When I wrote my post about substance marking the gubernatorial campaign I guess I forgot to knock on wood. One of the things I most enjoy about these campaigns are the debates. Getting to see two candidates go face to face matching wits and intelligence. Though some argue that debates are too often press conferences and talking points, they also give us a chance to see how candidates might react to the unexpected. It is also an opportunity for candidates to really lay out and contrast their plans and policy to average voters that are not always paying as much attention to the issues as the process.
So I was rather disappointed to find out Ned Lamont is skipping the traditional New London debate thus leaving us without one this cycle. Now this is not just some avoidance of Dan’s debate challenge by Lamont. I remember going to New London for the debate in 2006 (back when it was Malloy v. DeStefano) and getting to see not just the debate but the huge number of supporters that turned out before the debate to support their candidates. I thought it was a great rallying tool for both campaigns, so I don’t see why Ned Lamont doesn’t want to debate.
However I can come-up with one idea. After the last debate Bob Englehart published this cartoon to describe the outcome:
So maybe Ned Lamont is afraid he won’t do so well against Dan Malloy again? Is he concerned that his momentum is waining? If Ned won’t debate Dan anymore, will he still have the courage to debate Foley in the fall, or will we just be watching TV commercials constantly?
That being said, I think it’s too bad they cancelled it. I think they should “hold” it anyways and if Lamont doesn’t show-up they could just have Dan take questions from the audience and YouTube town hall style.
I know what you're thinking: Is there no candidate who has managed to rise above all this petty squabbling, no candidate who can stop bickering long enough to address the massive and extremely boring structural financial problems pushing this state to the brink of ruin?
Well, no. There isn't. And I can't believe you would bring up such a trivial and personal concern as the future of Connecticut while the candidates are working so hard to thrash out the incredibly difficult and knotty matter of which one of them is a bigger toolbox.
Yet candidates are and have been tackling policy and the future of Connecticut directly. In between exchanging the barbs with each other Dan Malloy most recently unveiled his education plan while Ned Lamont focused on transportation. If you visit Dan Malloy’s YouTube channel he has a little over 100 videos. Many, if not a majority, addressing Connecticut policy issues from his visits around the state since he began exploring his run for governor. Meanwhile Ned Lamont aired a commercial asking people to go to his website to read about his plan for Connecticut.
It seems the problem remains that these policy conferences and ideas seem to lack the element of sexiness that excites the media and electorate. Can Colin McEnroe really write an amusing article about Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and their impact on the budget? The drama of Jon Pelto’s declaration that democrats might “suck” certainly seems to have generated more discussion on the web and about this race than Dan Malloy’s proposals for early childhood education. Even here on MyLeftNutmeg there seems to be more effort put into attacking Dan Malloy or Ned Lamont than debating policy issues like transportation and transparency. In contrast the NBC30 debate highlighted policy issues and the candidates had an opportunity to discuss what they would cut in the budget or their position on the death penalty.
The bloggers and columnists may and will continue to criticize the state of the horserace. As a political junkie myself I make no apology for the fact that I devour every poll and endorsement with the zeal of a rabid sports fan. However at the same time these small things cannot and should not be allowed to drown out the larger and more important discussions. We cannot pretend that these discussions are not happening in our legislature, city halls, and at our kitchen tables. A week or two ago I got my tuition bill from the UCONN law school. After the legislature took money from the UCONN Operating Reserve Account to cover their budget gap I find my tuition has gone up and my aid has gone significantly down from last year. An experience I imagine many other UCONN students and Connecticut families had when they got their bills and something that I care about so much more than Tom Foley’s arrest record.
So I issue this challenge, not just to Colin or Jon, but to everyone as we go into August and then November. Let’s have the great discussion about the issues and future of our state. Let’s find a way to make energy policy sexy or transportation policy dramatic to the average voter. Let’s use our bully pulpit to get voters to ask if they really think that they want more trains or solar panels in Connecticut. Yes we’ll certainly continue to have the vigorous debates about the character and experience of our candidates. There are important and valid debates to be had on whether we want to be lead by a businessman or statesman. However let us not get distracted from the fact that these bigger discussions about Connecticut’s future are happening and we need to continue to have them.
While it’s certainly interesting that this data is online, I’m wondering about its usefulness. Candidates are calling for transparency and as activists and citizens I think its important for us to have the conversation about where it is best to focus these efforts. After all, transparency does not actually accomplish anything unless we as citizens we can use the data and then effect change with it. Whether it be informing ourselves as to the results of health inspections of restaurants so we know what to avoid, or using campaign contribution data to determine whether a representative may have been influenced by money, we can use the data to inform our eating and voting patterns.
What data should Connecticut be opening up? Where as a citizenry are we lacking important information the government has that could be useful?
Via the 3 Geeks and a Law Blog I discovered that Fastcase has a free legal resource called Public Library of Law that lets you search recent court cases and statutes. A welcome addition to using Google Scholar to search federal cases for free. These still won’t completely replace WestLaw and Lexis anytime soon but they’re certainly getting there. I tried a free trial of the paid version of Fastcase a while back and was actually rather impressed. The interface was less clunky than WestLaw and Lexis and it was in fact faster. The downside is the lack of those time saving headnotes. Either way these resources are worth checking out and adding to your bookmarks.