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Arthur Schaper: Another Special Election In Massachusetts! (Meh)

Friday, September 27, 2013


How many special elections does Massachusetts needs to go through before we get back to the business of governance?

How many elections does it take to shape the political culture in a state?

Not enough, apparently, at least in Massachusetts.

From the sudden death of US Senator Ted Kennedy in 2009 until the recent appointment of John Kerry to Secretary of State, with local elections and a Congressional election thrown in, Massachusetts residents have been taking a beating at the polls, and not because they are losing votes, but because they have to give them.

Well, I guess one can argue that Massachusetts voters are losing something, after all.

Campaign ads, billboards, ballots. I fear that bullets may start falling in the cradle of the American Revolution. Shoot first and ask questions later might be the next tack for Bay State voters to take with politicians here, there, and everywhere.

A shot heard round the world, if you will.

The real question, though, remains.. . .

Why does the Bay State have so many elections?

Death, retirement, attrition, advancement.

Death is a part of life, Forrest, er Ted.

People move on to the after-life (I wonder if Teddy met that girl whose heart, and everything else, he left in Chappaquiddick), and if a seat in office, whether local, state, or federal, has a Kennedy connection, good luck seeing anyone else take the spot.

Barney Frank retired (frankly, I’m glad, but his lack of candor on the Housing Crisis and the fall of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still need some vetting), and a Kennedy stepped into his seat. Or inherited it, but what’s the difference, really?

Maybe former Governor and President Calvin Coolidge was wrong. You can help the weak by pulling down the strong, those with strong familial and political machine ties, that is.

Attrition, cutting, loss of representation. New elections often ensue when a state loses a House Rep because of population growth (the lack thereof, that is). More people are leaving than staying in Massachusetts, including the criminals. Whitey Bulger was hanging out in my backyard, rent control and all in Santa Monica, California. Creepy? Of course. . .no one should be living in a big apartment at a fixed price!

He had elected to stay in hiding, but the Federal Bureau of Investigations had other plans (they found him, at last!), and brought him to justice. Now if only the FBI started paying attention to the legalized mafia-muffing on Beacon Hill. Price controls for health care, technology taxes, and Governor Patrick is giving up the corner office next year, but not without giving up his tax-and-spendthrift ways. Forget about the skittles and soda, since they cost too much with all the taxes. Gov. Patrick wanted to control health care costs, so why not fight the obese epidemic? How about fighting the spending addiction from the statehouse, which is driving the state into the poor house, too?

We were talking about special elections, though, and there is no election as special as electing a new governor. Scott Brown said “No!” He had already run for office twice, the first time as a state senator turned US Senator to replace Ted Kennedy, and then in the special election the next year for a full-term in the upper chamber (in Washington, not Boston).

There’s the third reason for special elections: advancement. Not just for higher pubic office, of course. Sometimes, a politician gets tired of politicking from within, and a think-tank says “Come on over!” Write some papers, give some speeches, explain to everyone why little “D” democracy does not work, but neglect to explain why you did so little while in office. What a gig, right?

Local leaders move on to head colleges, and the state seat opens up. John Kerry served in the US Senate, whether he was for or against or both, and a senate seat opened up. Markey vs. Gomez marked up the state, and now a special election for the Fifth Congressional district has opened up (Markey will stay in Washington and not regret it).

So, what is to be done about this spate of special elections?

Number one: get rid of excessive state offices. The Lieutenant Governor does not do much. The office is vacant, anyway, and the Number Two statewide office makes them feel like Number Two. Scrap it.

How many state selectmen does a state have to have? The voters should be allowed to be more selective, and that means allowing them to elect fewer people to office in the first place. Imagine the savings. Less voting, less registration, less campaigning, fewer billboards and advertisements.

The Commonwealth could enjoy some peace and quiet from all the “Vote for me!” rah-rah.

Number two: fewer local elections. Consolidate local offices. How many city leaders does a city really need?

Number three: Pass a law which mandates that an elected official fill out his time in office, or pay a really high fine. Forget term limits. How about honoring one’s commitment to the office for which one was elected?

I’d vote for those reforms. What about you?

Maybe I should run for office on a platform of not running for office! (*Meh*)

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


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