Some of my family and best friends are Democrats. There is nothing wrong with Democratic politicians that voters can't fix this year by removing a few from office. After decades of an effectively (and not very effective) one-party Legislature, it really is time for an experiment in democracy on Beacon Hill. So here are five reasons to vote Un-Democrat on Nov. 2.
1. Common sense and self-preservation.
Massachusetts voters learned 14 years ago that having Democrats in control of two branches of state government was not in their best interest. So they have elected Republican governors to balance the Democratic legislators they choose at the same time.
This wasn't a bad strategy at first, when there were enough Republicans in the Senate to sustain a gubernatorial veto. There also used to be some independence in the House: Conservative Democrats would team up with Republicans on fiscal matters, and liberal Democrats would coalesce with Republicans on legislative rules and "good government" issues.
But with the present autocratic House leadership, dissident Democrats have lost committee chairmanships, then their will to fight, joining the rest of their cowed colleagues or leaving for friendlier pastures.
Having a Republican governor mostly gives the Democrats a figurehead to blame when their inaction or short-sighted decisions create a problem. That works both ways, of course; the governor can blame the Legislature. But Romney, with his team of candidates, is instead trying to give himself some leverage for reform.
2. Competition is good, monopoly is bad.
Representative Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers), who has an opponent supported by Romney, wrote a letter to the governor asking him to "stay out of my race." because "I want to run my campaign my way, the way it has been for 25 years." All around the Commonwealth, incumbents have expressed resentment of political competitiveness. They think they are entitled to their district and should be guaranteed reelection. This is a very unhealthy way to look at democracy, which by definition requires competition to keep representatives aware that they work for their constituents.
It's gotten so bad that a bill to let communities use taxpayer dollars to promote Proposition 2½ overrides quietly passed the Legislature this month, with no debate or roll call, when most of our alleged representatives weren't there. Fortunately, the Romney administration vetoed it, but the veto won't necessarily be sustained.
3. The two-party system can work and has worked here.
When there was a strong minority party, feisty House Democrats occasionally joined with Republicans in revolt against undemocratic, top-down legislative leaders. After a leadership regime change, rank-and-file Democrats had more power of their own; committee chairman were chosen for their ability and expertise, not blind loyalty to a speaker.
Ballot questions were respected by both the House and Senate as the will of the people. Now they are rejected by the Legislature as an imposition on its power.
4. Willingness to run should be rewarded if possible.
It is fashionable to deplore the lack of interest in public service; but when a newcomer puts a private-sector life on hold to run for office, the deck is stacked against him or her. Incumbents have name recognition, two years of political "times" to raise money, and three months off to campaign.
Most challengers have to campaign after work and on weekends.
Unless there is an emotional attachment to an incumbent or a single issue, why not give somebody new a chance?
5. We need fresh perspective.
The Commonwealth is facing the same old problems -- a high per capita tax burden, high levels of state debt, aging infrastructure, high insurance costs, a politics-as-usual mentality on Beacon Hill. The present Legislature has not been able to deal with these and is now facing new problems: terrorism, the global economy, population shifts, a coming Medicaid crisis, and a stressed healthcare system. Though we have the seventh highest cost per student in the nation, our education system is far from seventh best. We need new ideas, and the energy that freshmen legislators could bring to the table on all these issues.
Pollsters, pundits, and the pols themselves think that apathetic voters will elect the same old Democrats, no matter how badly they behave or how much they disappoint. Wouldn't it be interesting to see them proven wrong?
Barbara Anderson is director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.