What You Won't Read in Legislative Wrap-Ups

It’s the conventional wisdom you always hear about Connecticut: Conservatism is a loser in our state, and even if it’s not, it’s just the fiscal conservatives that stand a fighting chance, certainly not those dreadful social conservatives.

There’s just one problem with the conventional wisdom. It’s wrong. And it’s never been more obvious that it’s wrong than right now, in the last two days of the 2015 legislative session.

The big news this morning is that GE, Aetna and Travelers have issued an unprecedented criticism of the tax hikes in the proposed budget, even hinting that they may leave the state and take their many jobs with them. It’s likely that the budget will be tweaked to lessen the specific taxes that offended these big corporations. But we can still expect that the final product will include the biggest tax hikes in Connecticut history, just four years after a budget that also contained the biggest tax hikes in Connecticut history.

In other words, Connecticut’s fiscal conservatives are about to have their heads handed to them, again. In fact, one could argue that it is Connecticut’s fiscal conservatives that usually lose.

By contrast, consider the track record of social conservatism in Connecticut.

We defeated same-sex marriage every year at the legislature. When the State Supreme Court redefined marriage by a 4-3 vote, we went back to the legislature and secured the strongest religious liberty exemptions in the country. We even formed an alliance with social liberals to crush assisted suicide in committee three years in row.

In other words, Connecticut’s social conservatives usually win.

“Ah,” a critic might say, “but even if this is true, what about the transgender birth certificate bill that just passed both chambers? To gay rights lobbyist Betty Gallo, it’s ‘a political milestone, coming four years after the difficult passage of a transgender rights law without a single Republican vote.’ Doesn’t this prove that your influence is waning?”

Just the opposite. It’s the exception proves the rule. Think of the 2011 and 2015 transgender bills as a scientific experiment with one being the “control group.” The difference between the two bills is FIC.

In 2011, alone against Gov. Malloy and without the help of the Catholic Conference, FIC came up just three votes short in stopping the bill. In 2015, with our resources focused on stopping assisted suicide, we were not actively opposing this year’s transgender bill and the bill sailed through the legislature. The difference, if anything, proves our influence. 2011 is what happens when FIC is involved and 2015 is what happens when we’re not.

So then, why the conventional wisdom? Why do so many people erroneously believe that it is social conservatism, rather than fiscal conservatism, that is the more likely loser in Connecticut?

It is because most Connecticut commentators, whether mainstream media liberals or talk radio conservatives, see politics more than policy. That is, their scorecard is largely about politicians, Democrats vs. Republicans, who won and who lost elections. From that perspective, the conventional wisdom makes sense: Both parties in Connecticut are largely pro-abortion and few socially conservative politicians forcefully articulate our cause.

But social conservatism in Connecticut is focused more on policy, not politics. And the great untold story in Connecticut these last several years is that, on policy, social conservatives win. We do not always win. But we are the only faction on the Right in Connecticut that wins.