Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
January 2000 #2

A Real Swift Move
by Barbara Anderson

So are you shocked? Lt. Governor Jane Swift has been caught using state employees as babysitters and errand-runners. Our trailblazing New Woman, who insisted that she could combine career and baby care, has in fact found a way to do this. Inevitably, her method resembles the way some male politicians have combined career and home maintenance: send the staff home to paint the house.

Once caught, the New Woman took refuge in her gender specialness, explaining that it is tough working full time and taking care of a baby. Let's admit that it's also tough working full time and painting the house. Maybe we taxpayers are willing to pay for "personal staff" for all our politicians, so they can concentrate on the important business at hand.

If so, I must regret that I spent the last twenty years working full-time as a taxpayer activist, then using my free time to run errands. I could have run for office, then called for someone from the "personal errand pool" to drive my son to college and mow the lawn.

I coulda been a trailblazer, if I'd been willing to be a contendah.

In the mid-'80s, the Republican Party was looking for a candidate to run for governor against Michael Dukakis, and my name came up as his possible running mate.

I wasn't interested in running for anything, especially the do-nothing office of lieutenant governor, which I thought should be abolished. But faced with another four years of Dukakis I came up with this great idea: I would run with former-Governor Ed King if we could combine the job of lieutenant governor and chief of staff, putting me right in the middle of whatever was happening.

Unfortunately, Ed King wasn't running, and I wouldn't sacrifice my non-politician self-image for anyone but him, so that was the end of my plan -- until four years later when Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci created a similar partnership. It still made perfect sense to me: why should taxpayers fund an office that didn't do anything but wait for a governor to drop dead or resign? Lt. Gov. Cellucci was an active half of the Weld team, and it worked so well for him and the commonwealth that he repeated the pattern with his own running mate eight years later.

He and Jane Swift became the trailblazers, I got to remain a non-politician, and there we were last month, the three of us, taking the income tax rollback to the Secretary of State. They were pushing two wheelbarrows full of petitions, and I was between them, right in the middle of what was happening! Life just works out well sometimes.

So I support Jane Swift for exactly the same reasons I support Paul Cellucci: they both have been testing my plan, they support tax cuts, and as legislators they both scored high on the Citizens for Limited Taxation taxpayer rating. The fact that Jane Swift is a woman seems to capture the imagination of some observers, but not mine. I have never indulged in the fantasy that the solution to "politics as usual" is to elect more women to office.

I've not worked closely with Swift but from what I hear, she is no more "compassionate" than a male politician would be in her place. Whether she insisted Peter Blute be fired after the booze cruise because they had a bad relationship when she worked for him at Massport, or because she was genuinely indignant that he had embarrassed the administration, he was nevertheless fired.

Would Paul Cellucci have dismissed him without her encouragement, or would the "good old boy network" have opted for mercy? I'd bet on the former. Politics, if it is done successfully, is usually done practically, by men and women politicians alike.

Years before the feminist revolution, I read a play about a future world in which women exchanged roles with men. The idea had been that the world would be a kinder place with the gentler sex in charge, but all that happened was that men became gentle and women started waging wars. Either way, h/she who had the power used it pretty much the same way it's always been used.

Polling shows that men and women voters can be different in their approaches to candidates and issues, but the kind of people who aspire to political office aren't just Women from Venus or Men from Mars, they're a category of their own: Politicians from Pluto, the planet of power.

And those who believe that electing women instead of men will make the world a better place are living on another planet altogether. Take it from someone who mighta been a woman politician, and avoided numerous trips to the drycleaners, if only Ed King had run in '86.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.  Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News, the Cape Cod Journal, the Lowell Sun, and MediaNews Group newspapers around the state; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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