The sun won't cross the equator on its way south
until Sept. 22, but politically, the autumn of our discontent has
Next Tuesday's primary election will set
the cast of the Nov. 2 drama, which I optimistically call
In Massachusetts we also call the date of each
election Independents' Day, because those of us who are unenrolled
are the largest voting group, and we keep the establishment
off-balance. Even next week, unlike voters in some states, we are
allowed to take a primary ballot for either party and help choose
the candidates who will face each other in the general election.
Political analysts don't know which ballot we
will take, never mind for whom we will vote when we get it.
Pollsters may call, but we might not make up our minds until the
last minute, so the call may not help them with their predictions.
I often take a Democratic ballot, sometimes
because I am reluctant to choose between friends on the Republican
ballot, sometimes because there is some Democrat running whom I
really don't want. In the latter case, I vote for the Democrat that
I like personally or agree with occasionally.
I once voted for Patricia McGovern for governor
on a Democratic ballot because I didn't want to choose in the
Republican primary between Paul Cellucci and Joe Malone. Cellucci
had done a good job as a legislator in the House, then in the
Senate; while Malone had been a friend since he worked for the late,
great Ray Shamie.
Now is a fitting time to remember Shamie, who
played a major role in the last two Massachusetts voter revolutions.
As an early supporter of Citizens for Limited
Taxation (CLT), he was a force behind the passage of Proposition 2½
in 1980, the year of the national Reagan Revolution. He was chairman
of the state Republican Party in 1990 when Bill Weld won the
governorship and enough legislative incumbents were defeated to keep
the rest in line for Weld's reform agenda.
We are overdue for the next revolution. As in
1980, there is a sitting president who doesn't seem to know what he
is doing; and as in 1990, there is a state fiscal crisis brought on
by years of legislative misbehavior. In those years, there were
fewer independents, but there were many conservatives who called
themselves Reagan Democrats and social libertarians who liked Bill
Come the general election, even party members
cannot be depended upon to vote traditionally this year. Pollsters
will be busy with Republicans and Democrats, as well as
independents, trying to determine our inclination. They can't even
be sure, this year, how the Libertarians, Greens and Rainbows will
vote as they try to find someone they can halfway trust to share
their own vision.
My own parents were Reagan Democrats. I was
raised in a Pennsylvania factory town that turned more Democratic
even than normal when John F. Kennedy ran, as he excited the local
Catholic descendants of German and Irish immigrants. I was a senior
in high school that year, and the nuns were all atwitter, except for
Sister Evangelist, who was a strict conservative and supported
By then I had read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and
decided I would join the party of Abraham Lincoln when I was old
enough to vote. Also, I had a tendency even as a youth to be
contrarian, rebelling against parental, school and general community
choices. So during the mock election, I and maybe three other
students joined Sister Evangelist and two secular history teachers
in supporting Nixon — which I imagine they later joined me in
regretting. (Though I saw a bumper sticker last week that read, "I
miss Dick Nixon.")
I did register Republican when I turned 21, in
time to vote for Barry Goldwater, who was as much libertarian as
conservative. But after moving to Massachusetts, my Irish Democrat
roots made me uncomfortable with Yankee Republicans, at least until
Weld came along to dispel that particular prejudice.
Sometime in the early '80s, after I went to work
at Citizens for Limited Taxation, I ran into Democratic consultant
Michael Goldman, who offered free advice: that I really should be an
independent to run a nonpartisan taxpayer group. That felt so right!
I do love the word "independent." And then I learned how one can use
that status to her advantage in the primaries.
I never do the manipulative thing, though, by
simply choosing the candidates who would be easier for my own
favorites to beat. I always vote for the best person available on
This year, I must take a Republican ballot
because I want to vote for
Hudak in the primary that will determine that party's nomination
for the 6th District seat in Congress.
Unfortunately, this means I can't vote for
Mary-Ellen Manning as usual. I hope that those who take the
Democratic ballot remember that she is one very reliable vote for
intelligent decision-making when it comes to the appointment of
judges and other matters that come before that body.
Another hard thing is that I have to choose
between two friends again,
Kamal Jain for state auditor. I'd tell you my choice but I have
used up the allotted words for this column ...