During its annual breakfast at Trackside Teen Center on Saturday, April 2, the Wilton Democratic Town Committee (DTC) bestowed its highest service awards on two long-time party standouts, Selectman Dick Dubow and Registrar of Voters Carole Young-Kleinfeld. In the process they got some heartening news about the 2016 Presidential race from one of the state’s most respected political experts.
Dubow won the Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Award for almost four decades of service to the town, including multiple terms on each of the town’s major boards — Selectmen, Finance and Education — and his leadership on building committees for the high school, Cider Mill Elementary School and, most recently, Miller-Driscoll Elementary.

Young-Kleinfeld received the Democrat of the Year Award for her non-partisan promotion of voter participation, including advocacy for online voting, simpler and more accessible registration for all voters and, lately, support of a more enhanced role in registration by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A former health official in New Hampshire, she was instrumental in that state’s adoption of infant and toddler car-seat legislation.

Both recipients were were praised for their quiet, wise and non-partisan commitment to public service. State Director of Elections and former Connecticut Representative Peggy Reeves, by video, called Young-Kleinfeld, who moved to Wilton in 1997 “an advocate for all of democracy,” who was “never about politics or partisanship.”

Former First Selectman Bill Brennan, who worked for years with both, praised not only their competence and expertise, but their commitment to collaboration across party lines. Dubow’s service, he said, “I’m sure has broken a bunch of records.” Both Dubow and Young-Kleinfeld have received countless citations from their party and the state for service throughout the years and as a bi-partisan crowd of about 100 filed in they passed a table with more than a dozen of the honors displayed.

The DTC also used the occasion to honor the late Fred Herot and his widow, Louise, for their decades of service, and announced that the Democrats would be lead sponsor of the 10th Anniversary Lecture Series of the Wilton Library and Wilton Historical Society in their name.

“We didn’t do anything different for Wilton than all of you have done,” Louise Herot told the gathering. “Maybe we just did it longer.”

In character, Young-Kleinfeld used the occasion to urge attendees to vote in the Presidential primary on April 26. On that score, the Democrats got positive news from guest speaker Dr. Gary L. Rose, chairman of the Government, Politics and Global Studies Department at Sacred Heart University

In politics “demographics is destiny,” Rose said, and that bodes well for the Democrats in the 2016 Presidential election. While describing the current presidential race, especially on the Republican side, as remarkable for its divisiveness, Rose argued that the country’s changing demographic make-up may in the end determine the election’s outcome.

With a declining white population and the growth in the number of voters of color, Rose said, citing work by Republican pollster Whit Ayers, the Republican nominee must either (A) “nearly double” the percentage of African-Americans and Latinos supporting him from the 17% in 2012 to 30%, or (B) increase white support from the 59% that Mitt Romney received to 65%, a level garnered in recent memory only by Ronald Reagan.

Given that the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, enjoys substantial support among voters of color, “In the end, for the Republicans to win, I think it has to be Plan B,” Rose said, but suggested that the level of white support enjoyed by Romney was probably the “ceiling.”

Rose surmised that the current effort by the Republican establishment to stop leading candidate Donald Trump — including tens of millions spent by outside groups to stop Trump in Wisconsin, “the ground zero” of the Dump Trump effort — may likely result in a disputed or even brokered Republican convention.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Rose. “So much happening to stop one candidate.” Not since the 1948 Republican convention or the 1952 Democratic convention has there been a multi-ballot nomination process.

Trump’s advantage, said Rose, is the fact that it’s a multi-candidate race and he enjoys a plurality. But his soft support among women, African-Americans and Latinos will work against him. Rose suggested that an “outside” candidate, that is, neither Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, nor Gov. John Kasich was not out of the question. By contrast, said Rose, the Democratic Convention promises to be orderly and peaceful.

“I think it will be a convention of unity,” he said. “I don’t think Bernie [Sanders] will be disruptive. I think in the end he’ll be a gracious supporter of Hillary as Hillary was to Barack Obama in 2008.” That unity, he said, will likely give the Democrats a “bounce” after the convention, similar perhaps to the one Bill Clinton enjoyed after the orderly 1992 convention, while fractiousness on the Republican side would likely prevent such a bounce.

In an “era of polarization,” most states are already either solidly Republican or Democratic, Rose said. Only a handful — nine or 10 — will decide the election. He named Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Rose jokingly refused to make a prediction himself. “In 1992 I predicted that George H. W. Bush was untouchable,” he said. “Then his approval rating went from 80 per cent after the Gulf War to 39 per cent in a year. I don’t make predictions anymore.”