Thursday, September 29, 2011

Social and Asocial in District 2

Incumbent District Councilor Bill Linehan may or may not be suited to his largest group of constituents in South Boston. Judging only by his hostility toward and ignorance of social media, he's waaaaay out of step with the 21st Century.

I had that sense when I looked around for the three candidates' presence on the web a couple of months ago and regularly since. The short of it is that knocked-out-in-the-preliminary Bob Ferrara was never serious. He had no website, only a Facebook page, and even that listed only vague self-employed info and showed his interest in youth lacrosse and football. There wasn't a word about his alleged race.

Linehan and Lee are close in age, but really he is much, much older. The real alter kaker types, like Dapper O'Neil, Fred Langone and Jim Kelly, are dead. Yet, there is still a place in Southie politics for the Abe Simpson types. Linehan may be the last or he may have outrun the genre.

That's long been plain. Yet I was still surprised to see the Globe quote him as the old fart. It seems someone spoofed a Twitter account, LinehanD2Boston, promoting him. It isn't malicious, points to his campaign, and looks like what he could do if he was not such a fuddy-duddy.

Instead, he responded, “It’s not me, I don’t have a Twitter account,” Linehan said today. “Now people are starting to follow me. That concerns me. It’s not me.” It sure isn't he. Linehan seems to channel Google's big shots with, "I’m opposed to participating in systems that allow people to be anonymous."

For a flavor of what a creaker he is, consider that he and Lee are of similar age, but she did not freeze 30 years ago. She has a detailed, sophisticated campaign site. He has a slapdash stub that gives no reason to vote for him. She tweets while he is offended by the idea of it. He has a Facebook page apparently created by one of his daughters that carries almost entirely his scheduling stuff. She has a Facebook presence that flows to and from her campaign site, is rife with pix and personal comments and reasons to support her.

Originally, I was going to compare online efforts as I did with the at-large candidates. There was no sense in that for District 2. She groks them. He doesn't. Ferrara wasn't even playing.

As I noted in the at-large piece, internet savvy is not likely to win this race. The cliché would have it that the nice, smart Asian-American lady is great, but she is not from Southie. Identity politics would have all of South Boston voting for the person who looks most like them, who was born there, and that ethnic and neighborhood markers are all that matters. As South Boston voters outnumber Chinatown and South End ones about two to one, that's that.

The results of the preliminary put her ahead, but Ferrara split the South Boston vote. What's most fascinating here will be whether 1) South End and Chinatown voters turn out adequately to support Lee and 2) South Bostonians vote against their self-interest by going only for the candidate who looks most like them.

This time though, first-time candidate Lee offers huge differences. First consider that Linehan is a one-note symphony. He does constituent services. Call or visit him and you're likely to get your little thing. OK, that's essential to a Councilor's job. She promises to beat him even in his sole virtue. She'll go out to all the neighborhoods, find the problems and fix them without waiting passively for the call. Then for the real stuff, she defines a broad set of platforms in nine areas, most with solutions that should resonate with anyone who reads or hears them.

She's also ringing the bells and going smile and hand clasps with all three major parts of the district. Another cliché long before Facebook is that shoe leather wins local elections. She's wearing out shoes and seemingly has an endless supply of smiles and answers.

So far, there's been no comparison. I've wanted to chart 'em up and see who's got the goods. He hasn't show squat.

I'll head to what debates and forums I know about, hoping that he has more than a bureaucrat's drone. Meanwhile, conventional wisdom would have South Boston going for the native son just to pretend that this is better for them than a Councilor with platform planks that will help them.

I honestly don't know how this will play out.

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