Monday, June 25, 2007


It’s a rare event here in Massachusetts that we get to choose a new Congressman. Once elected most congressmen run more or less unopposed and the general public spends years grumbling about the lack of choices. This year there are five Democrats and two Republicans running for congress from the fifth district, an embarrassment of political riches. Yet few people are excited, few people show up at political events and fewer still participate in the local political process at any level.

Politicians are not sprung fully formed from fissures opened from Hades for the sole purpose of delivering tormentors and oppressors to the ballot box, as many would seem to believe. All politicians start out as concerned citizens who run for local office with a sincere desire to help fix things. If they are successful they may run for higher office and eventually they show up on a ballot that really counts. This is the point where most of the electorate discovers the candidates and pronounce them all wanting and wish for additional choices.

The new majority of the “un-enrolled” electorate has deliberately, if unintentionally, disenfranchised themselves by placing the two major political parties at arms length. Almost all political opinions fall into the camps traditionally called “Liberal” or “Conservative” and the two major political parties do, for the most part, represent those two views. If the Republicans have become the party of the lunatic right or the Democrats, the lunatic left it’s because the “un-enrolled” center have chosen to abrogate their responsibilities to participate in the political process. You have no one to blame but yourselves.

As Tip O’Neil said, “all politics is local,” and between the races for Selectman the races for Congress is an entire spectrum of political action denied to those who remain un-enrolled, un-engaged and un-aware. Every town in the Commonwealth has a Democratic and a Republican town committee. It’s at the Town Committee level that candidates for state office first make themselves known. By the time someone runs for State Representative or State Senator it’s likely that they have been active in a Town Committee for years, it’s likely that they have worked for some other politician of their political persuasion and it’s likely that they know or have personally met most of the political leadership of their party from the town committee chairman up through Governor, Congressman, Senator or beyond.

The sad truth is that most Town Committees (both Republican and Democratic) find it hard to recruit active members. The result is that a small group of political activists of one extreme or the other determine who will be viable candidates for state government and as a result who will supply the feedstock for higher office.

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