Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Somebody Stop Her

Just maybe Massachusetts voters aren't finished with Dianne Wilkerson. Instead of transcending her setback in the recent primary loss for her state senate seat, she seems intent on ruining her electability forever.

Isn't there a single trusted adviser to sway her? Can't someone witness to her about the possible, likely and right?

In a comment on another post here, Laurel nailed it with, "It's so sad to see a well-liked public servant send themselves down in flame. She's been a friend to everyone but herself." I don't know anyone who's asking Dianne to slink away and paint a big loser's L on her forehead. Apparently there's also no one coaching her on how to salvage herself from this single loss.

I may not be the most competitive person, but I was a jock in high school and college. I learned when you lose for sure, you can plan your next race or game. You want to keep playing, so you extend your hand and congratulate the winner even if you are disappointed, angry and feeling cheated.

Surely the shock Wilkerson feels in her primary loss has much to do with those who surround her, voters and advisers alike. I only met one of the latter. For the former, I've spoken with and read or heard quotes from many.

Dianne has a bucket, maybe two or three, of goodwill. She is about spilling the contents as fast as she can. The recurrent phrases include "a friend to us," "looks out for her people," "stands up for the poor," and "works hard for Roxbury and Dorchester." Over the past 15+plus years, a lot of voters talk about the bacon she's brought to her district and a handful of key legislation she helped pass.

All of that suggests a renewed political chance and role...if only she could let the senate chapter end.

Instead, Dianne seemed to realize — at the last minute, as has been her style from the beginning — at the end of this primary campaign that she had a good chance of losing. All of the major daily and community papers, except the Bay State Banner, endorsed her opponent. They were joined by a number of us bloggers, likewise exhausted by repeated scandals and particularly the unapologetic defiance to them.

Dianne did her best kick at the end. She expanded her endorsements from top government officials to robo-calls from Boston's mayor and Massachusetts' governor. She rallied her supporters and even had vehicles to take her voters to polls.

Her kick was not quite strong enough. Even with the awesome club of incumbency, she could not cudgel Sonia. This was not Dianne's year.

It's only a flesh wound.

Unlike the wistful Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, she was a contender, she was somebody. She could be again, but not the way she's going about it.

Laurel's comment made me drift into my classical training. Dianne inspires thoughts of a tragic flaw, just fab except for one essential problem. In light of her buckets of goodwill, we have to apply the perspective that she had not one but numerous character flaws. She also hasn't come to the terrible end of an Oedipus.

I think too of Morse Peckham's Beyond the Tragic Vision. While he uses the arts to bolster his contention that, from the French Revolution, the larger culture has gone beyond the old melodrama and didacticism of tragedy, lessons apply. Intransigence and unwillingness to accept reality are not the stuff of great moral tales.

Of course, Wilkerson has a gigantic ego. Even if you didn't get into office with that defect, the true believers and toadies around you would push you that way. Most politicians seem to be like that.

Yet from this distance, it looks like her prime thoughts would not be how to try to scrape a fetid win out of a plain loss in any way possible. Instead, shouldn't she be figuring out how to emerge as the warrior/heroine, defeated once, but returning to a whole new battle. There's the mayoralty of Boston, for example.

Let's consider:
  • Recount confirmation (1). Sonia's victory holds up and is perhaps expanded Saturday. Dianne says, "I concede this race, but will be back. I can't put voters and the party through turmoil." In this case, she enhances her goodwill while taking the loss. She's in a good position to regroup and run for something else, maybe better.
  • Recount confirmation (2). Sonia's victory holds up. Dianne says, "This reality stinks. I'll see you in November! Eat my stickers, suckers!" This is divisive to the point of self-destruction, likely spelling the end of her political chances here.
  • Sticker loss. Despite Dianne's claims that she can win a sticker campaign against the primary victor on the ballot, that's extremely unlikely. Her thinly concealed racial calls — the black voters will be coming to vote for the black Presidential candidate and will therefore return the black Senator to office — are also divisive for the whole district. Neither the party nor the majority of Dem voters will respond favorably. This would make her toxic for a long time.
  • Sticker win. Blue moon time, not at all likely... This ultimate enabling of dysfunction would at best cut her off from other legislators as well as the party. She's never been great at building coalitions, but would be much less effective as a result. The sore loser winning at all costs is not smart.
As a parent of three, I think Dianne needs a serious time-out. In adult terms, she could do with a lot of meditation and self-evaluation. For that to work, she'd need people she trusted to be honest and candid with her, as she has not been with her constituents.

With no intended racial overtones, this situation recalls Monty Python's Black Knight. Reduced to stubs from limbs, he continues to call out defiance with, "It's only a flesh wound." Can't someone nearby stop her bleeding and get her headed back to useful public service?

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1 comment:

Gienna said...

I have always been perplexed by Diane Wilkerson's political career and choices, although I think you have to admire the woman--she really doesn't back down from anything.

Interesting post.