Democracy is good, and worth preserving. This is the kind of statement that no one ever should have to make in any developed country, but that it has become, somehow, not just necessary to make in the US lately but also controversial in the halls of the Republican party.
Yet, as the party whose leader staged a failed coup to stay in power less than two years ago, the GOP seems to have plenty of people that do not seem to share that view and see “democracy” either with dread or deep, unabashed suspicion.
This is the case of Dominic Rapini, ostensibly the Republican nominee for Connecticut Secretary of the State and the person the party finds best qualified to protect and guarantee our election process. Rapini joins a long, infamous list of GOP candidates this election cycle that gained prominence by spreading lies and conspiracy theories around the 2020 election, and to this day, still equivocates if Biden was “duly” or “legitimately” elected.
Before becoming a candidate, Rapini used to head a non-profit called ‘Fight Voter Fraud” who had as its main pastime chasing imaginary ghost voters in our state – not finding any because elections in our state happen to be fair and secure, thanks to the good efforts of our Secretary of the State and Democratic lawmakers. It is not unsurprising, then, that Rapini was admonished by the State Elections Enforcement Commission to stop wasting their time with fantasy complains… and that he is running this year on a platform opposing anything that could increase voter turnout in elections, from no-excuse absentee ballots to early voting.
Rapini is far from a lone wolf in today’s Connecticut Republican party. Despite repeated claims by GOP leaders in the state to walk a separate path from occasional golpista and top-secret document hoarder former President, the party keeps picking candidates that are firmly behind Trump.
Namely, they picked someone like Leora Levy as candidate for U.S. Senate, ahead of former State House leader Themis Klarides.
I disagree with Themis Klarides in nearly everything, policy-wise, but she has always been an honest, principled, pragmatic politician. She supports abortion rights and voted in favor of tightening gun laws after Sandy Hook. Although she is wrong about economic policy, she cares about it, and can offer an alternative vision and priorities for the state budget.
Leora Levy, however, is neither moderated nor principled. She was critical of Trump back in 2015, calling him vulgar, but after he won the primary, she wholeheartedly embraced him. Her generous contributions led her to the nomination to be US Ambassador in Chile, farcical enough that the Senate rejected her outright. Her remorseless change of mind regarding Trump mirrors similar shifts on abortion, gun rights, and a myriad of culture war issues, where the GOP base seems to be picking the most extreme positions imaginable, from book censoring to arming teachers in our schools. She offers no policy ideas, just fury, grievance and resentment, a carbon copy of the national party agenda. Of course, she has also questioned the legitimacy of any investigation around the January 6 coup and seemed perfectly content to receive Trump’s endorsement.
Her primary victory has been cast as an upset, but Levy is in fact a party insider and a member in good standing of the Connecticut Republican party. She has been a delegate to three Presidential conventions, and a member of the Republican National Committee for six years. A prodigious fundraiser, she was so close to Bob Stefanowski to serve as his campaign Finance chair in 2018 – and Stefanowski liked her plenty enough to donate thousands of dollars to her primary campaign.
From now until November, we will hear many Connecticut Republicans pretend that Trump is not on the ticket in the state, that the whole coup, election conspiracies, authoritarian, culture war, anti-abortion, prohibitionist, pro-gun, racist policies of the former President are not what the party. The reality, however, is that the party has nominated for Senate someone that is not just Trumpian but has sat at the center of the party for years, their Secretary of the State candidate is all but an election denier, and a gubernatorial candidate that seems to be exceedingly happy to have both on the same ballot line.
In Connecticut, we like to believe that our politics are different, and our Republicans are more gentle, more moderate, and have little to do with the Trump-loving mob that will justify anything from a coup to stealing nuclear secrets. Looking at the Republican nominees this year, however, this is no longer the case.
We need a Secretary of the State that will work to expand democracy, not strive to limit who can vote. We need a U.S. Senator that will try to protect our rights, not those of a criminal former President. We need a Governor that supports social justice, not one that is friends with these people. The Connecticut GOP is all Trumpists, all the way down -and we must beat them at the polls in November.