upper management relates to its own troops, in addition to how it relates to the voters. The GOP is not an elitist organization and conservative values are not negative values; in fact the opposite is true. But the voters must know this, and support Republican candidates.
I wrote a column before the election noting that "Gentleman" John McCain would have to use tactics that are not necessarily endorsed by the Marquis of Queensbury, but nonetheless are effective, if he wanted to win. There is no dishonor in being skilled at street fighting, especially if you want to walk the streets unmolested.
If you rely on limo transportation and private jets to move around you may be safe from muggers, but you will never know the mindset of average people and what will convince them to vote for you. Besides, many street fighters are effective without being gutter fighters. There is a difference.
I take no pride in noting that I said if McCain didn't figure that out, he would get sucker punched by Obama and end up on the floor, a loser, whining that Obama didn't fight fair.
Well the sucker punch came in many forms: The Democrat engineered credit crisis, resulting from more than a decade of plotting and manipulation of the mortgage and housing market; attacks on Sarah Palin from within the campaign rivaling the vicious assaults on her from the media; stupid issues such as the cost of Gov. Palin's clothing; and gaffe after gaffe reminding voters that often they really didn't agree with McCain.
But McCain didn't fight back, at least not effectively. When the NY Times planted a fake story that Palin was hurting his campaign, McCain should have parked his ego and shouted from the rooftops that his numbers were up all across the nation due to her presence on his team. But he didn't. He didn't fight effectively and he didn't take on the Times, or any other media outlet.
So, the election is over, McCain is down for the count, and all we have left is the sounds of pain and disbelief that he got suckered, and he lost.
I take no pride in being right about matters such as this. But, I did tell you. In my column on "Gentleman" John McCain and "Street Fighter" Obama, back on October 14. Go into the archives and look it up for yourself. It's there. Now, what are we going to do about it?
Sunday, November 09, 2008