Of all the seasons,
autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.
— Hal Borland
Thank you, Hal Borland; that is a wonderful reminder for those who
begin dreading winter the minute the sun crosses the equator. We
don't have to shovel snow yet; I just have to replace the screens
with storms and slap some stain on the dried-out deck, then I can
take a break to have lunch in the sun with my chrysanthemums and
golden-orange maple tree.
But it's a short break. To paraphrase Hal: Every two years, autumn
campaign season offers the most to man and requires the best of him.
(Note: "man" to me is just short for human, male and female).
In my younger days I barely had time to notice the season, as I
worked long hours on initiative petitions that would be on the
However, I do have great memories of October media tours to
newspaper offices across the state on glorious sunny autumn days.
Nowadays I just enjoy short drives to candidate events in my area:
the primary election night rally with Richard Tisei at the
Waterfront Hotel in Salem, and a fundraiser last week in Lynnfield;
a beautiful late afternoon fundraiser with Charlie Baker and Karyn
Polito and a sunset event with Scott Brown, visiting Massachusetts
friends who support his New Hampshire U.S. Senate campaign.
The farthest I had to drive was a block party at the home of Tom
Lyons, running for state representative from Danvers, Middleton and
West Peabody; it rained and turned into a cozy garage
party. I had
an interesting conversation about books we've both read with the
pre-teen son of Mike Morales, candidate for Register of Probate.
Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, was guest speaker; now it's he and his
Tank the Automatic Gas Tax campaigners who run around the state
selling a "yes" vote on their ballot question. I just put the bumper
sticker on my car for local advertising, along with "I heart Prop 2½", and of course the names of my favorite candidates.
Election year autumn requires so much from these candidates and
initiative petition leaders -- and requires that the rest of us make
the effort to choose the best person for whom to vote, and decide
the correct answer on the ballot questions. Autumn, every other
year, requires the best of us, as citizens and voters, to make our
state and federal governments respect us.
So, I move on from attending candidate events, with the food and
good company, to watching candidate debates. A gubernatorial "forum"
was held Monday, in Springfield, but available on radio and on WGBH-TV,
where I watched it. When the hour was over, I wished I'd actually
been in western Massachusetts so I could run to the Berkshire Hills,
looking for a cave in which to hide for the next five weeks. On the
other hand, I figure we've hit bottom early and the debates can only
Here is one common problem: Autumn politics attracts some of the
worst kind of politician, the ego or ideology-driven "independents"
who cannot possibly win but can affect just enough votes to elect
the worse of the viable candidates. Yes, I recognize that our
political system allows third-parties, but I just want them to
explain this to me: What's the point?
So there they were on the Springfield stage, lined up in alphabetic
order: Charlie Baker, Martha Coakley, polling in the latest Suffolk
poll at Baker 43.2 percent, Coakley 43.8 percent; and three more
people who, along with "Undecided" or "Don't give a fig" get the
remaining 13 percent among them. There's Evan Falchuk, personably
incoherent liberal so more likely to take voters from Coakley; Rev.
Lively, preaching the Bible; and Jeff McCormick, a businessman who
seems to agree with traditional Republicans on issues -- so what is
he doing opposing Baker now instead of in the primary?
Falchuk wants driver tolls on state border crossings. Everyone but
Lively was concerned about "global warming." Everyone but Lively
seemed to want more spending, on higher education, pre-school,
infrastructure. The moderator didn't ask about raising taxes to
cover all this. Lively said he wants to cut taxes and the size of
Please don't think that because I would agree with Lively on more
issues than with the other candidates, I'd ever support a
Bible-thumping social conservative for governor, even if his
inexperience wasn't already a disqualifier.
Audience asked about letting pharmacies dispense medical marijuana;
good question. No one had a good answer.
McCormick's most memorable line was: "Great companies are built by
great people." How fatuously insightful.
My theory is that most businessmen running as independents have been
schmoozed by Democrats offering a job in the winning Democrat's
administration if the spoiler helps throw him the election, or,
delusional patsies who have been schmoozed by either Democrats or
personal enemies of the Republican candidate into believing that
they can actually win as an independent.
McCormick added nothing to the debate, which was already mostly
nothing, though perhaps useful as an introduction to all the
candidates if you'd never seen them before. I heard a lot of
blah-blah-blah; Baker at least answered the specific questions, made
a good point about lost opportunities in last four years; the others
mostly said whatever odd or practiced thing leapt to mind. No
follow-up, no chance to argue or rebut.
One, only one, lively moment, when Baker went after Lively for his
opposition to gays, seemingly aware of the young people in the
audience. Throughout, Coakley remembered to present that
phony-looking smile every 15th second.
I am voting against Coakley which means I am voting for Baker
whether I'm impressed with his debate performances or not. Maybe
this means I can spend more time just watching the autumn leaves