What a perfect election storm where controversial national political decisions coincide with the death of Ted Kennedy, a consequential Senate vote, and essentially a referendum on a sitting U.S. president – all in the bluest of blue states where most elections are noncompetitive formalities. For those of us who actually believe in democracy (small “d”), it simply doesn’t get any better than this.
As I type these words, it’s less than an hour until the polls close in Massachusetts. I’ve been robo-called, repetitively and intrusively polled, and subjected to an endless stream of ridiculous and propagandistic TV ads. To believe any of this garbage, you’d have to buy the line that Martha Coakley is a mindless party-line drone who would do little more than bark when Obama gives the signal, and Scott Brown is just a good-lookin’ Karl Rove. Neither picture is even close to accurate.
I like Martha – her understated style, her intelligence, and even her name. The fact that she’s married to a now-retired Cambridge cop also makes her one of us. I also like Scott Brown – his strategic political thinking, his remarkable family, and the promise of competitive Massachusetts elections that he represents. It’s also fun that he posed in the buff for Cosmopolitan Magazine years ago as their “sexiest man in America.” His wife, WCVB reporter Gail Huff, was once featured in the video for the Digney Fignus song “The Girl with the Curious Hand,” and one of his two daughters went all the way to the Sweet Sixteen of that forgettable TV show “American Idol.” This is great stuff!
I really don’t know how the election will turn out. The latest polls suggest a Scott Brown victory, but the Democratic Party regulars have been in panic mode for the last week trying to turn out every last loyalist, so Martha My Dear may yet squeak out a victory. Regardless of the outcome in this Special Election, for those of us who have great misgivings about the government expansion now underway and the unprecedented proposal to mandate U.S. citizens to pay money to private (health insurance) companies, the message has already been sent – and congressmen and congresswomen across the county understand that if this can happen in the bluest of blue states, then they will soon have their own election problems to worry about.
The fact that a Republican candidate might even have a chance in Massachusetts should not really be all that surprising. Massachusetts residents have more than a healthy dose of suspicion about one-party rule even though every one of our Congressmen and an overwhelming majority in both houses of the State Legislature are Democrats. That’s why we elected Republican governors for 16 years until the last go-round. That’s also why most Massachusetts voters choose to remain unenrolled in any party. The truth is that the best thing that could ever happen to Massachusetts Democrats would be a significant Republican victory. The evidence suggests that the Massachusetts Democratic Party doesn’t really believe in elections. They believe that all seats in the state legislature should be filled after private consultation behind closed doors and settled in low-turnout primaries followed by general elections with no significant competition (or no competition at all). I am reminded of the election a few years ago when Marjorie Decker campaigned in the Democratic Primary against party-favored Paul Demakis. Marjorie was criticized broadly for challenging “one of ours”. That offended me so much that I wrote her a check. A few years later when Jarrett Barrios backed out of a District Attorney election against Gerry Leone and chose to seek reelection to his State Senate seat after Anthony Galluccio had announced his candidacy for that seat, the head of the state Democratic Party traveled to Cambridge to broker a negotiated settlement in order to avoid an actual election between two strong candidates. The message was clear – good elections are bad for the party.
So, tonight I’m feeling optimistic – not about the specific outcome of this Special Election, but about the possibility that the moribund Massachusetts Republican Party might get the outrageous idea that they can and should run candidates for every elected office and that Democratic candidates will have to step up and perform better instead of treating their elected jobs as lifetime entitlements. That would be my idea of a victory. — Robert Winters