Friday, December 25, 2009

Why the "Democratic Monopoly" in Massachusetts?

Every election cycle we hear appeals to vote Republican in order to break the Democratic stranglehold on state politics. This is a plausible argument until you look at the details.

Today's Republican Party is far to the right of the Grand Old Party of yesteryear - and far, far to the right of the public on the real issues. Ballot access and press coverage is very poor for third-party candidates. This, combined with the awful state of Republican politics, has the effect of herding everyone else into the Democratic fold. People of widely differing views, representing widely divergent interests, must time and again come together in the general election to prevent well-funded Republicans from winning.

Thus most of the real politics in America - politics that is not about empty slogans, concocted "cultural issues" or campaigns to scapegoat one group or another - has to play out within the Democratic Party. It is a sign of the political health of the Massachusetts voters that - given the system we have - the real political contests here are played out in the Democratic Primaries.

Labor and neighborhood activists, small business leaders, non-profit leaders, activists from professional associations, professional bureaucrats and administrators, entrepreneurs and socially-conscious "old money" and financiers struggle over the Democratic nomination. Then everyone who isn't politically insane rallies around the winner in the general election. Of necessity we all maintain an attitude of civility toward each other, insisting that "we're all Democrats", since we need to all co-exist within the only framework available for sane people who want a shot at political power.

The recent primary contest for the Senate seat showcased this scenario, with very distinct constituencies coalescing around Coakley, Khazei and Capuano. Passions and rhetoric ran high; but if Brown showed signs of having a real chance we would all sober up and rally around Coakley.
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