Thursday, October 9, 2014

American Democracy

Connecticut Governor Malloy
Just last Sunday my local newspaper, the Connecticut Post, ran a front-page article about Connecticut’s Governor Dannell Malloy who this year is in a hotly contested re-election bid. Ken Dixon the Post’s longtime Hartford correspondent wrote the article.

According to Dixon, Malloy is a tough even belligerent politician who has battled and antagonized many politicians even in his own Democratic party. One source even mentioned that Malloy had been a mayor of the large city of Stamford before becoming governor and that mayors are used to getting what they want. Malloy was characterized as almost dictatorial in dealing with leading politicians in the overwhelmingly Democratic Connecticut legislature.

However, what was most interesting about the article was reporter Dixon’s disclaimer that his Democratic political informants would only speak with him on condition of anonymity.  Their reluctance to identify themselves made one think of Russia under feared dictator Joseph Stalin. Many years ago famed Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn described in a series of novels the fear that even high-ranking Soviet officials had of seeming to speak out of line.

It’s obvious that Connecticut politicians realize that political punishment awaits them if they dare to cross the Governor. Even if they can’t be punished with loss of power and influence, they would certainly be blocked from future advancement. No lucrative judiciary appointments or executive posts would be available to anyone who would step out of line.

A few weeks ago after voting in a local primary contest, I met a young official who was running for his party’s nomination to a seat in the State House of Representatives. I tried to discuss an issue with him but he cut me off to give me a little lesson in how things work in Connecticut’s democracy.

He explained that a representative could take one of two paths if elected. He could go to Hartford and do whatever the party leaders directed him to do. If he played ball, at the end of the session his district would be allocated funding so that a section of town road might be repaved. On the other hand, he could go to Hartford to represent his constituents and perhaps even buck the leadership on a vote or two. If he took that path, he would get nowhere and not even be given the funding to repave the roads.

A few days ago I met another candidate for the legislature who was out canvassing the neighborhood for votes. I asked her if she agreed with a recent law pushed through the legislature by the Governor to exempt teacher pensions from State income tax. She told me that she would be honest with me and admitted that she knew nothing about it. She explained that her involvement in town politics and the needs of her young children had kept her from knowing much about statewide issues. I could only scratch my head and wonder why this intelligent young person was seeking to load her already overflowing plate.

To add icing to the cake just yesterday President Obama helicoptered into wealthy Greenwich to attend a $32000 a plate Democratic fundraising dinner. Here is a man who has spent practically his entire career pillorying and demonizing the rich in this country. He never ceases to speak about income inequality and the need for the wealthy to share the wealth.

Nevertheless, he has the gall or hypocrisy to show up with outstretched hand in wealthy Greenwich. Actually, it could be just cunning. Russian revolutionary Nikolai Lenin was said to have remarked that if you give the Capitalists enough rope, they would hang themselves.

Seeing the image of President Obama stepping off Marine 1 to be met by Greenwich millionaires made me think of the final scene in George Orwell’s famous book “Animal Farm.” Orwell had fought with the Communists during the Spanish Civil War but became disenchanted when he realized that they were just as bad, if not worse, than their opponents.

Older readers will remember that “Animal Farm” was a political fable about a rebellion of the oppressed farm animals against the farmer who profited from their labor. The farmer and his men were driven off the farm which then was to be worked by and for the animals. A banner was raised proclaiming, “All Animals are Equal.” All would share equally in the work and rewards of the farm.

Unfortunately, things soon took a wrong turn. The wily pigs took over with the aid of fierce attack dogs and soon lorded it over the other animals. One day the animals noted that the revolutionary banner had bee altered to read: “All Animals are Equal, but Some are More Equal than Others.”

The book ends with a very touching scene. One night the ordinary animals stand out in the cold peering through the window of the restored farmhouse. They behold the prosperous pigs enjoying a fine dinner. Their guest is the farmer.


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