Limited Taxation & Government
Post Office Box 408    Peabody, Massachusetts   01960     (617) 248-0022

Barbara's Bi-Weekly Column

The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, August 29, 1998

A Primary Decision: Values vs. Issues
By Barbara Anderson

It's not easy being a voter.

Do your civic duty, they tell us. Just get out to vote, they say. Sure, the getting out's the easy part.

Somehow, every year, I mark my ballot. I can't relate to those who think that their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will always be there saving their seat in the representative democracy they call home, even if they never make the civic effort to secure it.

I've tried not to be the kind of voter who chooses a leader because he's cute. I don't care if he belongs to the same political party as my great-grandfather, long-deceased along with whatever principles that party may have had a century ago, though it probably didn't. I mean, does anyone still seriously believe that the Democrat Party is for the workingman, and the Republican Party cares about free enterprise?

The Libertarian Party really does care about liberty, but a lot more liberty than security-minded Americans want or can handle without a proper education, which they're not going to get as long as the government runs the schools. So most of us find ourselves choosing among the anointed front-runners -- and sometimes we have to choose between issues and character.

I can relate to those voters who supported President Clinton rather than a decent, honest man with whom they disagree on issues that are important to them. I voted for Richard Nixon because he promised to end the military draft, which was my Big Issue at the time. He kept his promise so, despite wage and price controls and dirty tricks, I stayed loyal until he lied to us. Then, unlike some Clinton apologists, I expected the liar's resignation.

At the state level, the stakes aren't as universally high, but the choices can be as complicated. Take mine, for instance, in the coming Massachusetts primary.

As an Independent voter, I have been urged by some activists to choose between the two Republicans. But while I have a personal and activist affinity with Joe Malone, I have a twenty-year history with Paul Cellucci too. Both these candidates have supported CLT&G tax-limitation initiatives, and neither of them has ever lied to me.

I also have friends in both campaigns. If I choose sides I might really anger some of them; my staying neutral merely annoys a lot of them equally.

So I have this primary plan to vote for Patricia McGovern. A critic of my decision complains that she hasn't taken the "no new taxes" pledge. Well, of course she hasn't; she's a big government, big-spending, tax-raising liberal who calls Mike Dukakis her favorite recent governor! I won't vote for her in the general election and I hope you won't either.

But here's the "issues vs. character" thing again. I've found Pat McGovern to be a decent person who can admit to a mistake, as she has called her since-repealed sales tax on services, and who wouldn't deliberately hurt innocent people for political gain.

And my Big personal Issue this year is the Fells Acre Day Care case. The Amirault family was convicted of child-abuse during the 1980s' national hysteria that sent innocent people all over the country to jail: my friend Gerald Amirault is one of the few still incarcerated. If his present appeal fails, he may need to be proposed for release next year by an honorable, open-minded governor.

I can expect a fair hearing from, in alphabetical order, Cellucci, Malone and McGovern. We don't have a chance with Scott Harshbarger. He refuses to admit that his state prosecutors made a mistake, despite all the new scientific evidence to the contrary and the integrity of the two trial court judges who set Cheryl Amirault free and ordered her a new trail.

If Harshbarger wins the general election, Gerald could be imprisoned for many more years, a victim of the worst injustice that this commonwealth has dealt since the Salem witch trials.

Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I personally care more about justice and decency than state taxes; I can always leave Massachusetts if the taxes get worse. Gerald, however, can't just walk out of jail without the involvement of people of conscience, and if it takes voting once for a liberal against a worse liberal, that's what I'll do. Then I'll hope that in the end, voters will keep a balance in the State House by choosing the "no new taxes" candidate for the job, whichever one wins the Republican primary.

Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. Her bi-weekly column is syndicated and appears in the (Quincy) Patriot Ledger, (Salem) Evening News, (Attleboro) Sun-Chronicle, (Worcester) Telegram-Gazette and others.

Return to Barbara's Columns