The Mass had just ended. I had already moved on to contemplating Sunday brunch options. But don’t leave just yet, the priest suddenly exclaimed. We’ve got a special guest!
Before I could make a beeline for the holy water, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy comes darting toward the pulpit. What followed next was a brief bio, with references to political positions omitted. A word about growing up in a Catholic home and delivering a eulogy. Something about how good it was to see everyone today. A passing mention to the other Masses he’s off to after this one.
Goodness, I’m thinking. Several Masses in one day? Why would you go to more than one? Maybe he missed a few Sundays and he’s trying to make up for them on this early September morning — but it doesn’t really work that way. Maybe the man just really loves communing at Christ’s table — practically a saint! Oh, wait. He’s up for reelection this year.
A few more words and he stepped away, en route to church number two. The congregation clapped politely. Never mind that he had just turned a religious gathering — whether the parishioners liked it or not — into a political one. Never mind that his political record points to deliberate disregard for Catholic teaching. Never mind, because the damage had been done. What damage? Clapping is like smiling. Even if you do it out of politeness, the very action reinforces positive feelings. You clap, and you might approve of the speaker just a little bit more — maybe enough to check his name at the ballot box, especially if you’ve got absolutely nothing on the other names.
Dan Malloy is running for reelection against Republican Tom Foley, a moderate who’s also served as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. Four years ago, Malloy edged out Foley in one of the closest races in state history after some late ballots came in from Bridgeport. It’s understandable why Malloy’s getting desperate: the polls show him losing. The church blitz may not be illegal or unconstitutional. But it is mighty unsavory. Candidate forums and speeches at churches have been pretty common in American politics, but usually parishioners get a chance to react in real time. Not here. No question time. No meet-and-greet afterwards. Just the speech, then obligatory applause.
And in case you too were a victim of the Malloy stump speech while trying to say your prayers, here’s a snippet from his relevant political record: He’s called for Pope Francis to change “just about everything” in the Church. His stances and statements on abortion are to the left of even pro-choice Democrats like Joe Biden. And, perhaps most importantly, he appointed a state senator to the Connecticut Supreme Court who in 2009 proposed a bill to take away the Catholic Church’s power over the budgetary decisions its own parishes made. It was universally regarded as a direct attack on the Church’s constitutional rights.
All this from the man who’s been called “America’s progressive governor” in these very pages. I’d like to believe I’m for progress, too, without supporting a far-left agenda out of step with most voters across the country. And that’s not to discount the positive achievements in Connecticut during Malloy’s tenure. But they’ve been few and far between, as his poll numbers — and the public’s views on the condition of the state — attest. In 2011, Malloy passed the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history, amounting to $1.5 billion in hikes on income and various sales and service taxes in the midst of an economic recovery. Gallup found that 49 percent of Connecticut residents want to leave the state, second only to Illinois. Public sector liabilities remain tremendously high, with little improvement in public schools to show for it and low job growth again in 2014 to pay for it.
And who’s forgotten his 2011 executive orders to unionize day and home care workers subsidized by the state? It was widely opposed by recipients of care, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer in favor of two employees in Illinois who didn’t want to pay union dues by stating that these workers were exempt from such fees.
It all makes sense, though, since Malloy has been governing in machine politician, you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours style, every chance he’s gotten.
None of this is to tell you who to vote for. It’s just to tell you what Governor Malloy, standing at the pulpit week after week, won’t.
John Aroutiounian is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. His columns run on alternate Tuesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.