Like you, I have watched as our country has become more politically divided in recent years. There are quite a few causes, though it’s hard to say which is driving the trend. The political parties themselves are definitely more divided than ever. The major news media outlets have given up attempting fair reporting in favor of biased propagandizing. Finally, we have begun electing candidates based on superficial traits rather than the values or principles they hold and promote.
This has created two distinct but significant rifts between the American people when it comes to political decision making. There is the traditional divide left to right, then another that is more tribal and less based in definable principles. With some exceptions, including a few noteworthy Presidents of the past, both political parties have generally ascribed to the basic American founding principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility, free market capitalism, and the belief that hard work and ingenuity were laudable traits and deserving of success. Their differences were in foreign policy and the desire by Democrats for a slightly more interventionist approach, in the belief that government is the mechanism to create their vision of a moral society.
Even today, I think most people view our country’s value somewhere on that spectrum. Americans still demand freedom and recognize that the government has some role but not so much as to influence our daily lives.
That is great news and gives me hope for the future since this is what I care about as a State Senator. I have always focused on preserving the American system of government, defending individual liberty, and honoring our constitutional principles and the rule of law, particularly when it comes to equal protection and equal opportunity.
The same cannot be said of our political parties. Both are now seriously flawed, straying from America’s principles and even from their own. Today, the combination of government naturally growing in influence over time, and the introduction of identity politics exacerbating the power and importance of special interests, have caused both political parties to lurch far to the left.
I chose to be a Republican because, when it comes to our elected officials, the GOP still has roots in American freedom and the policy ideas that created the environment for America’s success story and the incredible quality of life we enjoy. My colleagues sometimes lose their way but at least the candle of American freedom still burns in the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, the day of moderate Democrats at the state or federal level is waning. Self-proclaimed Bernie Sanders socialists now have a controlling interest in the direction of the Democrat Party. This has created a grand divide between a moderate JFK-like Republican Party versus those who want to remake the country entirely into something called Democratic socialism, which still looks like the regular kind to me.
Politics is also increasingly difficult to follow, purposely, and sound bites rather than thoughtful deliberation rule the day. This has given rise to yet another divide. Political candidates have always traded on their cult of personality. Presidents Clinton and Obama saw great success in this way, but Donald Trump has upped that game exponentially. People either love him or hate him, regardless of his actions. That is dangerous. I supported Trump versus the alternative and will do so again, but I also know when he is wrong and am fair enough to say so.
A great frustration of mine is being accused of being a partisan. Each stand I have taken, and every vote I have cast has been my own decision, based on the things I believe in — not the position of my leaders or my party. Consequently, I have had the most independent voting record of any legislator in Hartford.
Now more than ever, we need to judge our elected officials on their principles and actions, not party or personality.
As another example, my early reviews of Governor Lamont’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis were favorable. I was glad to support his efforts to stem the spread of the virus — and I said so publicly. More recently however, the extraordinary power he has been granted during this emergency has impacted his judgment: He has begun exceeding his authority and advancing a political agenda, using the virus as an excuse. This is clearly unacceptable. I have said that too.
Whatever our personal feelings, it is our responsibility to hold him accountable to the rule of law, and this is the way we should treat all our elected officials, both those we have supported and those we haven’t.
There will be an important election this November, from the President on down to yours truly. Of course, the news media will be there to continue reporting on salacious accusations and scandals to distract us, and the political pundits will be spinning their contrived disappointment in the opposition. I recommend looking for principled candidates — those who believe in something and can tell you what it is.
Hopefully, we have at least a few good choices.