One-Party Politics in Connecticut: The Elephant Not In the Room
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From the moment President Barack Obama called for the government to “give America a raise,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other Connecticut Democrats stood waiting at the base of the mountain to carry out the newest commandment.
The stump speech for raising the minimum wage borne in the President’s State of the Union address was repeated in the William Detrick Gymnasium on the campus of Central Connecticut State University a month later, punctuated by the cheers of students and Democratic legislators.
Obama visited Connecticut, traveled with other New England governors and broke bread at New Britain’s Café Beauregard (the site where Malloy would later sign a law raising the minimum wage to Obama’s standards by 2017). He didn’t need to push for raising the minimum wage in Connecticut—the deep blue stronghold of the Democratic Party already approved raising it, 71 percent to 25 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released days before his speech.
Obama came here to send a message to Congress that if it couldn’t get it done, then the states would. And the New England governors assembled on the stage behind Obama echoed that sentiment, showing that they were willing to set polices that stretched across their borders in tandem with each other.
Obama’s selection of Connecticut was pretty clear. The state has had a trifecta of Democratic rule, with an absolute majority in the House and Senate, and a Democrat in the governor’s office since 2011. Even before then, while Republicans controlled the governor’s office since the 1980s (and a few years in between), Democrats have controlled both chambers of the assembly for decades. Except for pockets of municipal races, Connecticut Republicans have been absorbed and muted by the loud clamoring of liberal Democratic policy.
Since 2011, the state has continued to act as an incubator for Democratic principles. Connecticut has passed liberal policies and risen to the top as an example for other states in such initiatives as health care—while Republican-controlled states left the creation of insurance exchanges up to the federal government and rejected funds to expand Medicare, Connecticut’s health insurance exchange is universally cited as one of the best in the nation.
Ask a Democratic legislator if all this is a good thing, and they’ll rattle off a list of liberal ingenuities that have been passed since 2011. Every reporter is forwarded an “in case you missed it” chain to show the White House’s statement praising Connecticut for acting as a leader, as they did after the minimum wage was raised.
Ask a Republican legislator and they’ll speak of their efforts to take back both chambers and the governor’s office to “fix” what’s been done by the Democrats.
An analysis by the New York Times found 36 states are now controlled entirely by a single political party—the largest number of one-party ruled states in six decades.
Connecticut is one of 13 states controlled by Democrats, compared to 23 run by Republicans. States are continuing to decide issues that members of Congress can’t agree on—but the extreme polarization also means states are moving further and further apart. Representatives those states send to Washington, D.C., have also become more polarized.
One-party rule is the current lay of the land here—but an added dynamic is geography. Situated in cozy New England and among the historically blue states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York, Connecticut has the advantage of being surrounded by states with the same mindset.