June 2004: High school graduations, the Democrat Party
convention. Yearbook categories:
As high school students prepare for graduation, the decision made
Saturday at the Democrat Convention may have as much effect on their lives, should they opt to stay in
Massachusetts, as some of the decisions they will make themselves in the next few months
about their own futures. So to follow that theme, I will use the common high school
yearbook listings and my job-related experience with the candidates to give you an idea
of who's who at the Convention.
Valedictorian: Tom Birmingham. He's a Rhodes scholar, uses big
words and quotes great writers, once referring to his critics as Lilliputians. This pseudo-intellectualism would be a
joke in many Democrat states, but it's an advantage in Massachusetts? Birmingham
can also brag about being the only candidate to personally oversee the biggest tax hike in state
history, including a cut in the personal exemption he once took pride in increasing.
That decreased exemption, which actually should be indexed for
inflation, not lowered, presently helps lower-income taxpayers get through their monthly bills. Instead, that
money will be taken by the state to pay for fat-cat pensions, patronage, and other Beacon
Of course, if he's so smart, the Valedictorian could use his
coming budget to cut some of the latter so his tax package wouldn't be necessary. But since some of the recipients of
this bass-ackwards prioritization are convention delegates, another kind of self-
interest based intelligent can't do the right thing before the votes are taken, even were he so
Salutatoran or however you spell it: Shannon O'Brien, who spells
accountability "accountabilty," which is less grievous an error than
claiming the virtue at all. She was a member of the politician establishment during the last spending crisis, tax hike period and
wasn't much use to the citizens then, so it's hard to visualize accountability should she
Least Likely to convince anyone they are Beacon Hill outsiders:
Senate President Tom Birmingham and state rep/state senator/Treasurer:
Most Ambitious: Shannon O'Brien. Next stop, Vice Presidential
candidate with John Kerry. 2004 campaign slogan: Elect two professional politicians from the state Most
Likely to screw its taxpayers.
Class Clown: Robert Reich. This is not meant to be
disrespectful; the man is genuinely funny and seems to be having fun. And while he doesn't know a lot about Massachusetts
politics and government, what there is to know ain't pretty so this could
explain why he can still smile a lot. Of course, we might not be laughing when he taxes us into the third
Most Athletic: Professor Reich steps up to the plate with more
spending programs, then dodges questions about affordability as he carries his plans for more and bigger state
programs down the field and leaps high into the air to slam dunk them into the deficit
spending basket. The crowds cheer his grace and versatility. We could be talking sports
scholarship here, thought many politicians of both major parties play this game well.
Class couple: Steve Grossman and Warren Tolman. "Class" as in
having the class to respect voters decisions on ballot questions. "Couple" as in they are the only two
Democrat candidates who oppose kicking the voters in the teeth by ignoring the 59-40
mandate for the income tax rollback.
Most consistent: Tolman, who supports the will of the voters on
both the rollback and on his own clean elections initiative. This also makes him the Most Likely to convince voters
he is a Beacon Hill outsider.
Least likely to respond to all questions with the standard
rehearsed, professionally created "blahblahblah":
Most improved in the above category: Grossman. When he and I
debated the tax rollback two years ago on the Marjorie Clapprood radio program, he couldn't respond to
a point without looking over his shoulder for a clue from his advisors. Now he seems
thoughtful as he comes up with some original ideas for balancing the state
As an Independent, I will probably be voting in the Democrat
primary myself. I know some play the game of choosing the worst candidate in order to give their preferred party
a better chance in the general election, but I can never bring myself to vote for
someone I don't like. Of course I have the advantage of having interacted at some point with them all
so I can judge from more than public relations campaigns.
Tom Birmingham: When he arrived, I expected to like a legislator
from Chelsea, one of my favorite cities, so smiled at him across a crowded auditorum. He looked puzzled. But
notice he has learned to smile on cue for his television commercials.
Robert Reich: I debated him on the Jerry Williams Show many
years ago on something federal. Don't recall the subject, just the question that kept coming to my mind: does he
live on the same planet as the rest of us? Of course, now none of us recognize the
planet we are living on, do we....
Steve Grossman: I seem to recall that Citizens for Limited
Taxation, when it was starting out, got its envelopes from his company because it was the best deal at the time. So in a
way, he helped give me my start as a taxpayer activist and us taxpayers a
voice in our government. Thanks, Steve.
Shannon O'Brien: Dominating debates with easy-going Joe Malone
and now Democrats by simply refusing to shut up. Is this the kinder- gentler female who is supposed to attract
soccer-moms, or the stereotypical woman who can't stop talking and reminds some men
that they really would rather hang out with the guys.
Warren Tolman: One of the good-natured guys people like to hang
Most Likely to win the convention: if Democrat delegates hold
true to form, the insiders and least attractive candidates: either O'Brien or Birmingham.
So therefore, Most Likely to win the election: Mitt Romney.