Charted survey data
This chart shows survey data on whether people believe Donald Trump and President Joe Biden have committed various crimes, broken out by expertise and party affiliation or non-affiliation. Credit: Screengrab / Bright Line Watch
Susan Campbell

The Music Man” hit Broadway in 1957, and gave the country an indelible slogan. In fact, people of a certain age cannot hear the phrase “We’ve got trouble” without finishing the sentence with “…right here in River City.”

A movie and multiple re-stagings of the classic – including one playing now in the Winter Garden Theatre in New York – has introduced the catchphrase to new generations.

So, Connecticut? We have trouble right here in a variety of small towns scattered around the state, where the MAGA crowd is small but vocal. Confoundingly, the former president’s multiple indictments – including four charges that came down this week – have done nothing to dent his popularity among the true believers. According to a recent Bright Line Watch study, just 13% of Republicans believe Donald J. Trump committed crimes in his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Just a quarter of Republicans believe Trump broke the law in his handling of classified documents after he left office. By contrast, the vast majority of experts – 73% to 94% – believe Trump committed crimes in these cases.

We are, according to the study, in unchartered territory, where perception overrules reality, and the reality is that the pro-Trump contingent is organized and loud enough to drown out old-style, small-government Republicans – the vaunted Connecticut Republicans who tend to be socially progressive and fiscally conservative.

Recently, Old Lyme’s Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library rebuffed requests to remove from the shelves books that address sex education and adolescents. When a host of elected officials called for the books to be removed, the library board voted unanimously to let parents make the decision of what books their children read, and to keep the books on the shelves.

(A side note: If small-government Republicans want the government out of their business, why are they willing to ask the government to step in and move books out of reach?)

Meanwhile, just 20 minutes away, Haddam has a generally popular Republican first selectman, Robert McGarry, who from all indications works well with local Democrats. McGarry faced a primary challenge, said one Democratic official in town, for “not being Trumpy enough.” Two of the loudest local MAGA-types got in hot water a few years ago for sharing misogynistic social media posts about then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

Of McGarry, “I think his inclination is to try to respect everyone,” said Peter Baird, a Democratic member of Haddam’s board of finance who is running for the Board of Selectmen.

Christine Palm, Haddam’s Democratic state representative, said of McGarry, “In my experience, Bob is a smart, reasonable, and level-headed guy who cares about his town and about doing the right thing. Everyone talks about bipartisanship; Bob lives it.”

A certain type of Republican will read kind words from a Democrat as just more evidence of a candidate not being Trumpy enough, just as certain types of Republicans see every future indictment and/or arrest of the former present as one more reason to donate to Trump’s campaign.

Meanwhile, three failed candidates for the Guilford school board filed a lawsuit over what they insist is the bullying of their children as a result of their parents’ views about race. The lawsuit is funded by We The Patriots USA, an Idaho-based nonprofit legal organization that has fought against COVID safety protocols and against their own bastardized definition of CRT – critical race theory, which is a way to study policies and legal decisions through the prism of race. It isn’t taught, as MAGA supporters want to believe, but that hasn’t stopped a million ships being launched against it.

Meanwhile, last month, a Derby Republican alderman who entered the US Capitol with other Stop the Steal protesters on Jan. 6, 2021, has received his local Republican Town Committee’s nomination for mayor.



Gino DiGiovanni insisted in interviews that he went into the Capitol because the chaos left him no other options, and that he merely walked around, and then left to drive home to Derby. At the time, DiGiovanni was on the local planning and zoning board. The voters of Derby eventually voted him alderman, representing a heavily Democratic part of the city.

Sadly, there are other similarities between “The Music Man’s” River City and these small towns in Connecticut. At the heart of the stories is a con man, though in the end, Music Man Harold Hill finds redemption. In the reality of Connecticut’s River Cities, the con man is under multiple indictments, and there’s no indication he will do the right thing.

Author of "Frog Hollow: Stories From an American Neighborhood," "Tempest Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker," and "Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl." Find more at

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