I am the wrong woman in the wrong state at the wrong time.
You may, unfortunately, recall my column which stated that twenty of Governor Romneyís new reform candidates could win, and that he might make progress toward the eight new senators he needs to sustain a veto. I think I asked you to magnet it to your refrigerator so youíd recognize my political prognostication genius on election night.
Election night has come and gone, and so have all the reform candidates who were running against incumbents. I am not, as it turns out, a genius at political prognostication. I am, however, a cockeyed optimist without peer.
I think itís genetic, this confidence that good things will happen; certainly I never worked to acquire the attitude. Even now, I see the bright side: the decision was definitive. For the most part, Governor Romneyís reform candidates didnít do well, come close, send a message, or scare Beacon Hill incumbents into better behavior in the coming two years. A few had relatively close results and the winner in that race may be looking over a shoulder, but he or she knows what to do: stay visible. Even if it means getting caught driving drunk and relieving oneself on the highway, like the just re-elected Rep. Kujawski (D-Webster), make sure the name is seen and heard.
The reformers didnít lose on the issues. Credentials, or lack of them; hard work, or not enough effort; pleasant personalities or none; clever strategy or not: it didnít matter. The Republican Partyís attack literature: who knows if its candidates would have had a narrower or wider loss without those mailings? They would still have lost. They were defeated by a huge presidential turnout which included large numbers of people who donít know their congressman from their state legislator, or for that matter from their local tree warden; they voted for the most familiar name.
Most voted straight-ticket Democrat, but that wasnít the biggest factor: some drifted to a Republican sheriff, because they recognized the incumbentís name. If Homer Simpson had been running, Homer would be someoneís state representative next year. And that would at least be fun!
We reformers did win two open seats. But Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) and Todd Smola (R-Palmer) arenít going to be part of a big, enthusiastic freshman class. There will be no coalition with dissident Democrats against the top-down, autocratic House leadership; there will be no dissident Democrats. Business will proceed as usual on Beacon Hill. And political activists across the political spectrum will get phone calls asking them to "do something."
Donít call me. I donít have the slightest idea what to do next. Everything has been tried: lobbying, initiative petitions, repeal referenda. Broad coalitions for legislative rules reform. People often ask me about "Term Limits": nope. A group of activists led by Dorothea Vitrac tried it twice. "Term Limits the constitutional amendment" was ignored by the Legislature: "term limits the statute" was killed by the Supreme Judicial Court. Attempts to create a part-time citizen legislature like New Hampshireís have also failed.
The last stand was Governor Romneyís reform legislative campaign for a two-party system. There is nothing left to do. But donít cry for Massachusetts, me. Its Democrat voters will get what they wanted, and if they donít like it they might get another chance in two years, when there is no presidential campaign to distort the vote. Until then, the rest of us must learn to protect ourselves and our money with evasion, ingenuity and a sense of humor.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country seems to be OK.
American voters have usually seemed to know what they needed at a given point in history. When they wanted stability and calm, they elected everybodyís daddy, Dwight Eisenhower. Then they wanted youth and vigor, so elected John F. Kennedy. Got stuck with Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, decided to keep them for some reason when they could have chosen Barry Goldwater; but then they went for Richard Nixon and the end of the Vietnam War and the military draft.
That worked, but there were other problems, and the nation voted next for a sincere, honest man, Jimmy Carter. Four years later, they needed a competent, optimistic leader, and chose Ronald Reagan. When they couldnít have Reagan again, they kept his VP, a good man but without "the vision thing." Four years later, the voters chose the man from Hope. Next they went for a moral man with vision. This year, they decided to keep him.
Once again, the Republicans seem to have won the presidency and majorities in the Senate and House. That party is now responsible for the country, as the Democrats are still responsible for Massachusetts. As an independent voter, Iíll watch with interest, but for once in my life will repress the unwarranted optimism and just hope for the best.
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.