Friday, June 01, 2007

The race for the 5th.

I love history. It’s what defines us, shapes our decisions and molds our future. I love politics because politics is the feedstock of history. You could say it’s history’s cutting edge. I’ve participated in every election since 1968, one-way or another. It’s been interesting and I can honestly say I’ve never met a politician I disliked.

I may despise their politics but I can’t bring myself to dislike anyone who is willing to strip naked before us in public and offer to do what most of us just want taken care of. Some of the politicians I’ve met may be corrupt, I don’t know, but they sure aren’t getting rich. If we complain about the quality of the candidates then just look at what we are willing to pay them. A state representative in Massachusetts only gets $48,000 a year so don’t expect many people to run for that job. Any kid out of law school is going to make more.

If politicians have large egos so what? If you aren’t going to pay your politicians a decent wage but expect them to be Mormon clean then ego is about the only motivation besides doing-good (which I always find suspect – I don’t think I would have liked Gandhi) and martyrdom (equally suspect) that’s available besides corruption. I never met the Mayor of Providence RI.

This quiet rant brings me to the current race for Congressman in the 5th district here in Massachusetts. Congressman Marty Meehan got tired of waiting for Ted Kennedy to retire or John Kerry to win the Presidency so he could run for the U.S. Senate so he quit his job in mid term to take the job of the President of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, which gave him a significant pay raise over his congressional salary. This is the first “big” political opening in years so there is a lot of interest among local ambitious politicians.

I have a personal interest in this race. Paul Tsongas was a genuine good guy. I like to think I talked him into running for President of the U.S. when no other Democrats had the courage to run – we had an hour-long chat on Easter Sunday 1991. His widow is one of the candidates running for congressman. On an appeal to emotion she should be a shoe in but she doesn’t even live in the district not that it’s ever stopped a Kennedy but she’s not a Kennedy. Hillary Clinton aside I don’t count being married to a politician the same thing as political experience; riding in a car is not the same thing as driving a car.

My personal favorite in this race is Jamie Eldridge. He’s a live at home, 30 something, state representative from the town next door, Acton Massachusetts. He too is a genuine good guy if I am any judge of character. His politics is about as far left as you can get in a very left leaning state without falling out of the local mainstream. It’s easy to guess where he stands on every issue. He’s still idealistic which is charming. If he wins I hope he doesn’t become too cynical to soon.

What sparked this outburst is a new technology. We have all seen polls taken every day and published in the local newspapers. These are just abstract numbers that often don’t mean much to us; we have no vested interest in the results. Of course we are thrilled when our boy (or girl) is on top and we deride polls when our favorite is out of favor but still a poll is an abstract concept. Enter When you sign up on you are given a virtual bank account of $5000 to bet on “stocks” anyway you want. You get a daily account of how much you have earned or lost. In the case of a political race the dollar value of your candidate is equal to the percent of the vote he will get on Election Day, the total value of the race is $100. You can buy puts and calls; bet that a particular “stock” will go up or down.

Here is the current “market” for the Congressional race for the Massachusetts 5th district:

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