and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
August #4

Sitting out the conventions
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 28, 2008

I feel like a political orphan this week.

In 30 years of political activism, I have never been to a national convention and have no desire to be in either Colorado or Minneapolis this year either. The partisan scene has never appealed to me.

I am glad it appeals to others, since our democracy depends on the partisan activists we see waving banners and cheering for their candidates. For people more sociable than I, it must be fun to be part of the crowd in the convention hall when history is being made. I do watch the conventions on television, remember watching with my parents when John Kennedy was nominated. Even have a vague memory of seeing Adlai Stevenson speak, though I'm not sure we even had a television then; could have been a newscast at the movie theater before the feature film.

So there I was on opening night, Democrat Convention 2008, with my bowl of microwave popcorn, watching speeches by Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama. I thought Sen. Kennedy looked very well; those who talked about him as a dying man may be wrong, with cancer having become more successfully treatable than many people realize. It crossed my mind that the failure of his battle for socialized medicine may be saving his life. Funny how things work out.

I also thought Michelle Obama did well - in fact, she sounded like a presidential candidate herself. Had this feeling that we've been down this road before, with a president's wife who thought she'd been co-elected, and it wasn't a pleasant trip. On the other hand, a lot of people like me are rooting for Hillary right now. Funny how things work out.

Still, I think the Republican spokesmen seem too cute in their expressed sympathy for Hillary Clinton; all observers know that they are trying to permanently separate Democratic women voters from Obama, which is a worthy goal but the method could backfire. Let Democrat women decide for themselves how partisan they are going to be on Election Day if they think their party's nominee is clearly less qualified for the job than either their preferred candidate or the Republican.

I didn't buy for a second that Michelle Obama is actually proud of our country for the same reasons I am proud of it. But we could admit that many people on both sides of the spectrum feel that American has been heading in the wrong direction, though the directions they deplore are opposite. Liberals are disappointed that we don't have socialized medicine, higher taxes, open borders and peace at any price, while people like me wish for a balanced budget, sensible immigration laws, and more Americans on the curb watching Memorial Day parades, hands on their hearts as the flag passes by.

I've always kind of liked Joe Biden, but I realized this is simply the longing so many of us have for a politician who says what he really thinks instead of blahblahtalkingpointsblah; though I mostly don't agree with what he really thinks. It's interesting that Barack Obama, who pauses before saying "good morning" for fear it might offend some voter somewhere, is now teamed with a man who blurts.

Joe Biden is my age, so his presence also cancels Democrat arguments that John McCain is too old. McCain wasn't my first choice, but he does also tend to say what he thinks instead of blahblahtalkingpointsblah, so I kind of like him too. Eager to see who he chooses as his running mate.

Eager, yes. I may be a political orphan, without a parent party, but I am part of the extended political family of people who pay attention to elections, choose their candidates, and vote, as opposed to the pathetic apathetic.

Of course there are other ways to be involved than working for candidates and voting. In Massachusetts, people often collect signatures on initiative petitions to create or repeal laws, and usually I applaud this exercise in pure democracy.

However, I'm not applauding the referendum, filed this week by MassResistance, to repeal the new law that lets homosexual partners from other states marry here. I still don't get why gay activists wanted this law so badly: when the newlyweds leave the commonwealth, they are no longer legally wed in their own states, so what's the point?

Point or none, some anti-gay marriage activists are now planning to collect signatures to repeal the new law; other "defense of marriage" groups, to their credit, are letting this go.

By the time the repeal would get to the ballot, it would lose just as I am convinced the petition to repeal gay marriage for Massachusetts would have lost if it had made it to the ballot. Voters here wouldn't have actively created gay marriage, but I doubt they would have stopped it once it began either. There are still many cultural battles to be fought, and this is no longer one of them.

So, nothing political for me to do this weekend: no conventions to attend, no petitions to sign. The hammock awaits...

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.