Monday, September 24, 2012

Immutable Voters

I've lamented here that voters can be illogically fixed. I think of 2012 elections for example, including the POTUS and our Warren/Brown Senate contests. I fully expect at least 40% to vote for what I consider definitely the wrong candidate; how can these races be at all close, I wonder?

No reasoning is revealed, but a solid piece in yesterday's Boston Globe, Wait, campaigns don't work?, does concur with my exasperated question. Citing proven political prognosticators, it reads that at least 80% of voters have fixed minds and hearts. All the campaigning possible in the time available won't alter their preset preferences. Ads, debates, conventions and such only reinforce their starting positions.

Instead, a very few factors, such as second quarter GDP and incumbent popularity in June, make the difference. The pros allegedly can use their formulae to pick the vote early and within 2%.

It's a little amusing to find such a clear, believable piece in the Globe. After all, more typical of its research articles is the weekly Uncommon Knowledge feature. It features short recaps of trendy, even sensationalist, findings largely by academicians. These are pop brights about your love life or how beer glass shape may affect your drinking rate or how coffee or red wine is good for you, no bad. Ho hum. These ephemera are often trivial and frequently destined to be refuted by future lightweight studies...and soon.

Lackaday. We can listen to the ghost of H.L. Mencken, who wrote, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." As much as we'd like to have faith that our electorate will generally get it right, we likely are deluding ourselves with such optimism.

Let us wonder now in the first major election after the Citizens United decision whether the sliver of perhaps 10% of the persuadable voters will fall and be fooled. This is the first go with SuperPACs weaving their distorted, dishonest and secretly financed lies in ad and advocacy forms.

It's quite possible that the hundreds of millions or several billion dollars spent won't determine the outcome of the POTUS race or control of either house of Congress. If nearly all voters were decided long before the campaigns really started, can those filthy bucks make the difference?

It's just as possible that the success in the disgraceful, un-American, anti-democracy efforts at voter disenfranchisement will make that difference. That is, in the many states where Republicans are actively trying to keep left-leaning voters from being able to cast ballots, if they fail, the democratic process perks along, quite likely favoring Democrats. If they succeed, historians will immediately start documenting the shame of it all.

Think too if the SuperPAC and winger billionaire money fails to tip the election, even with the shield of Citizens United. We're years away from overturning that though a Constitutional amendment. We can be positive that in the meanwhile the Dark Side would not slink away, admitting failure and discarding this weapon. Instead, they'd strategize how to make it work. Being called as anti-liberty and anti-democratic process won't deter them.

It's long been plain that we have many low-information voters. If the Globe piece is right, they have no intention of getting smart or risking having to think.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Menino-Warren Love Fest in Roslindale

It was like old times when we tucked our single baby into a Snugli or on my shoulders to head off to a political rally or march. Today, many years later, my wife and I along with our middle son, now a young adult, saw and heard Boston Mayor Tom Menino endorse Elizabeth Warren in the US Senate race.

Friday late afternoon in the city's Roslindale neighborhood, the almost-expected and long-awaited blessing felt very, very Boston. Da Mare was his always in charge, funny self, noting first that some had wanted this endorsement months earlier, even in 2011. He looked toward his wife on the dais with him and seemed to share an in joke saying, "Angela can tell you we got a few phone calls."

The park started filling at 3 although the main attractions did not arrive until well over an hour later. The usual suspects — hard-working and politically savvy Councilors like Tito Jackson, Matt O'Malley and Felix Arroyo   — arrived early, Tito the earliest. A few, like Rob Consalvo, came just before Menino and Warren.

The crowd was well mixed, in race and age. Even teens showed on their own. I lost rough count of the many hundreds there.

A well-received DJ (many complements shouted to him) kept the Motown hits coming, along with Stevie Wonder (aspirational numbers like For Once in My Life) and a few plays of the lyric appropriate for post-debate Warren, Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down. Like a Vegas act, an SEIU official, Veronica Turner, taught and led some political call and response bits for those waiting.

By the time the main acts arrived, the crowd was ready.

After his endorsement, Menino and Warren hugged, then faced the applause together.
Fence to fence, Adams Park, a.k.a. Roslindale Square, was jammed.

A half dozen women of differing ages and occupations spoke before Menino and Warren arrived. Here Rozzie's Kelly Bates, a self-described single mom from the neighborhood, with her son talked about how Warren would be the Senator to watch out for her. She recalled Warren's life and said, "If you can go to law school and raise a toddler (at the same time), you are more than qualified to be our U.S. Senator."
The elderly and disabled seemed as pumped as those standing.

When she spoke, Warren displayed both her political passions and even her rare girlish giggle moments. She was the approachable person we've met and seen in listening tours.
I don't really know her husband, Bruce Mann, also a Harvard Law prof. At the rally, he looked terribly British and controlled. However, he appeared with her in July at the Mayor's annual street party, seeming quite relaxed and jolly. I suspect there's reasons behind her referring to him as "my sweetie."
Menino and Warren got rock-star greetings.
Da Mare was in his element. He loves his crowds, who in turn love him.

He said Warren "got my vote. She has my help." That likely means his machine in gear for her for the next six weeks.

She in turn said he was Boston's best mayor and the best in the nation. She turned to him and said, "Mayor Menino, I will not let you down."
Angela Menino doesn't attend a lot of hubby's events. She'll stand in the background at a Logan Square Christmas tree lighting, for example. At the rally, she was on the dais, beside the Mayor, or Warren when he was speaking. I surmise (with no real evidence) that as he said, "I got to know Elizabeth Warren," which I think means their families spent some time together. He noted that he knows and likes Sen. Scott Brown, "but we disagree about some very basic things." (Those would include the likes of assault-rifle bans and jobs bills.)
Menino took a pretty big gamble today. A Brown victory in November would likely make his life and Bostonians' harder. On the other hand, he and Warren seem a good match and her victory would be good.

Da Mare imagined in his remarks that if he were not in his position and "just a guy from Hyde Park...Elizabeth Warren would have my back. Let me tell you folks, I have her back right now."
Pix Notes: Click on an image for a larger view and use your browser's BACK function to return. You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons. Just credit Mike Ball once up front.

Warren Almost Blanks Brown

Elizabeth Warren blew one topic in last night's debate, a couple of times. As a progressive sort and long-term UU, I tend to be upfront about my choices' shortcomings. (Clink the link in the lead sentence to watch the whole hour and decide for yourself.)

Sen. Scott Brown hit her twice on the double factoid punch of an asbestos case. She punked out and did not answer his charge. Specifically, he said she made hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer fees representing an insurance giant that successfully limited victim compensation.

Instead of briefly clarifying, she did what Brown spent the hour playing. She fell back on claims that she was a long-term advocate for ordinary, middle-class people.

There are three more debates. You can be sure Brown tastes blood on this. He'll regurgitate it and she has to be honest and strong in response.

Much of the rest of the hour was a recursive mirror on this, with Brown sidestepping virtually everything. He has an abyssal voting record that puts the lie to all his big claims.

Moreover, his primary alleged proof of his virtues come via heavily pro-Republican, anti-Obama, anti-health reform act groups. He cites the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Both are rife with Tea Party sorts and both donate heavily to right-wing candidates. That they call themselves nonpartisan is absurd on its face.

Warren challenged Brown repeatedly on his specific votes. Repeatedly, he either did not answer the question, merely brought in extraneous, emotionally based comments, or he gainsaid her challenge, with no evidence or logic. When we all know and can easily verify that the Blunt Amendment he cosponsored and pushed would have given any employer and any insurance company carte blanche to deny coverage for any health benefit, including birth control, his saying it was only for Catholic institutions (he even had the nerve twice to say just like Ted Kennedy), it was a lie and an insult to voters.

Perhaps he'll get his attitude straight by the debate at UMASS/Lowell, Monday, Oct. 1st. This time he surely irritated the devil out of voters, particularly women. He played the smirking, condescending frat boy non-stop, trying to trivialize someone with the command of facts and policy (as well as likely 30 IQ points on him). He continued to call her Professor, patronizingly as he has throughout the campaign.

He in a move he seemed to view as clever, but most viewers likely considered bullying and kind of stupid, he opened by repeatedly alleging Warren took minority spots at her schools by ticking a box that she was part Native American on applications. That's crap and even he knows it.

Twice she iterated 1) that's what her parents always told her (I've never asked my mother or grandparents to prove any genealogy statements they made), and 2) the hiring committee heads at places like Harvard have made it plain they had no idea that this box was checked in any materials they got before deciding.

Rather than cut his losses, he kept returning to a demand that she release all of her personnel records. Again absurd, and as a lawyer, even a not too bright a lawyer, he knows that. This is a wispy smoke screen seemingly to avoid discussing his votes.

He claimed ownership of a wife and daughter several times, hiding behind them as though that proved he supported women's rights. He cited his self-lore of standing up for his mother against abusive stepfathers when he was 6 and a teen. He said repeatedly that he was pro-choice as though that covered his numerous votes against bills to give women equality in pay and elsewhere.

In short, while he seemed very impressed with himself, he was obnoxious. Those who catch the debate though will be left wondering why he couldn't answer a single challenge. Warren failed once; I lost track of the number of times he did.

Instead, he fell back on this or that quote from some group or newspaper saying he was more bipartisan than most senators. Those are not credentials nor are they proof of anything at all.

This could have been a good shot for Brown. I suspect only his rabid supporters, those who don't want a progressive, a Democrat, a woman in the office, think he did well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dinner Wisdom on Mitt

I'm not above lunch-counter philosophizing. Mitt Romney's most consistent trait this POTUS run has been refusing to correct or even modify his clumsiest, stupidest statements.

Of course, the worst to date has been is agonizingly prolonged comments to a bunch of rich folk on not so rich folk, a.k.a. voters — saying may ways that at least 47% of the electorate are bums who demand that the government support them,

Now, even with widespread wailing by right and far right pundits as well as lefties, Romney won't retract or even refine. He expects us stupid voters to finally get his brilliance and wisdom.

So, I picture myself sitting at the lunch counter with two or three friends. What is our Cap'n Brylcreem thinking?

My idea is that his background, both youth and adulthood, control his thoughts and actions. Consider first, that despite his delusional claim that he is a self-made multimillionaire, he grew up extremely privileged. His rich, highly connected dad sent him to the best private schools, through Harvard. Mitt was plugged into connections and opportunities ordinary mortals can hardly imagine.

Now because he and his wife, who grew up with similar wealth and power, had enough money to donate their actual inheritances, they suddenly are self-made. That sort of fantasy and egotism do not inspire confidence in his analytic powers.

Moreover, the dinner philosopher continues, he grew up like so many preppy, Ivy types, shouting people down. Increasing volume and repetition is the argument style of choice. This includes never retreating or rethinking or explaining. Bull ahead until you silence others.

I can't know for sure, but I'll bet many of his decisions came out OK, at least enough of them, that he honed a huge confidence that bullying and digging in were the right modus operandi for him.

Thus, over another cup of coffee, I conclude he's trapped himself in the no-retreat mode. Alas, poor Mitt, I knew him, guys. A fellow of infinite bluster or most excellent fantasy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt Dubs Us Riffraff

Despite the calls by the cold, controlled, uncompassionate Ann Romney, neither she nor anyone else has been able to show her husband as anything but cold, controlled and uncompassionate. We here in Massachusetts have long seen him as indifferent to real people, at best.

Of course, he has made Republicans both of this prolonged and awkward runs for POTUS. He has the social skills of a grinning wolverine.

The recent release of video showing his disdain for us is compounded and exacerbated by:

  • His ignorant, even stupid, lack of understanding of the role of government
  • His seeming unawareness of how the vast majority of us reach for or maintain that American Dream with earned assistance
  • His Ayn Rand-style makers v. takers conflation of economics and morality
  • His arrogant, insulting followup that all he said was right and his only regret is not expressing it elegantly and softly enough that we lesser mortals would accept it

Those who have trying for four years to sabotage President Obama must be soiling their silk boxers. They seem to have swallowed hard and repeatedly to pretend they like this ticket for 2012. Now this truly creepy jerk makes it plain he reviles most Americans and our ideals and principles. What we've sensed, we've now heard.

He can't return to the shadows quickly enough to suit me and many. Let him play Scrooge McDuck, diving into his pool of money, reveling in contact with currency, as cold as he.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Take the Woe Out of Warren

If asked publicly, most of like would say yes we'd like a candidate to be sincere. I doubt that...honest yes, but sincere can be a turnoff.

Oddly, Elizabeth Warren is at once intense and extremely likable. She has never lost her Southern, small city/big town charm. She's often witty and delightfully honest. Yet her intensity has led folk to tell her to lighten up and personalize her ads.

I've heard her speak many times and chatted directly with her quite a few. In addition, she was on the Left Ahead show last October right after she announced her candidacy.

Superficially, I note we share the same birth state (a rarity this far removed) and are the same age. From hearing and speaking with her, I like Elizabeth Warren. More important, I respect her worldview, her personal accomplishments, and her evolved clarity of political vision.

All of that aside, I understand pols and others noting she must do more than be right and righteous. I've long said that anyone spending two minutes with her would vote for her over Scott Brown. Yet most voters won't get that close that long. Moreover, she's up against a theatrical sort who plays an everyman he never was nor will be.

Brown has been successful playing your neighbor. He used this to great advantage against the icy AG Martha Coakley in the special election that sent him to D.C.

Ironies and contradictions abound. He grew up citified/suburban with a lot more money and resources than she. He went to one of the nation's most expensive private universities, while she worked her way through state schools. He did next to nothing as a state senator, while she pioneered and won in creating a major middle-class protecting federal agency. He fairly coasted his way to lawyerly wealth while she proved her way up through academia to earn a tenured Harvard Law faculty position. Both ended up wealthy, but only she has the accomplishments to show for it.

So, why, you might ask does former MA Gov. Michael Dukakis tell the commonwealth's delegation to the DNC convention, "Yeah, I know Elizabeth’s media hasn’t been as good as it should be, and she knows that, and I think you’re going to see some significant changes."? Well, he's brutal and right.

I'm not sure about her woman's issue. I personally have heard middle-aged women I know say she comes on too strong, even that she's bitchy. However, I have to agree with the Duke. Her ads can be dour and impersonal.

Brown has nothing much to say and he no compunction about lying. He seems to love himself and portrays his role as the most important, tie-breaking one in all Congress. But he still comes across as a swell guy in his aw-shucks ads.

She on the other hand may be too intense for her own good. That dogged enthusiasm was key to her running over obstructionist, financial-industry lapdogs in Congress to create the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Her combination of knowing she was in the right and keeping up the fight to victory made that happen. Certainly of the two of them, I'd trust only her to do what's right for us here.

In a state that has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate, many voters of both genders don't seem to know what to do with her. Yet in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, West Roxbury and Hyde Park among places I've heard her speak, she owns the crowds, men and women, the range of ages. There again, if you spend time with her, you are for her.

The photo above is typical of her posture. It was at Boston Mayor Tom Menino's annual block party celebrating his assumption of office. She listens to the people she's with and when she responds, she leans forward, answers fully and knowledgeably and with great intensity. She may be too much for anyone who wants politicians LITE.

Thus, in today's Globe, Frank Phillips analysis the problem and reports proposed solutions. These include that she seems stiff and unmoving in ads, that she doesn't use stereotypical local places, people and other props, and that she doesn't use supporters to speak for her. I'd also note that unlike Brown's her ads have real and meaning content to the exclusion of fluff and PR.

She shouldn't bring herself all the way down to Brown's big-smile/little-brain level. Yet I know this woman and know that she has a gracious personality as powerful as her intellect. She needs to put both on display posthaste.

Debates: Decisive v. Perfunctory

A truly crude publisher at a magazine I edited had a way of describing the pro forma. "It's like peeing in a blue serge suit. It gives you a nice, warm feeling, but nobody notices."

Modern debate-like objects may well fall in that class. They aren't the classic rhetorical contests from city-state times or even the pre-U.S. Civil War era. Back when free-form, one-to-one, open-ended agones let two contenders go at each other for as long as it took to exhaust their arguments.

Now the candidate fora and even the two-person so-called debates offer little opportunity for cogent policy or even brilliance. Seemingly dull-witted moderators and questioners serve up predictable topics to which candidates respond just as you'd expect. The only revelations or joys come when a candidate says something ignorant or stupid, the old gaffe track that the media live to report. These events are best suited for tweets.

How powerful?

Grousing about the inferior format aside, we have to wonder how meaningful these are and whether they truly influence elections.

The self-interested love to claim each election hinges on debates. This is particularly the case from the sponsors. Consider the October 1st spectacle between Sen. Scott Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren.

It will be at UMASS Lowell, co-sponsored by the Boston Herald, and broadcast on cable TV at NECN and two AM radio stations, WBZ and WRKO. So, this allegedly crucial debate is likely to have a limited Boston-area audience for a statewide race.

The contest itself is unarguably a big deal. Dems need this seat to retain control of the U.S. Senate. Also, politically and emotionally there's the issue of whether to give the self-promoting wastrel a full term in a seat long held by an activist progressive. Whoever wins this go could well hold this seat for 12 or 24 or more years or more.

Writing of the self-interested, the promo for the debate, as reported in the Herald, includes hyperbole. WBZ's director of news and programming, Peter Casey, said, "(We are) looking forward to carrying this debate between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, because it’s a critical Senate race for the WBZ audience and also for control of the Senate. Debates have become a major element and deciding factor in modern campaigns, and we are proud to take part in the process of letting the people choose."

Any Proof?

Those are oft-repeated assertions, but almost entirely without proof. Like with better-safe-than-sorry posits, most of us likely do not question its validity.

Nosing around in books and clicking around the net, there's little to support the power of the modern debate or forum. The best background and analysis I saw was at Franklin and Marshall College's Center for Politics & Public Affairs. Several of their professors, notably Dr. G. Terry Madonna and Dr. Michael Young, took the subject on from the Presidential level.

They include the conventional political wisdom — "Historically, debates played that role in 1960, 1976, and probably 1980." Certainly for the first, we love the idea that a sweating, sneaky looking Nixon lost the election debating the calm and candid Kennedy. Yet with only three likely examples, each of these is questionable.

Kennedy was already overtaking Nixon. Then in 1976, Watergate's effect may have doomed Ford. Debates of 1980, 1988 and 1992 sit in popular political mythology as being won and lost in debates, but each was likely decided by events and trends instead. As the profs conclude, "In fact, the evidence suggests that modern debates only rarely determine the outcome of elections."

There may be no relationship between debate performance and job performance. While the ideal leader should shine in both, how many pols can you think of that do?

Modern debate traits include:
  • Small attendance, even with media coverage and broadcast
  • "Viewers are voters with the keenest interest in politics or the party activists themselves."
  • Most attend or watch to reinforce their decision on a candidate
  • The undecided rarely watch or listen
  • Neighbors, coworkers and news snippets are more likely influences
Still, the idea of debates is attractive. Many of us love the concept that we are wise, rational and open-minded, that we come into October deserving to have candidates perform for us, sway us.

High and Low

It's likely too that debates are most powerful influences on the top and bottom. This time at the POTUS level, there's greater than normal interest. At the least, we all have serious stake the recovery and the extrication from war. So the top will get pretty good views, at least of the next day snippets if not the full debates.

Farther down, a few statewide races, like in Missouri and Massachusetts, are contentious enough and covered enough by fragmented broadcast and the asthenic print media. At least in the predigested, next-day bites, these debates will get some notice.

At the local level, the Tip O'Neill true platitude that all politics are local can work. Where there are rare open seats, officials accused of incompetence or corruption, and hot cultural issues at play, voters wants lots of mini-shows. Candidates have been going from one debate-like-object to another covering their neighborhoods and whole districts. Voters demand they perform.

So on all three levels, fora and debates can be big. It's just that in most cases, there's scant evidence they sway voters at all. For the vast majority of races, debates don't seem to do anything beyond feeling good.

As a lover of politics, I don't mind that we beat the drums for debates. Pretending each one is crucial to that contest or even to the whole of the democratic process is almost always an incredible exaggeration. I'll give that a pass, as it is for the good cause of getting for keeping voters engaged.

Brown/Warren note: There are actually four variations on broadcast debates. This may well lead to voter fatigue. In addition to 10/1, there is a 9/20, 10/1 and 10/30. Only one is West, in Springfield, one is only with Jon Keller, and one gets lots of Boston-area media, including sponsor the Globe.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Moot? Interpretation?

Seemingly parallel and equally weighted to free speech, far too many of us nod like bobble-head dolls in approval of virtually everything being open to interpretation. Whether it's a shared experience or analysis of provable/disprovable facts, we like to extend the right to everyone to be bone-headed wrong.

There's some stereotypical fantasy that unless you cut people infinite slack for the wackiest ideas, you are far too rigid and you don't understand the human thought process. It is true enough that overly rigid literal thinking leads to orthodoxy and exclusion of differing ideals. But letting everyone advance wacky ideas to a group is cowardice.

Cut me a very thin slice of that baloney, Jack. Not all ideas or interpretations of facts are valid or equal. Some of us twist the facts and evidence for our nefarious purposes. Others are too lazy to analyze at all. Still others are not very bright.

Instead of bobbling when you hear, "It's just a matter of interpretation," consider it your moral and intellectual obligation to call foolishness. Ideally, you'll be well-bred enough to avoid doing it self-righteously. Yet, the main goal should be putting the brakes to the wagon-load of crap.

Out of our control are professional loonies and liars, like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. They are highly paid entertainers, masquerading as analysts and commentators. They have no incentive to be reasonable, realistic or honest.

Where you can have an effect though is in the likes of personal conversations and public meetings. Don't yield to those who say their crazy assertions are as valid as yours or anyone else's. Most times that simply isn't true. Say it, say it to them.

Of course, much of this is political and cultural. The most obvious current example may be the birther folk. They have available and most have beheld the POTUS' state-issued proof he was born in Hawaii, as well as seen the newspaper announcement and so forth. For them to hold that Barack Obama is not a native-born American is loony, stupid or both. Yet, some continue to insist this is a matter of interpretation.

Yes, reasonable people can disagree, but one reasonable one and one crazy one are on different planes, unequal ones.

I think of a relative who advances fantasies and lies constantly and has from when I first met her. To put it kindly, I can say she is perhaps the most skilled fabulist I've ever known. She constantly re-remembers, restructures, reinterprets, and retells her life. Although she was an adulteress, an inheritance thief and more, she speaks with great conviction of her blamelessness in all acts and in fact represents herself as heroic and virtuous. She reinvents herself as the lead in her own play.

She has lied to my face, slandered other relatives, and iterated those calumnies repeatedly at increasing volume. In the times that I called her on them and spoke of provable contradictions, she would simply drop the subject and address it no further.

Don't Accept It

There too are the behaviors of the worst of these sorts. In what used to be limited to U.S. prep school (UK public schools) and Ivy-League class colleges, the disingenuous learn to shout and badger. The atmosphere includes the elements that if you bellow someone down, you win. Of course, the truth is that if you cow someone by saying the same thing repeatedly at increasing volume, you aren't right. Instead you are loud, repetitive and, well, rude. Unfortunately, this attitude has percolated from the fancy schools into the populace.

Bill O'Reilly certainly fits in that group. Also, although I agree with most of his politics, Chris Matthews does as well. Neither listens to others and both bully their guests far too frequently. I have little doubt it has to do with their home lives and schooling.

So, the call here is plain. When the jive demons pretend, don't accept it. When you know better, tell 'em. Don't accept that everything is a matter of interpretation, that one set of assertions is automatically as valid as another.

Facts are stubborn things. When armed with knowledge, be as stubborn.

Friday, September 07, 2012

AM MA Poll Surprises

After working 6 AM to 9 PM at a Boston poll, I got a quick net fix on the MA races before catching Biden and Obama's speeches. I didn't know how much would change overnight.

I was a flawed forecaster.

3rd Middle MA Senate. I royally goofed up on this one. Five Dems in the primary clearly filtered to a single choice. We had the candidates on at Left Ahead, I attended their forums and kickoffs. The choice certainly would be between the smart, charming progressive Mara Dolan and the hyper-confident, highly articulate Joe Kearns Goodwin. Also, by a huge fund-raising advantage and celebrity endorsements, the latter looked powerful.

Before the DNC speech time, he was well ahead. When I rose today though, it was former MA Sen. Mike Barrett (38%), Goodwin (32%), Alex Buck (14%), Dolan (12%) and Joe Mulllin (9%). It seemed Lexington went very heavily for Barrett.

2nd District Governor's Council. At my own Jamaica Plain polling place and citywide, my Hyde Park neighbor Brian Clinton was tromping everyone, including Robert Jubinville, who was in his third run for the office. Come the morning, district-wide, it was Jubinville (35%), Bart Timility (28%), Clinton (28%) and Patrick McCabe (9%).

Clinton is young but well plugged in, as Hyde Park District City Councilor Rob Consalvo's chief of staff. Bostonians sure went for him. Despite his relentless campaigning in the spread-out GC district and seemingly ubiquitous yard signs, this very tight race wasn't his. We'd also spoken with Clinton on Left Ahead, in a show that had a lot of listens. He has strong ideas for changes in the role of the GC.

1st Essex MA Senate. In another close one, the upset went to another Left Ahead guest, Kathleen O'Connor Ives. She is pretty young, a Newburyport Councilor, and not nearly as well known as opponents Bill Manzi and Tim Coco. Smart money had Manzi, with his deep and wide community and family connections. It was her at 38% and both the others 31%.

So far after coming up short working for Al Gore, everything she has touched for herself has shone like silver or gold.

Where are elephants? Most other races in Boston and statewide were not close and many not contested. An astounding number have no Republicans running at all. That wispy party claimed that they'd concentrated on the races were they had the best chances. It looked like they pretty much ceded the General Court and other offices to the Dems.

In my precinct and adjacent on in the same polling place, The Republican ballots were only a little beefier than the candidate-less Green-Rainbow one. Nearly all of the few nominees on the GOP ballot were unopposed, but most offices were empty.

I grant that there is a shadow Republican party in our MA politics. There are so many DINOs in the State House that the fiscally and socially conservative legislators are odd Democrats. If only they felt they could win an election with an (R) beside their names on the ballot, they'd surely switch. Likewise, if the MA GOP could flip these, they'd have an impressive list of legislators.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Honorary Girl? Sure

Honorary girl, eh? I've been called that and don't mind at all.

Over at little-brain sites, like the Boston Herald and RedMassGroup, they're trying to inflate MA Dem party chair John Walsh's jibe at Scott Brown. Then again, that is what they do most often, attach a winger pump to even the tiniest lefty balloon. (You might also look for Howie Carr's puerile go at this, but it's just one cheap-shot fat joke.)

Walsh is as funny as he is smart. Sometimes he brings Joe Biden to mind as he free associates comments for effect. Sure, he was ridiculing Brown's cynical effort to appeal to women voters by showing himself folding laundry. Brown is a shameless panderer, so he was an easy target again.

Sure, Walsh should have called on his brain's executive function here to wonder how such a comment might play. After all GOP sorts and their allies even here do have those trackers and hunt relentlessly for anything they can twist. This didn't require much effort on their part and with that John handed them an ephemeral political toy. He let cleverness get ahead of craft.

This brings to mind though times when I've been named an honorary girl. In particular when I chaired the board of a large downtown church, the woman who was senior minister called me that more than once by way of pointing out that my policies and proposals under discussion were female inclusive and aware. I grew up in an equality minded family...and this was a UU church, after all.

The board and staff were almost entirely women then as well, with a few guys in charge of building and grounds and such.

The senior minister was a partnered lesbian, who adopted the first of their two infant girls then and generally brought the baby to board meetings. As an involved dad, I was at ease with little ones and could keep them amused or jiggle them to sleep with the best of them. I often held her.

I noticed that many babies do like a dad's hands and shoulder. I suspect that they feel secure in large, strong hands. Men are likely to have such, as did my maternal grandmother who was a great baby comforter.

This little one also liked my silk ties. She'd nestle in the crook of an elbow and rub the tie on her face or feel it. My youngest son was similar, liking my ties almost as much as the satin binding on his blankie.

There was a magic state when the minister's daughter was happy in my arms and a bit more magic when she fell asleep. The room was largely populated with women, who seemed charmed and to identify with this honorary girl holding real thing. I am positive it made my job running the board easier. They denied me nothing at such moments.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Another Stereotype Hits the Canvas

Mickey Ward's morals-based reversal of an endorsement of Sen. Scott Brown for reelection heartens me. The original is here, in The Fighter's hometown newspaper, the Lowell Sun, in Christopher Scott's sports column. Lefty and gay pubs and blogs have spread the news.

The short of it that the pro boxer from plain stock said, sure he'd endorse Brown. Then he learned that the pol was both anti-union and opposed to same-sex marriage. No good for Mickey. As the pug said of the pol, "I found out Scott is anti-union, and I'm a Teamster guy. I found out he's also against gay marriage,  and I say if you love someone, you should have the same rights no matter who you are."

A stereotype has often been that blue-collar men are anti-marriage equality. Here's a good Catholic lad from a poor industrial town who doesn't play by those precepts.

It took me back to my own lad-hood. Way back when George McGovern, pinko peacenik, was the Dem nominee for President. Back in the thrilling yesteryear of 1972, I canvassed for him in my Lower East Side Manhattan neighborhood.

I got a rough reception. Most of the residents were old women, Ukrainians and Russians. I tried a bit of my Russian on them, but schmoozing didn't work any more than the literature or political arguments. I dreaded the election day as evidence of my failure to sway these crusty conservatives.

Yes and no. Sure enough, nationally, Richard Nixon thumped McGovern by 24%. The WWI and WWII generations were not ready for peace talk, much less a peace-talking President. However, my precinct had the highest reported pro-McGovern percentage in New York City and New York State.

There was a lesson for me, which I took and carry. Those elderly women who had survived czars and wars and the worst humans and nature have to throw at us did not fit my stereotype. I read their stoic non-response as rejection that fit my preconceptions. In reality, they were largely lefties and for peace. They showed me in the voting booth.

LGBT and marriage-equality forces have allies in places that surprise many of us. That seems to account for the successes in places like Maine where gay couples and individuals spoke to voters as well as legislators. They might have gone into the process with stereotypes of a hostile audience but were often literally and figuratively embraced. The legislators who testified in public hearings of being turned by such conversations or of their own gay children, other relatives, neighbors, coworkers and friends were powerful advocates for equal rights.

My late mother died still not quite understanding gay marriage. Yet, she loved and respected two couples of my gay friends, who always visited and dined with her when they came to Santa Fe where she lived. I subsequently solemnized the marriages of the four men in those two couples. She would have continued to welcome them in her and heart without "getting" the marriages.

That woman, my mother, taught me a lesson that dovetails with the thought of not clinging to stereotypes. She'd say when I doubted seeking something I wanted, "Ask. The worst you can hear is, 'No.'"