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Tag Archive: Election ’10

Partisanship & Compromise

Posted: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 (11:44 pm), by John W Gillis


Marveling after the recent election at how, as usual, every single candidate or question I supported on my election day ballot went down to defeat, I was doing a little post-election pundit reading, and was struck by another glaring contrast – one that got me thinking about the competing political visions that dominate our public conversation. This time, it was the tone of a pair of where do we go from here ruminations.

The first was from Michelle Malkin: the mischievously entitled “Take Your Olive Branch and Shove It, Democrats”. I find Malkin to be clever, shrewd, and insightful, but I cringed when I saw this article title. However, not having the fortitude at the moment to resist gawking at the car crash I expected to find, I read the article.

It was a bitter lashing-out, primarily directed toward President Obama, whom she observed had presided over “an Us vs. Them freefall” ever since conning his way into the Oval Office two years ago by passing himself off to a weary American people as The Great Uniter, uniquely qualified to lead the country into a post-partisan and post-racial promised land.

How anyone ever fell for that shtick, I’ll never understand to my dying day – every time I’ve ever heard him open his mouth, he has tried to carve out political camaraderie by marginalizing or demonizing some scapegoat or dissident group. During my adult life, I’ve never witnessed a more divisive character in that noble office – though I suppose he’d find a kindred soul in Richard Nixon, whom I remember as little more than a cartoon character from my youth.

But Malkin found worse than hypocritical the late-breaking calls from the Democrat party leadership for compromise, after their repudiation by “voters who have been maligned by the ruling majority as stupid, unwashed, racist, selfish and violent” for the past two years. She wasn’t buying it, and wasn’t hiding her disdain. I was sympathetic, but disturbed by her bitterness.

At that point, I was ready for the next article I found, posted by Joe Scarborough over at Politico, entitled: “Give Hyperbole, Partisanship a Rest”. He began with a customary conceit, wagging the finger at “extremists of all stripes,” and expressing his hope that a certain liberal political comedian can help the country bridge the breech that has opened up more and more in recent years between Washington’s political camps. It was a self-serving feel-good piece certainly, but I was worn out from the partisanship of the election push, and pretty sympathetic to the message as I read.

But then Scarborough started telling a story about how he, referring to himself as a “young, conservative Republican,” made a trip across the proverbial aisle in his freshman year to strike up a friendship with “60’s radical” Rep. Ron Dellums. Dellums asked him: “Why is it that all you guys with energy are conservative? Back in my day, you would have been on my side!” The answer Scarborough gave him floored me:

“When you think of Republicans, you associate us with Vietnam, Watergate and segregation. When I think about Democrats, I associate you with Iranian hostages, 20 percent interest rates and malaise.”

Now, it’s one question whether anybody old enough to remember which of the two major political parties was primarily responsible for U.S. involvement in Vietnam, or for that matter which was the party of the KKK, would actually associate Republicans with those things (my own experience with partisanship suggests: yes, alas; facts are of little consequence in these matters). But a better question is, how can any “young, conservative Republican” freshman congressman associate the Democrats with something as frivolous and irrelevant as the political failures of the Carter administration? Mind you, this conversation occurred in 1995! 

It may be another 15 years later now, and I may not be a Republican, but when I think about Democrats, I think about leftist policies; I think about liberalism leaning harder and harder toward socialism. And the first real problem I think about is legalized abortion, not political dilemmas. Politics have real consequences; it is not just a game to determine who gets to hand out the goodies, and who gets their pockets stuffed.

There are real serious reasons to oppose the Democrats, and I’ll happily put a separate post together to identify some of them. But I’ll say this much about Joe Scarborough’s crusade to span the great partisan divide: it’s a sham. He might be all smiles and handshakes, but he’s a completely empty suit with nothing but trivial platitudes to offer in exchange for his healthy paycheck. If you can’t come up with a serious reason to oppose your opponent, then what are you doing in the game – other than looking for an angle to cash in on?

In the end, even though Malkin’s snarl was off-putting, at least you know where she stands, and why she thinks its important to stand there. That is, at least you can trust her. Not so Joe.

Victory & Grace: A Contrast in both Style & Substance

Posted: Thursday, November 4, 2010 (11:25 pm), by John W Gillis


There are lots of good reasons why lots of good people deeply dislike long-time U.S. Congressman Barney Frank; so many that exposing his victory speech this Tuesday night seems a bit like piling on. Yet, there it stands: a testimony to his character. Sore losers can be embarrassing enough, but what to make of such a sore winner?

Here is Frank in full Barney mode: self-serving, self-pitying, self-absorbed, self-righteous; with nothing better to say after being elected to a 16th term (if my math is right) representing the people of Massachusetts than to take pot shots at his political adversaries, and turn the screws of partisan division with whatever facts or fables might be at hand.

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this to me is the fact that he was opposed by a candidate who conducted himself as a gentleman – just a solid, decent guy. Sean Bielat focused the campaign on Frank, to be sure, but he stayed focused on the legitimate issue of Frank’s recklessness and ideological blindness in his comically poor oversight of Fannie May and Freddie Mac just before their notorious collapse – as well as on his long-standing support for the misguided social engineering policies that predictably produced the massive mortgage defaults at the low end of the housing market which finally drove the economy over the edge three years ago. I guess Frank considers being held accountable for the consequences of one’s public acts & policies to comprise a smear campaign. Unfortunately, too many voters in MA-4 must, too.

As for the “tone” of the overall campaign atmosphere created by the rest of the Republicans in Massachusetts, maybe I don’t frequent the same places Barney does, but I, after having been pretty well plugged in to the process for the past two years, have no idea what he is talking about. Granted, I don’t watch much TV, but the only candidate I saw that was really skewered by the Republicans was independent gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill – a relentless negative ad campaign underwritten by the RGA (not the Republican candidate, for all that’s worth) that I think ultimately undermined Charlie Baker’s campaign by both focusing on the wrong problem, and making Baker look mean. But the real smear campaigns, as far as I can see, were run by the Democrats! The only real “beneath the dignity” smear campaigns I came across were nasty ad hominem attacks against attorney Bill Hudak, who ran for Congress in MA-6; Sandwich State Representative Jeff Perry, who ran for Congress in MA-10; and (with slightly less vitriol involved) Framingham’s Mary Z. Connaughton, who ran for State Auditor. All three ran as Republicans.

Regardless of what had transpired, if our civics are going to be conducted in at all a civil manner, legitimate election outcomes need to be accepted with a certain amount of graciousness – especially victories, for crying out loud. The cantankerous old man with the forked tongue could take some lessons in personal behavior from the young man who just won election to the U.S. Senate from Florida: Marco Rubio. I see Rubio as one of the real bright lights emerging from the conservative wing of the Republican party, along with folks like Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, newcomer Congressman-elect Allen West from FL-22, and maybe even Sarah Palin – though she’s pretty heavily damaged goods politically because of the “dumb bimbo” narrative applied to her, yet she’s still very effective at producing the results she wants – the big dummy!

Anyway, here is Rubio’s victory speech Tuesday night. You could hardly construct a more polar contrast to Frank’s contemptuous screed. He begins by graciously acknowledging his adversaries – with some particularly kind words for the Democrat challenger – and then he goes on to humbly call his constituents – not just his circle of supporters! – to a united common cause of committing our society to its future generations. Barney Frank, I pray you’re taking notes:

But then again, perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect a man whose values include explicit support for the legalized killing of inconvenient children to take seriously an invitation to build a society ordered toward the well-being of children…

2010 Midterms: The End, At Last

Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 (10:01 pm), by John W Gillis


So, the 2010 election campaign comes mercifully to a close. Not that the 2012 cycle doesn’t start in the morning, but I’ll still feel something of a respite – at least for a while. When I voted at 7:20 this morning, I was the 42nd person in my precinct to cast a ballot. That’s a pretty good clip compared to other times I’ve voted early (admittedly, I’ve usually voted after work, so I’m using a small sample). There was, however, no line.

I tried to tune it all out over the past week or so, despite being a pretty highly motivated person politically. I’m just glad I don’t have to listen to Charlie Baker’s 30-second stump speech anymore. Maybe the mists of time are fogging my memory, but I can’t remember an election year in which so much wind was exhaled saying so little. Other than the attack ads, that is. My nine-year old can recite the smears; I guess she thinks this is how politics works. There has to be a better way.

My take on the candidates for significant offices on my ballot:

Despite being sick of his stump-speech stock answer to every question he’s been asked for months, I give Charlie Baker credit for proposing real, concrete spending changes – something he did very early, and no other serious candidate in the race ever countered. It’s been hard not to notice that the non-politician in the group has been displaying all the political courage. He’s been firmly committed to spending cuts to meet the constitutional mandate for a balanced budget, over against economy-suffocating tax increases, yet without sinking into politically expedient antiestablilshmentarianism and anti-tax fundamentalism . He’s made a high priority of regulatory reform to make the state more business-friendly. It’s clear to me that he has the right mix of policy and personal ability to make state government work from a fiscal perspective, and that’s a good thing, and Charlie Baker got my vote this morning. But he was not an effective campaigner, and I hope the policy and principle alignment that has been propelling the enthusiasm in the country this political season is broadly enough expressed at the polls at home today to overcome Baker’s lack of appeal to the less motivated. Rumored big turnouts bode well for him.

If Baker doesn’t win, it will be largely because sitting Governor Deval Patrick managed to spin campaign gold out of administrative straw. When Patrick ran four years ago, I deeply disliked him as a candidate, and saw him as nothing more than a con man. A string of bumbling gaffes at the beginning of his administration did nothing to improve my opinion of him. I still don’t like his policies, but I’ve grown rather fond of him as a public figure. He completely outclassed his opponents during the campaign – especially during the so-called debates, where he clearly excelled. But he’s wrong on just about everything. He’s wrong on how to help the poor, he’s wrong on how to help the immigrant community, he’s wrong on how to help kids achieve in school, he’s wrong on how to control costs in health care, he’s wrong on how to balance the budget, and he’s wrong on what the citizens of Massachusetts need from state government. I hope this kind, charming, and naive man is out of work in January – he’ll be at the back of a mighty long line if he is, and his own short-sightedness has already contributed to the length of it.

Tim Cahill’s candidacy never held too much appeal for me, despite Tim saying all the right things about fiscal conservatism and prudence, and (at least temporarily) working outside the stultifying two-party system – and besides him being a much more likable guy than Baker. Cahill’s ship hit the rocks for me back in the Spring, when Natick took a bond vote to finance a new high school through the MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority). Cahill’s major campaign talking point has been around how he, as Treasurer, has reduced the cost of building schools by managing state funding for school projects with the MSBA. He is right, to a point. Somewhere on my laptop, I have a draft of a long post examining how the MSBA has affected the school building economy in Massachusetts. I put it aside to do additional research – which never materialized – because I wanted to be as fair as I could be in my representation of it, but let’s just say that, having been on the taxpayer end of one of these projects, I’ve come to take what is a rather more complex view of the program’s worth than Mr. Cahill seems to take. While debt service costs are down considerably, and gold-plating in school building projects has been all but eliminated, the program itself creates a classic example of the government spending trough problem, with citizens literally competing for “free” money that will be paid for by being taken out of their pockets by compulsion before being returned to them “for free.” The economic incentives created by this program are to grab and spend as much of everyone else’s money as possible, before somebody else spends yours. If this is what you call fiscal conservatism, Mr. Cahill, you may want to go back to the Democrat party.

I don’t have much to say about Jill Stein except: Yikes. It’s not unusual for major-party candidates to say very little of substance during a campaign – they’re often primarily concerned with not offending any potential constituency. But a fringe candidate really has to have something to offer, and other than the requisite Green Party drivel about “green jobs” (little more than a euphemism for government subsidies for otherwise non-economically viable industries with public sector connections), and an oft-repeated overture to “educating the whole child” (whatever that means), this woman didn’t appear to have anything to say. She did knock Patrick for what she characterized as sweetheart deal tax breaks, but he properly rebuked for for failing to understand the importance of incentivizing job-providing employers to establish and maintain a presence in the state. The state should be competing for businesses, not competing against them by subsidizing bogus ventures, no matter how trendy they are in the academy.

For US Congress, I’m in the MA-7 district, which unfortunately will undoubtedly continue to be represented by “Malarkey Ed” Markey: the epitome of the lifetime politician, and everything that the ideal citizen-legislator is not. I envy folks in other parts of the state who had decent opposition candidates to vote for today. I was stuck with Woburn’s Dr. Gerry Dembrowski, and although I voted for him out of anti-leftist principle, I’d probably feel a bit guilty if he actually somehow pulls this off. I had a hard time finding much out about Dembrowski beyond the marketing pages on his web site, and when I finally tracked down a video of him in a “debate” with Markey on a local TV station, I was appalled at how childishly he acted: sneering at Markey, and taunting him like a junior high school bully. Markey didn’t seem to have any idea what to do with the guy, and I suppose his best bet was to just ignore him: that would be more than justifiable. I imagine it would be pretty hard to get anything accomplished in Congress if your strongest skill was mockery. Perhaps you could make it as a talk show host, but not as a congressman. Oh well, there’s always 2012!