Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drip, drip, drip... Why can't Obama fix a leak?

The Gulf oil spill this year was one of the biggest challenges for the Obama administration to-date. About 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the waters before the leak was plugged, endangering wildlife across the Gulf coast and threatening our economy.

No, the Obama administration didn't cause the oil spill. But, it didn't act nimbly enough to stop the leak for months, and more could have been done to prevent it.

Now, President Obama is facing a different kind of leak at the hands of another third party, one that threatens our national security and endangers American citizens.

WikiLeaks was not a sneak or surprise attack. The media has been teasing the latest round of released information for weeks. In fact, the New York Times and other papers around the world allegedly were given an advance copy of released documents for review. Yet, seemingly nothing was done to stop the release of this information.

Maybe we missed it, but where is the outrage from President Obama? What is being done to stop this leak of information, to hold those responsible for it accountable, and to prevent the release of classified information in the future?

Remember when the Tim Cahill for Massachusetts Governor campaign alleged that internal information had been released by its campaign consultants? Cahill's legal and public response to the alleged leak of campaign information about a statewide political race was seemingly swifter and more aggressive than what the Obama administration is doing to combat one of the biggest releases of classified national government information in the history of the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of documents have been released by WikiLeaks so far, some of them classified materials that deal with America's relationship with foreign nations and the war on terror. Think about the magnitude: if each of these documents was only one page long, the trail of supposedly-secret papers released would stretch almost 90 miles, or roughly the distance from Boston to Springfield. But there seems to be little shock or outrage about the leak because it is floating in the abyss of the Internet, where people are used to seeing supposedly-private information released for public scrutiny regularly.

WikiLeaks is not like tabloid sites showing videos of Paris Hilton, or like Tiger Woods' text messages being printed in the newspaper. This is serious business. American lives are at stake, and our national security is in serious danger, not to mention our reputation with foreign countries in the diplomatic community.

In the latest issue of Der Spiegel (Germany's main newspaper), the paper editorializes:

"Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information -- data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America's partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public -- as have America's true views of them." http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,731580,00.html

The lack of any meaningful response leads us to conclude that the real answer is either one of two things. One possibility is that the Obama administration disapproves of the leak but that it really isn't that outraged about it. We don't think the administration actually wants classified documents released, but perhaps having thousands of documents showing that the administration favors diplomacy over the use of force in dealing with foreign threats isn't seen as such a bad thing on balance. (After all, Obama campaigned on that foreign policy platform.) The other possibility is that, much like what apparently happened with the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration actually doesn't have any idea how to stop this leak, and it doesn't know how to regain sound control over sensitive documents to prevent future leaks.

Both possibilities are equally alarming, and Americans deserve answers and a resolute response. One thing is sure: if a lone Army private supposedly armed with a Lady Gaga CD and a memory stick can do so much damage, American national security is at cataclysmic risk.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Problems with the "Four Loko" ban

Earlier this month, Massachusetts banned the sale of caffeinated alcoholic beverages and malt beverages that contain herbal or chemical stimulants (the most well-known beverage being "Four Loko").

We're not connoisseurs of these drinks and we acknowledge their harmfulness. So, we have no particular problem with their ban. But, we think it's worth noting a very interesting aspect of the ban that is being overlooked.

What actually happened here is the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (which is overseen by the state Treasurer) issued an emergency regulation to ban the sale of these drinks.

We think this is a poor precedent because this sort of policy ought to be set by the Legislature, which is in charge of making laws regarding the sale of alcohol (most of which are set forth in Chapter 138 of the General Laws).

There's a reason for that. Theoretically, the Legislature is supposed to be better-equipped than a constitutional officer to gather information about policy decisions, factor public input, and debate the issue. But, that didn't happen here.

Let's face it. There's no "emergency" behind these regulations; the "emergency" is that no one planned ahead for these beverages to be sold here and to lead to an under-age drinking problem. The Legislature is not known for its swift action addressing problems, but had there been a clear and present danger to public health, the Legislature could have issued a similar ban in an afternoon.

In addition, liquor store owners already faced with the complexity of complying with new and changing tax laws, now have to deal with an ever-changing list of banned products set forth in regulation (the regulation says new products can be added to the ban), and the potential penalty of having their license suspended.

At the end of the day, public safety is paramount. Having a ban in place is better than not having one. So, what's the danger here? The problem is a slippery slope of state law being made by people other than the Legislature, whether it's a constitutional officer, an administrative agency, or a court. The place for making laws is in the Legislature. And regardless of your opinion of our particular Legislature and what confidence you have in its abilities, we think it's still important to respect boundaries and keep things in their proper place.

Whatever the case, the ABCC's emergency ban is in effect for only 90 days. It will be interesting to see what the Legislature does after that time, or if a follow-up regulation will be issued.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Traveling to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving? Here's our travel guide.

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, and as usual, Massachusetts will open its doors to thousands of out-of-state holiday tourists this week.

If you're one of those tourists visiting us from out-of-state, welcome! If you're here for the first time in a while, you might notice that some things have changed. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Depending on when you last visited us, you might notice that things are more expensive than they used to be. Why? Well, in the past year or so, legislators have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes and fees. Here's a primer:
    1. Our state sales tax increased from 5 percent to 6.25 percent last August. So, everything you buy will automatically cost more. (And, the tax is tougher to figure out in your head.) We apologize on behalf of Massachusetts for this extra tax, but we need your help paying for things like per diems for state legislators. Thanks for chipping in.
    2. Thinking of getting a nice bottle of wine as a holiday housewarming gift for your hosts? Well, bad news. When the sales tax increased last year, it was also expanded to cover the retail sale of beer and alcohol - and, that's on top of the pre-existing excise tax. We apologize, but there's also good news. Voters repealed the tax at the ballot box in November. So, if you come back next year, the tax will be gone. We think.
    3. Staying in a hotel instead of with relatives? More bad news. Massachusetts allows cities and towns to impose a local option tax on hotel stays, and it went up last year, too. It was a 4 percent cap, now it's up to 6 percent (6.5 percent in Boston). Our state doesn't pay enough local aid to fund municipal services, so it's up to you to make up the difference.
  • U r not going 2 like this 4 sure... No texting while driving in Massachusetts. Traffic conditions remain more or less the same, however, and it's still basically impossible to find out where you're going. Some of our roadways are being fixed up, though. Thanks for all of that ARRA stimulus money! (Just look for one of those huge green ARRA signs to identify funded projects. They're everywhere.)
  • Looking for things to do while you're here? How about hitting the casino for a little gambling? All you have to do is drive across the border. Massachusetts legislators failed to pass a casino bill before the end of the legislative session. Maybe next year.
  • Want some good news? We actually have a Republican US Senator from Massachusetts - Scott Brown. Unfortunately, Democrats control most other state and federal elected positions in Massachusetts. But, rest assured, we're working on it.
  • Flying home? Well, friendly TSA agents at Logan Airport have a goodbye pat waiting for you. It's not what you got the last time you flew out of Logan, and let's just say that it's not a pat on the back...

That should more or less bring you up to speed. Thanks for visiting Massachusetts, and we hope you'll come back real soon.

(Editors' note: Do you have an item to add to our list? Please post a comment below and let us know your suggestions!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

North Korea - A problem child needing urgent discipline

This morning's breaking news is of trouble on the Korean peninsula, with reports that North Korea has bombed a populated South Korean island, killing at least two people.

You can read more about the breaking developments here.

North Korea's flexing of its military muscle exposes the pressing danger it poses to international peace. It also highlights the abject failure of the United States to address the North's menace. Recent events - including the naming of a successor to Kim Jong Il, advances in North Korea's uranium enrichment capabilities, and the North's alleged (albeit denied) sinking of a South Korean warship, among others - all show North Korea to be a problem child in need of urgent discipline.

The situation grows more difficult by the day, as the political clout of the United States in the region is increasingly compromised by the massive share of our national debt held by China, an ally of the North. This makes a satisfying diplomatic resolution more remote, and also inhibits American capacity to deal with the situation through force if necessary.

We think the Korean situation demands immediate international attention, with the United States taking a decisive leadership role to protect South Korea from incursion and to prevent the North from developing a nuclear capability. Diplomacy must be put on the fast-track, and additional options must be weighed if diplomacy fails. The international community cannot afford to sit idly by and wait until the situation spirals out of control.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's time to pull the plug on the federal death tax

Today's Boston Globe contains an interesting article on the federal estate tax, which should serve as required reading for everyone who owns a home or small business.

For many years, the state and federal government have levied estate taxes on accumulated wealth when people die. The very purpose of the tax is also its biggest evil - it's deliberately intended to prevent people from accumulating wealth from generation to generation. Proponents argue this tax is how to prevent development of a new class of "robber barons" from hoarding wealth. Opponents say the tax hurts common folk who want to pass on the family home or business to their kids instead of Uncle Sam.

As the Globe points out in its well-written article, the federal estate tax has been phased out in recent years under tax cuts enacted during President Bush's first term. But, due to a quirk in the law, the tax is set to rise from the dead as of January 1, 2011. And, it's going to pack a punch, with a 55 percent tax rate and an exemption of only $1 million (which sounds like a lot of money until you try to value a home or small business).

We think there are a couple of interesting points to make in light of this article:

  • First, we think Democrats in Congress should consider making it part of their lame-duck, end-of-session agenda to either make the repeal of the death tax permanent, or to enact a long-term tax with substantially lowered tax rates and increased exemptions. In terms of tax policy, this would inject predictability and fairness into the tax code while eliminating confusion and inequity that arises when people who die at different times are subject to vastly different tax rates. Politically, it would be a signal by Democrats that they listened to anti-tax and economic sentiment voiced during this month's mid-term elections. Democrats could one-up incoming GOP members by striking first to prevent a tax increase next year.
  • Second, we think Massachusetts lawmakers (particularly those in the GOP) should take a close look at the state tax structure to blunt the effect of any federal tax increase. This is particularly important given facts cited in the article about how the federal tax would affect Massachusetts residents more than people in some other states.
  • Third, we think it's worth pointing out the Globe's mention that some people might actually make end-of-life decisions based on the reemergence of the tax. This is illustrative of a broader point - taxes matter. They have a profound impact on people's lives, and people factor taxes into important decisions. This is especially important in the business setting. Perhaps the Globe will recognize at some point that, if people would be willing to make end-of-life decisions based on the estate tax, they definitely factor things like higher sales taxes and corporate taxes into decisions about whether to live in Massachusetts or to invest to grow jobs here.

It will be interesting to see if repealing or reforming the estate tax will be one of the last acts by outgoing Democrats this year, or if it's one of the first acts of a new GOP House in 2011. Either way, we hope this is one tax that won't be back to stay.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lyric speaks at the Greater Lawrence Kiwanis

Thanks to the Greater Lawrence Kiwanis for inviting us to speak at their weekly luncheon at the Lanam Club in Andover today.

The subject of our talk was the "New Political Atmosphere" following this November's elections. In particular, we spoke about how the political landscape changed in Massachusetts and nationwide, challenges for Republicans and Democrats in the next Congress, and how Massachusetts will deal with budget problems in 2011.

The Kiwanis is a great organization doing some much-needed work in the community.

Last night's Republican State Committee meeting

From our vantage point in the back of the State Committee meeting in Newton last night, it was clear that some activists and State Committee members came to the meeting looking for a fight.

But, it was also clear to us from the applause and from comments by State Committee members that GOP Chair Jennifer Nassour retains a lot of support.

As well she should.

The GOP made substantial legislative pickups this year. The House Republican Caucus is at its strongest point in years, and it was surreal to see so many new members stand in the front of the room to be recognized last night. As Nassour mentioned at the meeting, when she was elected State Committee chair in 2009, critics told her the party did not do enough to support legislative races two years ago. Nassour made it a point to do things differently this time, and we think this support was a decisive factor in many wins.

It was disappointing to us that last night - the final State Committee meeting of the year and in a year in which the party made so many gains - there were some people who wanted to spend time assessing blame and casting aspersions for the losses the party did sustain. If Republican activists want to beat the Democrats the next time around, they need to start now working collectively to build grassroots support and field another slate of good candidates, not waste time bickering about who will lead the charge.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nassour for the GOP

We're disappointed by reports in today's Boston Herald that certain people are apparently still pushing for a vote on replacing Jennifer Nassour as Massachusetts GOP Party Chair.

We believe Nassour has done an admirable job raising the profile of the Massachusetts GOP and promoting the election of GOP candidates statewide. In particular, she ran a very successful convention, she contributed to Senator Brown's come-from-behind win, and she assisted in the doubling of GOP ranks in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. These accomplishments, in addition to strong fundraising success, are unheard of in recent memory, and we think they more than entitle Nassour to complete her term as party chair and continue her work rebuilding the party.

We wonder how much of this is just unhappy grumbling about November 2's results, since there is no talk of an apparent alternative candidate. We're planning to go to tonight's state committee meeting to see what happens, and we'll be sure to share our impressions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Boston media picks up on "For Attribution" blog

In a story posted on BostonHerald.com this afternoon, the State House News Service wrote about our recent posting on Five Easy Reforms for the GOP.

In particular, the posting talks about our suggestion for GOP members to refuse pay raises, per diems, pension, stipends and expense accounts. "Republicans could get the ball rolling by voluntarily pledging these reforms themselves and leading by example," we said in the post.

Please click here to read the full story. You can read the full blog post here.

Gov. Patrick and the Legislature need to do more to address violent crime

When Domino's pizza delivery man Richel Nova was brutally murdered in September, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley was quoted in the Boston Globe summing up the crime this way:

"This was one of those crimes that shocked the city in a year, unfortunately, of some pretty shocking crimes."

A new study being released today confirms Conley's statement. According to the Massachusetts Health Council, Massachusetts officially has a higher rate of violent crime than New York. In fact, Massachusetts leads the entire Northeast when it comes to violent crimes.

Governor Patrick, what are you going to do about this?

Whenever there is a violent crime, we have become accustomed to seeing Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Police Commissioner Ed Davis at a press conference expressing outrage and vowing to do more to combat crime. Mayor Menino, who had a personal connection to Richel Nova, was criticized for saying he would "slowly torture" the people who committed that crime.

But where have Governor Patrick, Senate President Murray and House Speaker DeLeo been? Why have they not been asked to do more to address violent crime statewide? Why does the press never take them to task for this issue?

Even the Boston Globe seems to give state government a free pass. In a recent Globe editorial about "grisly" murders in Mattapan, the paper credited government for building an expensive state-of-the-art library and community health center in the neighborhood where the crime took place. For the violence, they blamed the "depraved soldiers of the illegal drug trade," and they said the responsibility for dealing with crime lies with law enforcement and neighborhood residents.

We acknowledge the difficulty of solving violent crime. But, we also think leadership starts at the top, and political leadership on the issue of violent crime has been sorely lacking once you step outside City Hall. We hope that Governor Patrick's second term will give him and colleagues in the Legislature opportunity to do more than issue press releases about ways to deal with violent crime in our streets. Perhaps this morning's latest headline, this time about a murder victim in Governor Patrick's usually-tranquil home town of Milton, will give leaders renewed reason to focus attention on this issue.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Five easy reforms for the GOP

One of the bright spots for the GOP in Massachusetts last week was the fact that Republicans dramatically increased their ranks in the Legislature.

This infusion of conservatives in the Legislature is great news for anyone who thinks balance is a good thing, and it will be good to shake up one-party rule, if only a little. We think incoming GOP members should consider starting with five simple reforms that would save money and make an even more significant statement that Republicans are there to stand up for taxpayers and good government:

  • Refuse to take a pay raise. Under the Constitution, state legislators get an automatic pay raise every two years based on the economy. If legislators are given a pay raise this year, we think GOP reps should refuse to take it.
  • Don't take per diems. One of the perks of being a member of the Legislature is that you are paid just for driving to work. Maybe this made sense back when members rode horses from western Massachusetts to the State House, but these days, per diems don't make sense. We think GOP members should refuse to claim per diem payments.
  • Give up leadership pay. We respect members whose work as legislative leadership or as committee chairs requires them to put in more time and effort than rank-and-file members. But leadership stipends don't make sense in a full-time legislature, where it's assumed that all members put in full-time effort on legislative business (even if they don't). We think it would send a strong statement if GOP members refused to take leadership pay, particularly in the Senate, where there are only a handful of members.
  • Pledge not to take a public pension. A number of GOP candidates this year pledged not to take a public pension. We think GOP members should follow suit.
  • Eliminate legislative expense accounts. Each legislator gets several thousand dollars each year to cover office expenses. At the same time, many other public employees (for example, teachers) are required to pay out-of-pocket to cover work-related expenses. We think it makes sense to forego this payment, especially when members could raise campaign funds to cover these expenses.

We're not trying to pick on GOP members; we think these reforms should be made by all legislators. But Republicans could get the ball rolling by voluntarily pledging these reforms themselves and leading by example. Some incoming members, like Ryan Fattman from Sutton, have already pledged not to take per diems or a pension. We applaud him and others like him for this courageous position, and we wonder if others (especially longer-serving GOP members) will be willing to follow his lead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Republicans are coming! The Republicans are coming!

Today's Boston Globe sounds the alarm that Massachusetts could lose $200 million in federal funding for projects here in the Bay State as Congress fills up with fiscally-conservative Republicans.

But when you look deeper in the article, you see that this coveted federal money is not intended for job creation, schools, or some of the other things you'd expect the government to invest in with a national unemployment rate over nine percent and a $13 trillion national debt.

Here's some of what's actually on the list:

  • Renovations for a new visitor's center abutting the Paul Revere House and new restroom facilities. Is this really a priority? We're sure Paul Revere would have liked more bathroom facilities in his house, too, but he didn't have the money for it either.
  • A $10 million cash infusion for the Edward Kennedy Institute for the US Senate. Isn't the $38.3 million federal funding already reserved for the project enough? The Globe says the facility "is scheduled to open in 2013 and is meant to serve as an educational facility and research center for students, academics, and elected officials." Isn't there another worthy education cause that would benefit everyone?
  • A $300,000 grant to replace a 911 communications tower in Newton. Newton just spent $200 million for a new high school. Could the community possibly have scrimped and saved a little bit to cover public safety costs?

This brings up two interesting issues related to last week's electoral results.

First, if Democrats in the Massachusetts Delegation lose their chairmanships and become less able to bring home the bacon for the Bay State with Republicans in charge of Congress, will they lose credibility going into the next election?

Second, with only a few weeks of Democratic hegemony left on Capitol Hill, what last-minute legislation will Democrats force through while they still have the chance? President Obama has two years left in his first term, but only two months left to accomplish his agenda without Republican interference.

Projects like the Paul Revere House and the Kennedy Institute both rely in part on private funding, but in times like these, maybe they need to rely on private funds even more. The Paul Revere House has been standing there for hundreds of years. Waiting an extra year or two until we can afford to put new bathrooms in isn't that long a wait, relatively speaking.

What do you think? Please post a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day

To all those who have served...

To all those who have sacrificed...

We thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Television in red and blue

Republicans like "Desperate Housewives?" Democrats like "Mad Men?"

So says a recently-released study by The Hollywood Reporter.

Here's what we noticed about their lists of the top 15 shows for each party persuasion:

  • Democrats seem to like pricey premium (cable) channels, whereas most of the Republican shows are on broadcast, basic cable t.v.
  • Republicans seem to favor shows about competition, like "Survivor," whereas Democrats go more for shows where it's not about winning and losing.
  • Twenty percent of the Democrats' top-15 shows feature former 'Saturday Night Live' personalities who poke fun at corporate America and/or public institutions.
  • Democrat-favored shows tend to air later in the evening, whereas many Republican-tending shows air at 8/9 p.m.

We won't get into the reasons behind these observations. We'll let you draw those conclusions yourself.

So, what do you think? Why are some shows more popular than others in Red and Blue demographics? Where do you fall on this list?

Please post a comment below and let us know what you think!

Massachusetts businesses feeling the post-election blues?

The Associated Press reports that Massachusetts employers have announced a wave of layoffs in the one week since Deval Patrick was re-elected Governor.

Could there be any doubt why? AIM reported before the election that business confidence was up, partly on the assumption that pro-tax-cutting candidates would be elected to the U.S. House in November. Could it be that Massachusetts businesses have the post-election blues after seeing Mass. Democrats prevail again?

One of Patrick's first initiatives when he took office was to raise corporate taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars. And, he capped off his first term by signing into law a crushing 25% increase in the state sales tax. Do we expect anything to really change in a second term, especially with the prospect of a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit next year?

It's disappointing to see tax policies sting some of our state's largest employers. But, small businesses are feeling the pinch too, even though it doesn't always make headlines. We see it every day as we talk to fellow small business owners struggling to deal with the rising cost of health care and tax increases.

These are the people who know on a deeply personal level what it's like to meet a bottom line and keep their people employed. These are the people who actually write the checks for health insurance, rent and federal and state taxes. They know first-hand how Massachusetts' economic policies rob businesses of any incentive to grow.

Small business owners are good citizens. By their very nature, they want to create jobs and be a thriving part of the state's economy. And, they're more than willing to pay their fair share for services they use. The problem is that, in Massachusetts, the government takes advantage of them. In the Bay State, growing your business means having to pay substantially bigger tax bills and deal with much higher costs of doing business. At the end of the day, it's often a wash, and small business owners simply can't get ahead - or even survive.

If we expect to retain and grow jobs here, our political leaders need to understand that small businesses need room to breathe, and that raising taxes is not the answer every time they try to spend money and state coffers come up short.

As a state, we rely on the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners to keep our economy going. Yet, we do little as a state to encourage that spirit and allow it to prosper.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"W" doesn't stand for wishy-washy

Did you see Matt Lauer's interview with President Bush on NBC last night?

There is much that will be said about Bush's new book, Decision Points, in the coming days. Much of it will likely focus on some of the controversial flashpoints of the Bush presidency: September 11th, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Hurricane Katrina, to name a few.

Instead of rehashing these arguments here, we'd like to focus on one particular factor of last night's interview. Whether you agree with President Bush's decisions or not, we think it's refreshing to hear Bush speak so openly and directly about the tough decisions he made as president. That quality is sorely lacking in American politics these days.

Ever since President Obama captured the nation's attention at the Democratic Convention in 2004, he has evoked comparisons to Lincoln and other great leaders based on his oratory power. But since Obama moved into the Oval Office himself, his words have lost persuasiveness because of his tendency to talk in circles without giving a straight answer or taking decisive action.

If Matt Lauer's interview last night had been with President Obama instead, NBC would have needed a mini-series to answer the same questions.

Americans thought Obama represented "change" because of his soaring rhetoric. Political watchers waxed poetic. Chris Matthews unabashedly said that, when he heard Obama speak, "I felt this thrill going up my leg." But, in hindsight and given the current state of foreign and domestic affairs, we think Americans are much more interested in having their leaders tell it to them straight. They don't have time or patience for a Lincoln-Douglas debate. They want to know the bottom line and they want to know how we're going to fix problems.

People will say Bush's straight talk is a sign that he lacks intelligence. But, we think it's a sign of honesty and trust in the American people. That kind of respect for candor over coddling is something we need more of in American politics these days.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Lyric appears on "Politically Active"

We joined hosts George Scione and Jamie Atkinson on Methuen's "Politically Active" show today to talk about state politics and the results of this week's elections.

We had a blast. Thanks for having us on the show!

Mary Z For Next Time Around

If you're a social media follower, you might have seen this post by Mary Connaughton yesterday:

Just changed my Twitter name from maryforauditor to Maryzformass #mapoli

And then there's this one from the other day:

A great night's sleep-will be raking tarpfuls of leaves. Not sure of my next move, but definitely still have public service bug #mapoli

Could this be a signal of a political comeback for Mary Z?

We certainly hope so. And we hope she'll be joined by a cadre of fellow Republicans who came close to winning last week. At the very least, we need leaders like Mary to stay active.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Democrats' Conundrum

There's a very interesting article in today's Boston Globe about how Democrats won here in Massachusetts on Tuesday.

Basically, Democratic State Party Chair John Walsh organized campaign volunteers to mount a massive GOTV effort in the waning days of the election. That effort resulted in an overwhelming 800,000 points of contact with Democratic voters on Election Day.

This effort is impressive, and the Democrats deserve credit for pulling it off.

But it also exposes a serious problem for Democrats, something we alluded to in our first post this week. Democrats have a well-oiled political machine, the by-product of being the undisputed majority party in this state for many years. But, their underlying big government platform is out-of-touch with the mainstream.

Massachusetts Democrats might have scored a victory on Tuesday, but they failed to earn a mandate. They used a winning organization to support a losing message. And, in politics, that's a serious problem.

Democrats risk continued vulnerability if they do not moderate their policies, particularly on taxes and spending. If they overplay their hand and continue business as usual, voter frustration will eventually catch up with Democrats, machine or no machine.

Meanwhile, Republicans have an opportunity to build on gains made with Scott Brown's victory and a number of strong (albeit unsuccessful) statewide campaigns this year, not to mention a House caucus that doubled in size on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see how this opportunity is used by GOP officials in coming months.

Blame gets us nowhere

You knew it would happen sooner or later.

The blame game for Tuesday’s election results began today with Worcester GOP committeeman Bill McCarthy assigning fault to Mass GOP party chair Jennifer Nassour. He wants to see her go, and he’s planning to call for her ouster at the next state committee meeting. Check out the Herald story here.

We think this is ridiculous and completely unhelpful to the party’s future success.

It’s true that the Massachusetts GOP weathered heavy losses on Tuesday in the statewide and congressional races.

But they also DOUBLED their numbers in the Massachusetts House of Representatives--an almost unthinkable feat just one year ago. Mr. McCarthy may not be impressed by that, but we certainly are.

We worked on Beacon Hill when the Republican caucus numbered only 16. The idea of adding one or two seats—forget about adding 17 seats—seemed like an impossible dream back then. Nassour certainly deserves credit for this success.

You’ve also got to look beyond Tuesday when measuring Nassour’s success.

Her chairmanship has brought fresh, new life to a Mass GOP that was old, tired and pretty beaten up. Anyone who has attended state committee meetings before and after Jenn became chairwoman will know what we’re talking about. From the night she announced her candidacy for the chairmanship, to the red-carpet style party she threw during the Massachusetts GOP state convention earlier this year, she has brought optimism and enthusiasm back to the Mass GOP.

Sure, the party’s GOTV operation needs work if we want to have a shot against the Dems next time around. But Jenn can get us there, and she deserves another shot.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Hell no, she won't go...

...at least not voluntarily.

Published reports indicate that Nancy Pelosi intends to seek election as Democratic Minority Leader in Congress. This, despite an outright repudiation of Washington and of Pelosi's leadership this past Tuesday as the GOP swept back into control of the House.

For Republicans, Pelosi's arrogance in steadfastly pursuing a leadership role is a post-election gift. Republican candidates spent months scoring points by making Pelosi a symbol of everything that's wrong with Washington, associating her with Obamacare, bailouts and other failed policies. Just when they thought Pelosi wouldn't be around to blame anymore, suddenly, she's back.

However, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Pelosi's announcement is President Obama. A Pelosi candidacy is an added distraction and another opportunity to point to Congress as the reason for failure in Washington instead of his own administration. If there is any good news for the President in Tuesday's mid-term results, it's that Americans generally blamed Pelosi more than Obama for the nation's problems.

Pelosi's stubbornness does pose a problem for House Democrats, however. Her candidacy itself means they have to answer a question they thought they could avoid after Tuesday's losses; namely, whether they endorse her as leader of the party and its agenda in the House.

If Democrats care about winning in 2012, their answer should be 'no.'

We're blogging.

If you know us, you know that we're both political junkies. It's in our blood.

Tuesday's election results here in Massachusetts weren't exactly what we were hoping for. But, there's a lot more to the story than just who won and who lost.

When we worked on Beacon Hill, just a few years ago, we could take attendance of Republican members by counting them on our fingers. The jokes about Republicans meeting in a phone booth started to have an element of truth. We think this last election cycle shows that things are starting to turn around, and the Republican party is capable of mounting a credible challenge to Democrats.

And we're here to chronicle that change. Welcome to our blog. Our first post is below. Please check back often.

No doubt certain newspapers relished writing delicious headlines on November 3 about the "Republican wave" not reaching Massachusetts.

That’s their spin. Here’s ours.

Don't let the results on Tuesday fool you. The Massachusetts GOP is stronger than it’s been in recent memory. For the first time in a very long time, Republicans offered voters a comprehensive slate of legitimate candidates and positions on issues that resonated with working families.

That scared the Massachusetts Democratic Party into action. But, Democrats did not win on the power of their ideas or the strength of their own candidates, or even their synergy with Bay State voters. They won due to a massive, old-fashioned GOTV machine that went into full-tilt in the waning days of the campaign.

Let's face it: Mary Connaughton should have won. Even the Boston Globe said so, after giving her opponent treatment usually reserved for Republicans. Sean Bielat was able to grab national coverage of his tough fight against Barney Frank. Jim McKenna did the impossible by forcing his way onto the ballot as a write-in candidate for statewide office.

Yet, all three candidates lost. So did Treasurer candidate Karyn Polito, who ran neck-and-neck with her well-financed and well-connected Democratic opponent, Steve Grossman, in the weeks leading up to the election. So did Congressional candidate Jeff Perry, who leveraged conservative principles and an extremely effective campaign organization to come within points of joining Scott Brown in D.C. (Full disclosure – we worked on both the Polito and Perry campaigns.)

What all of these candidates had in common is that the power of their message and the momentum of their campaigns got beaten back by the Democratic GOTV machine when it counted most. Basically, in Massachusetts, the Republican wave ran up against a dam of 800,000 doors knocked on by Democratic volunteers on Election Day.

Democrats deserve credit for this simple yet effective strategy. But Mass. GOP Chair Jennifer Nassour and all the GOP candidates also deserve enormous credit for coming so close to scoring a huge upset victory this year.

And, now we know how to win next time around.