Recently I co-authored an article in the UConn Law student newspaper Pro Se about the changes in the House of Representatives. Due to time constraints a rough draft I wrote was edited by the other author and put to print without a final check on the article by me. The final article is mostly correct. However it suggests that as a result of the election the Republican party is the dominant party in Washington. My interpretation would be that they are merely the dominant party in the House of Representatives, as the Democrats still control the executive branch and the Senate. Though there are certainly interesting arguments to be had in regards to which way the Supreme Court leans. For reference or those generally interested in a quick and dirty summary of the changeover in the house I’ve included my original rough draft below:
Every two years the entire membership of the United States House of Representatives is up for re-election. It is typical for the House to change parties during a mid-term election and this year was no exception. Nationwide Republicans have gained 61 seats and as a result are now the majority party in the House of Representatives (five seats remain undecided as of this article). With the majority the Republicans gain more power including nominating Rep. John Boehner for Speaker. With that position he becomes second in the line-of-succession for the Presidency. Republicans will now chair the various House committees which will give them the ability to set the agenda of the body. This includes latitude to conduct investigations. Rep. Darrell Issa of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee has pledged to conduct seven hearings a week and to arm federal inspectors general with subpoena power to insure compliance with Congressional requests for information.
Meanwhile Democrats have had their influence greatly reduced. By moving into the minority they lost a leadership position. Traditionally after a defeat the Speaker steps down from leadership but Rep. Nancy Pelosi made clear that she intended to stay. On November 17 she handily won her election for minority leader against the more moderate Rep. Heath Shuler. By keeping her position Rep. Steny Hoyer was left to battle with Rep. James Clyburn for the position of minority whip. Pelosi resolved the conflict by creating a new position for Clyburn that would be in between the whip and minority leader. Rep. John Larson kept his position as Democratic Caucus Chair. This means the Democratic Caucus will remain largely unchanged from the previous Congress.
Today former GOP Candidate for Governor Tom Foley penned this Op-Ed piece in the Hartford Courant about his experience in running for office. He talks about the process and explains this:
Politicians win elections by making promises. Voters decide if the promises are the ones they like and whether, if elected, the candidate will make good on them. Many factors play into the calculus of the voter's choice” likability, plausibility, personal credibility, a candidate's record and the views of opinion leaders, to name a few.
Foley then proceeds to cynically describe the politics in contrast to business and insinuate the politicians habitually lie. He concludes by recommending the creation of a statute that would require politicians to be truthful.
If the former ambassador wishes to understand what happened in this election he needs to detach himself from his own race and look at things from a broader perspective. He ran a race in conjunction with Linda McMahon and together they spent millions of dollars to woo voters. The narrative they ran with was that of being outsiders. Consultants that could fix state government by not being a part of it. Such a narrative is common especially in anti-incumbent years as we’ve had. It does not sell in Connecticut.
In business when you apply for a job you send them your resume. Your employer looks at your experience, skills, and personality among other traits. Experience is what won out this year. Though Foley had been an ambassador to Ireland he downplayed that and instead focused on his business experience. In contrast Dan Malloy embraced his role as a public servant and all his years as Mayor of Stamford. McMahon played the outsider card as well and handily lost to Richard Blumenthal. The advantage that Blumenthal had is that Connecticut voters already knew him. He spoke at their kids graduations, and has been perpetually present at political events in the state.
This experience will certainly help these legislators and constitutional officers navigate the tricky waters of balancing budgets and producing policy. They can figure out how government might stay afloat amidst this changing tide and try and ease the pain. However at the end of the day the state is still in an economic crises. This crises is as much the product of the free-market as it is of the government. We need business talent and we need it in business. We need all the Republican candidates who were outsiders to go back to doing what they do best to help lift us out of this mess. Politicians cannot and will not solve this problem on their own.
Sites such as the CT Mirror have been posting articles about the Connecticut gubernatorial election. Based on posts I’ve seen on twitter and facebook along these media stories it appears that people are overblowing the problems. Even with the problem ballots tossed Malloy has a win that is greater than needed for a recount. Certainly there was some negligence in Bridgeport but ultimately that negligence will not have had an impact on the final outcome. Furthermore are some people trying to blame Susan Bysiewicz, who has little control over the matter. It was probably a mistake for her to hold the press conference and put herself in front the spotlight considering she lacked control over this, but I don’t think she can be blamed for the problems that occurred over the past few days..
Remember the controversy with UCONN Professor Ken Dautrich? The report has been released. Ultimately it appears that some state money was spent on some partisan political activity and they recommended some discipline for Prof. Dautrich. Based on the report it appears the professor at least made an attempt to keep things separate, but did not manage to actually do so.
This just goes to show how difficult it is to avoid the appearance of corruption in such a small state where people with unique skill sets end up having to wear many hats. I’m sure the experience was valuable to the students, but it is important that we do not allow state resources to be used to unfairly aid incumbents.
Earlier tonight I attended the Connecticut Attorney General debate at UCONN Law. Democrat George Jepsen debated Republican Martha Dean. The debate started off rather light but after the first question or two the contrast between them could not have been larger. George Jespen framed himself as a traditional democrat while Martha Dean embraced her position as the tea party candidate.
This was especially apparent when candidates were asked how they would respond to the state government attempting to slash the Attorney Generalâ€™s office budget by ten percent. Jepsen pointed out that the office manages to bring in revenue for the state and while he certainly would work to create efficiency he suggested that the government not be â€œpenny-wise and pound-foolish.â€ Dean said she would work to create efficiency and claimed that there is a lot of waste in the office that she could eliminate. She did not elaborate on the waste but referenced a state auditorâ€™s report. In her rebuttal she expressed concern that Jepsen saw the Attorney Generalâ€™s office as a source of revenue. She claimed that it â€œviolated the separation of powersâ€ for the Attorney Generalâ€™s office to be a revenue source and that only the legislature could do that.
When asked about the qualifications she would look for in employees Dean attacked young people. She recited the quote â€œif you are under 20 and not a liberal you have no heart, and if you are over 40 and not a conservative you have no brain.â€ She then proceeded to suggest that young people should work in the â€œreal worldâ€ for a few years before they should be allowed to serve in government. Jepsen was more realistic and raised the fact that due to the state budget crises it was unlikely he would be able to hire new attorneys soon, but did agree that fresh law school graduates should spend a few years in other jobs before moving to government.
Candidates spent a lot of time talking about Richard Blumenthal. Jepsen generally stuck by Blumenthal and Candidate Dean attempted to paint Jepsen as being too close to Blumenthal and also accused Jepsen of being political. Jepsen responded by pointing out that Dean herself was political and reiterating that he was proud of his service. Both candidates certainly raised political issues and Dean was not reluctant to admit she would consider putting out position papers on important issues like Blumenthal does.
The other theme in the debate was George Jepsen. Jepsen laid out his views, positions, and took only a few jabs at Dean. In contrast, Dean not only extolled her own virtues, but spent a lot of time attacking Jepsen. She attained the nearly magical feat of being in control and out of control at the same time by moving questions away from their issue and turning them into attacks. Jepsen was more reserved preferring to address the issues and only went off topic when Dean steered the debate in that direction.
This resulted in Dean giving the debate win to George Jepsen on a silver platter. Had Dean decided to keep focused on her own virtues I think she would have been able to win it. Instead she chose to keep the focus on Jepsen and as a result his thoughtful statements and lighthearted manner shined through.