The 2020 presidential election is more than 16 months away, but Connecticut Democrats were fired up Friday night in their crusade to defeat embattled Republican President Donald J. Trump.
More than 1,000 enthusiastic Democrats gathered at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford at the year’s biggest fundraising dinner to hear U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounce Trump for fighting Congressional subpoenas, disrespecting immigrants, denying climate science, and avoiding steps to block the Russians from interfering in the 2020 elections. Pelosi recently said she would rather see Trump imprisoned than impeached, which has sharply divided Democrats.
“Are you ready to re-elect and strengthen the House Democratic majority?” Pelosi asked the partisan crowd. “Are you ready to help elect a Democratic U.S. Senate? Are you ready to take back the White House for the American people — for the children?”
Those questions brought the crowd to its feet with a standing ovation as Pelosi ended her remarks.
In a wide-ranging, 33-minute speech, Pelosi cited the three-part plan of the Democratic majority in the U.S. House to “legislate, investigate, litigate.’’
She said the Democratic-controlled committees are “solidly exposing the full extent of the president’s wrongdoing and corruption.” She added, “The House investigations are breaking through the Trump administration’s criminal cover-up.. … We must have the truth for the American people. Congress’s subpoenas must be obeyed.’’
At one point, many in the crowd started chanting, “Lock him up! Lock him up!’’
That was a reference to the 2016 presidential election battle against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, where Republicans routinely chanted “Lock her up!” during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and throughout the campaign.
Trump and Pelosi have engaged in a war of words as Trump was particularly piqued by Pelosi saying that she would like to see him in prison. Trump denounced Pelosi as “a disgrace.”
Pelosi, 79, keeps a torrid schedule, working all week in Washington, D.C., and traveling around the country for fundraisers like Friday night’s event.
At one point, she said, “Thank you, California. Oh, Connecticut delegation.’’
Despite a rising clamor from some constituents, several Democrats have been standing firmly behind Pelosi’s decision so far to avoid impeachment. One of Pelosi’s closest allies, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of New Haven, is strongly backing Pelosi, who described their relationship as being like sisters with similar backgrounds from Italian-American families. DeLauro introduced Pelosi on Friday night.
Both Pelosi and the Connecticut delegation have come under increasing pressure to call for impeachment as liberal Democrats have repeatedly blasted Trump. At least 72 Democrats in Congress — based on the latest tally by CNN — want Trump impeached now.
The anti-Trump sentiment rippled through the partisan crowd all night long.
“If we don’t impeach him, we’re going to beat him,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin told the crowd to applause.
Outside the convention center, a small group of protesters gathered with a large sign that said, “Impeach Now.” One of those holding the sign was Dan Durso, a retired Teamster who described himself as “a trouble-making Democrat” from East Hartford who opposes Trump.
“The longer you go, the more damage this guy does,” Durso said of Trump. “It’s obvious he thinks he’s above the law. I think they should push Nancy to start impeachment hearings, but our delegation isn’t going to do anything until Nancy is committed.”
On the sidewalk outside the convention center, former state Rep. Michael P. Lawlor said that removing Trump from office would be highly difficult in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
“It has to have some bipartisan consensus, and obviously they don’t have that in Washington,” Lawlor said. “I think Trump should be removed from office, but you have to make the case, and you have to have the majority of the country on your side.”
Earlier Friday, Pelosi told reporters said she never received any warning that Trump was planning military action against Iran after an unmanned drone was shot down in the Middle East. American troops were planning retaliation until the action was called off by Trump on Thursday night.
“I did not receive any heads-up that there was a strike that was in the works,” Pelosi said on CNN. “I did not receive any of that.’’
Pelosi was the keynote speaker Friday night for the inaugural John Bailey Dinner, which is the year’s biggest fundraiser for state Democrats. For decades, the event was known as the Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner, but the name was changed in 2016 after national concerns about the Confederate flag prompted party leaders to remove the names of two slave-owning American presidents.
The name was initially changed to the Connecticut Democratic Progress Dinner for several years, but it has now been changed again to the Bailey Dinner. The event has attracted many high-profile, national speakers, which led to this year’s invitation to Pelosi.
The festive evening was known as the “Night of the Nancys” because the chief award winner Friday night was Nancy J. DiNardo of Trumbull, the former longtime state party chairwoman and a member of the Democratic National Committee. DiNardo, 70, was among the longest-serving party chairs in the nation as she served for 10 years in a stint that ended soon after the successful 2014 elections that included a close re-election victory for then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy over Republican Tom Foley of Greenwich.
The third Nancy, who joined in a photo with her colleagues, was Nancy Wyman, the highly popular former lieutenant governor who now serves as the party leader.
“She is the most powerful woman in America,” Wyman said of Pelosi. “Yes!”