Republicans did fairly well in Connecticut's municipal elections this week, picking up many suburbs and smaller towns, holding the mayoralties in some smaller cities – New Britain, Danbury, and Norwich – gaining the mayoralty in Bristol, and nearly gaining the mayoralty in heavily Democratic and poorly managed West Haven, which was being looted right under the mayor's nose by one of her confidants.
"The map is setting up beautifully for 2022 for Republicans," their state chairman, Ben Proto, crowed.
But not so fast.
First, municipal elections are the least determined by party principles and the most by local personalities. Indeed, municipal government in Connecticut has little to do with public policy. Most of its finances are on automatic pilot, a matter of just signing off on government employee union contracts devised under the pressure of binding arbitration and causing the great majority of municipal expense.
Second, Connecticut remains a solidly Democratic state. Nobody this week paid much attention to the usual huge Democratic pluralities in the big cities, since the election results there were pre-ordained. But those pluralities will reappear next year in the statewide election, where they are usually decisive no matter how well Republicans do elsewhere.
And third, Donald Trump didn't haunt Connecticut Republican campaigns this year. Since next year's election is a congressional election and Trump seems to be planning to run for president again in 2024, Connecticut voters soon may be reminded of him a lot more. The Biden administration is so incompetent and extreme leftist that it may be possible to imagine Trump winning in 2024, but it is not possible to imagine him carrying Connecticut. It is easy to imagine him destroying the Republican Party here next year and in 2024 just as he destroyed it last year, wiping out the gains Republicans had been making in the General Assembly.
Escaping Trump remains the great challenge of any Republican who wants to win in Connecticut. It shouldn't be impossible, since many Republican policies could win a referendum in Connecticut and can be advocated without reference to Trump, while the Trump problem is mainly a matter of his hateful character and demeanor. But many Connecticut Republicans – maybe a majority of the most active ones, primary voters – are devoted to that character and demeanor and rather than give them up might prefer to lose on policy forever.
Using specific state issues against his Democratic opponent, Virginia's new Republican governor-elect, Glenn Youngkin, held Trump at bay without alienating Trump supporters. So the more Connecticut's Republican candidates press specific issues next year, the more they may cause people to put policy ahead of Trump. As the village rabbi in "Fiddler on the Roof" replied when asked if there was a blessing for the czar: "May God bless and keep the czar – far away from us."
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CRAZY LEFT WILL HELP: In any case going into next year's state election Connecticut Republicans are likely to get help from the craziness of the leftists who dominate the state's Democratic Party and make it hard for Governor Lamont to maintain a moderate stance.
City administrations, including Hartford's, are sure to provide Republicans with plenty of campaign fodder if the Republicans have the nerve to risk controversy. For example, according to the Hartford Courant, last week a city government committee drafted plans for the city's experiment with a program of "universal basic income."
The idea is to give $500 a month, unconditionally, to 25 single parents or guardians. But the committee thinks it needs a mechanism for determining whether the money really reduces stress in the lives of the recipients. So the committee may propose making recipients undergo invasive tests to measure their stress hormones.
Of course, winning a lottery's grand prize or inheriting a great amount of money may cause the stress of figuring out what to do with it. But since when is any special research needed to determine whether $500 more per month will make someone's life easier?
The movie "Animal House" famously depicted the statue of college founder Emil Faber inscribed with the moronic motto "Knowledge is good." Hartford could add, so scientifically: "Money, too."
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.