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Barbara's Column
September 1999 #1


The Sun
Lowell, Mass.
Sunday, September 5, 1999

Where is the Gratitude for Republicans?
By Barbara Anderson


Making fun of the Republican Party is a Massachusetts hobby. I admit I've had to laugh at times myself. It's easy for us Independents, even those of us who also get dusty in the political arena, to feel good about avoiding that arena when party politics turn the dust to mud.

But enough is enough. I think that women especially should be aware of what we owe Massachusetts Republicans.

The late Senator John Parker told me that the reason the Mass G.O.P. lost its longstanding control over the Legislature in the middle of this century was its support for birth control. Yes, the party that so many women shun because some of its present activists and its national party platform are anti-abortion, is the party that first fought for women's right to control the size of their families.

Women who are on the pill, men who keep condoms in the bedside table, women who would never have an abortion yet still have only the number of children they choose, owe that ability to choose to the Republicans.

They took a politically unpopular stand in the Catholic-controlled commonwealth; state representative Tip O'Neill ran candidates against them on this issue and they lost the House the next election, never really recovered.

So explain to me why the party that freed the slaves does not get the black vote, and the party that freed the barefoot and pregnant does not get the women's vote. Where is gratitude?

Well, but that was a long time ago. What have Republicans done for us lately?

Do you like having a limit on your property taxes instead of unlimited increases year after year? Citizens for Limited Taxation put Proposition 2 on the ballot, but after it was passed by the voters it came under the protection of Republican legislators, who led the battles against its repeal or a fatal amendment.

Were you among the voting 82 percent who passed a cut in the so-called "unearned income" tax rate last year? Maybe in all the years that you payed a 12 percent tax on your dividends and interest, you thought the Legislature should have cut the rate itself. The Republicans tried, year after year.

Recent polls show that voters would like their income tax rate returned to 5 percent, as the Democrat-controlled Legislature promised when the rate was hiked in 1989.

Legislative Republicans always vote to lower the rate; but because voters don't elect enough of them, the tax rollback once again requires an initiative petition. And this time, we have a Republican governor leading the petition drive to place it on the ballot so you can make the decision.

Nationally and here, while the Democrat Party serves the teachers' unions, Republicans have been leading the fight for parental choice in education. Guess those silly Republicans just have a thing about the people making decisions, about families setting priorities for their own money, about ... choice.

And tell me this. Why is it that when Newt Gingrich holds up the federal budget in order to force reforms, citizens are outraged; but when Democrats Tom Birmingham and Tom Finneran hold up the state budget, voters don't even miss it? When certain Democrat office-holders misbehave, it reflects only on them; when Republicans misbehave, the whole party gets scolded.

However, Republicans are elected in other states. The Massachusetts GOP has a hard time attracting good candidates; this is partly its own fault, and you'll read about why elsewhere and often. But a valid reason is that the commonwealth's recent political culture turns people off: most Republicans, like us Independents, have no desire to be part of it, while many Democrats have planned their campaigns since kindergarten.

Even when the Republicans field good candidates, voters for some reason choose a Democrat who has "changed his mind" about the issue he ran on, voted for higher taxes while insisting they are "temporary," or got caught not paying her share of taxes.

Here is another reason it's hard to field challengers: while for Democrats the commonwealth's political arena is a place of dusty gladiatorial contests, for Republicans it's a bloody pit in which they wait for the lions to be released. Those who keep on fighting despite the odds deserve a little respect, it seems to me.


Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.  Her syndicated columns appear in the Salem Evening News, the Lowell Sun, the Tinytown Gazette and MediaNews Group newspapers around the state.


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