The chorus is loud and getting louder. Citizens throughout this country and our state claim that Connecticut will no longer support those policies associated with “conservatism.”
The party most associated with conservatism, the Republicans, gave the appearance of caving on the “fiscal cliff,” allowing for an increase in taxes and failing to secure any significant spending cuts. The shootings in Newtown, an event so horrific it can barely be mentioned without a physical reaction, appears to provide convincing evidence that the country should turn away from the Second Amendment.
Further, the recent landslide election of the party most associated with “liberals,” the Democrats, in our state appear to support this notion — that one party and a single ideology will run this state, successful or not. The governor, both U.S. senators, and all five U.S. representatives are members of the Democratic Party, and Democrats enjoy large majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
But has the conservative leviathan been slaughtered in Connecticut? Has the birthplace of George W. Bush and home of Roger Sherman moved beyond its past toward the policies of its other native son, Ralph Nader?
The answer is not as clear as it may appear.
What continues to make Connecticut unique in these United States is the lack of a county governmental system and its 169 independent municipalities, which will hold local elections in 2013. These cities and towns strive to compete for jobs, people, attractions and ultimately tax revenue to support the dreams of each mayor, manager or alderman.
Every year, Connecticut towns strive to maintain a high level of service at the most efficient cost. Year after year, towns vote to reject bloated budgets and tax increases. Every year, people are on the verge of revolt when their mill rate increases. Every year, taxpayer groups, audit committees and transparency movements push more and more information into the “sunlight.”
With this information comes an informed debate, accountability and often change in the town council seats. As evidenced by the much stronger showing by conservatives in municipal elections, the most informed voters make a choice in Connecticut. Municipalities remain resistant to the liberal ideals.
Historically, however, Connecticut has never been a bastion of conservatism. Instead, it has created an environment that promoted and elected the “New England Republican.” Think Lowell Wiecker, Stewart McKinney and Chris Shays.
Since the day when Joseph Wadsworth hid the 1662 Connecticut Charter of Autonomy in the famous “Charter Oak,” Connecticut has been more focused on freedom, self-reliance and responsibility than any one ideology.
It is in this vein that we must continue.
Freedom V. Government
Connecticut must encourage freedom, whether in ideas or in business. This freedom will enable the government to work more efficiently, business to flow, and perhaps even lower taxes and reduce regulation. But how can we attain this perfect balance of freedom and government?
It is often stated that information is freedom. It is how we know when to challenge longstanding judicial authority, or when to settle prior to jury selection. It is how we, as lawyers, guide our clients through statutes, regulations and contract terms. It is how we advocate for the accused and protect innocent children from abuse.
But does it have the same effect in politics and governing? In politics, information is obtained from polls, packaged in a way to suit the argument and presented to the public. Statistics lead to more statistics. Where one tax increase will decimate the economy, the same tax increase will feed the hungry. While one bill may save the environment, the same bill will caused 10,000 layoffs.
In politics, unlike the law, it appears information can cause an almost sociopathic self-belief. It appears people are no longer concerned with the betterment of those they represent, but instead, are concerned about how they can spin their idea into something the public would like.
This has not been any more prevalent than in the recent debate over gun control since the massacre in Newtown. The gold standard of polling, Gallup, found in the same poll that 58 percent of respondents supported stricter gun control, while 51 percent were against a semi-automatic gun ban and 74 percent object to any restriction on handguns. Both Dianne Feinstein and Wayne LaPierre could use this poll to support their positions.
What is clear is that the status quo in Connecticut law and politics is far from optimal. A recent increase in state revenues has only produced additional deficits. Our unemployment rate continues to exceed the national average and our state economy is shrinking.
This is why learned, scholarly information and debates are so important in this time of instant information and manufactured data.
Recently, a professor from Georgetown Law School gave a speech in which he blamed the Constitution, and the government it established, for the present failures in Washington. He asked: how can we operate under this system where “we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago,” instead of addressing the problems our nation faces?
Understanding Madison, or the thoughts of Connecticut’s most famous founder, Roger Sherman, is not limiting; it is the basis of our freedoms. Interpreting the 7,591 words of the U.S. Constitution is an exercise worth continuing. It is not an argument of what Madison wanted, but instead an argument and interpretation about the document that for 222 years and counting has provided a framework for addressing the problems our nation faces, and where necessary, for addressing the framework itself.
As president of the Connecticut Chapter of the Federalist Society, and with my superb Executive Board, we have worked to set forth an environment of learned, scholarly debate. One cannot come to an informed and coherent stance on such issues as gun control, abortion, taxes, education and ultimately the role of government without a firm background in the area and an avenue to test and challenge your beliefs.
Our chapter works to promote the debate, not an idea.
Debate must be promoted. It must be encouraged. It is not only the lifeblood of our business as lawyers, but it is what will push our country and our Constitution through this next century. Whether Connecticut becomes the libertarian state of gambling and medical marijuana, the liberal state of high taxes and government services, or returns to the conservatism of its wealthy past, our chapter will be there pushing the debate forward in an educated fashion.
The Federalist Society’s plans for 2013 include speaker events regarding gun control, the role of the Federal Reserve and developments in the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorneys are always welcome in our membership (conservative, libertarian, liberal or otherwise) and are encouraged to contact our chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A “head-in-the-sand,” ignorance to the failings of all political parties and government must be recognized and addressed. An educated debate will encourage a climate of change.
As arguably our most famous resident once said, “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait fifteen minutes.” What will the weather be in 2013? Hopefully warmer.•