In the wake of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s razor-thin reelection November 4, scores of pundits across Connecticut have weighed in on why Republican challenger Thomas C. Foley could not push the ball across the goal line against an unpopular incumbent.
Now it’s our turn.
As a chief executive who presided over the largest tax increase in Connecticut history after promising not to raise taxes, Malloy was ripe for the picking in 2014. (His approval ratings even in Washington was so low that Vice President Joe Biden called him “O’Malley” at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation ceremony in May.)
Many voters were additionally put off by Malloy’s relentlessly negative personal attacks on Foley, portraying him as an out-of-touch plutocrat and vulture capitalist who bought and flipped companies for the sole purpose of throwing widows and orphans into debtors’ prison.
And yes, Malloy’s attacks were intensely personal, calling Foley out for the name of his “$5 million yacht” and owning “fighter jets” (what, you didn’t know that Foley has his own air force?). The Malloy camp also endeavored, preposterously, to link the Republican to “hard-right” Tea Party groups. (In Connecticut? Really?)
But the Greenwich businessman did himself no favors by running a lackluster campaign that failed to address what Tom Foley would actually do if elected. Instead, Foley mainly portrayed himself as the un-Malloy who would reverse the incumbent’s disastrous policies.
Why have American political campaigns devolved into vicious mudslinging melees, particularly since 2008? For one thing, negative campaigning works, and even highly personal attacks that would seem to have little or no bearing on a candidate’s fitness for office increasingly gain traction with voters. Foley’s cardinal sin, apparently, was his success in the business arena.
Throughout the long, expensive campaign, Foley stayed on the high road – never attacking Malloy personally. Instead he focused on the incumbent’s “failed” policies and promised to do better.
If negative campaigning resonates with voters in the short term, in the long run it feeds into one of the most alarming threats to our democracy — declining voter participation. It is true that Barack Obama’s historic 2008 run to the presidency stimulated a spike in voter participation — particularly among young people and minorities — the long-term trend is downward, as voters in many races become so disgusted with negative ads from both sides that they can’t hold their noses long enough to vote for either of them.
If ever there was an election cycle in which a Democratic incumbent in a deep-blue state was vulnerable, 2014 was it. But Tom Foley never made his case with regard to why voters — especially independents, who outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in the state — should vote for him.
And even though Republicans posted modest gains in the General Assembly, 2014 represents a lost opportunity for the GOP in what not so terribly long ago was one of the most Republican states in the Union.
Average America doesn't feel better off since Election Day.
More of us are feeling the pain of the new government health-care laws. My personal medical insurance premium will increase in January. My deductible goes from $3,000 to $5,000 and my co-pay also goes up. Beginning in January 2015, my medical insurance will be the worst I've had in my life. I suspect that during this past election millions of Americans started waking up about ObamaCare. The new Senate and House must edit the healthcare laws. Allow the very poor of America to be on Medicaid and those with preexisting conditions to buy into Medicare. Allow working Americans to buy and bargain for their own health insurance and allow us to do it across state lines.
Thousands of illegals continue to come to America. Many of them of them are hard-working people. They simply want to be in America and have a better life. I don't blame them. However, the majority of Americans want them to fill out their paperwork. We want these people to be documented and follow the legal path to living in America. Most Americans would agree on making the path clear and obtainable. We simply do not want to just reward these people with citizenship if they broke the law to get here.
Americans are tired of our jobs going overseas. Minimum wage, even if it's $10 or $12 an hour, is not enough. We need $20 and $25 an hour jobs that pay benefits. We need to reward companies for keeping jobs in America. We don't want to reward them for moving jobs to another country.
However, companies must also decide how they are going to handle medical insurance. If we continue to demand more taxes and more medical insurance burdens from companies they will move somewhere else. Or, they will continue to downgrade full-time employees to part-time employees.
Average America is not ready to eliminate fossil fuels. We like solar, wind and natural gas. We also know that we are loaded with coal and oil. We need to use our fossil fuels while developing technology that uses cleaner and more efficient sources of energy. More Americans would like for us to be disconnected from Middle Eastern oil. We are tired of being tied to Saudi Arabia or Iraq for oil. Actually we are sick and tired of the Middle East in general.
Maybe, I shouldn't speak for any other Americans. However, it seems I am safe to speak for a large number. Mitch McConnell and a host of other Republicans were elected because that is what America could do. We could vote and bring about change.
There is broad frustration and even anger toward Washington and our current policies. The Republicans need to work together and get something right for the next few months. Some of us are doubtful about a Democratic President and a Republican Congress accomplishing anything. However, this is America and we can dream.
Glenn Mollette (glennmollette.com) is a syndicated columnist and author.