Sunday, October 18, 2009

A tiny minority within the Supermajority

Yvonne Abraham's piece in the Globe this morning is worth reading, for two reasons: (1) it gives belated and well-deserved kudos to seven (seven!) "brave souls" - Massachusetts House Democrats who, at great professional risk, stood on principle last January and voted against Sal DiMasi for Speaker. And (2), it provides (by stark contrast) another reminder of the fact that fully 135 of their colleagues voted for Sal, despite his very well-known ethical 'issues.' Writes Abraham,

Say you’re one of the 135 Democratic legislators who voted to keep Sal DiMasi as House speaker back in January. Right now, you’ve got to be feeling even chumpier than usual, which hardly seemed possible until a few days ago.

After all, how much dumber could you look? On Jan. 7, you reelected DiMasi, even though you knew about his shady connections to a software firm that won millions in state contracts. You did it because he brought you back from legislative Siberia, or because he shared your priorities, or because you didn’t want to risk his wrath.

Whatever the reason, you stuck out your neck for him. And three weeks later, he stuck it to you by resigning. Then he got indicted on federal corruption charges, which made you look like even bigger dopes. The whole thing was fading from voters’ memories until Tuesday, when the feds added extortion charges to the mess. When it comes to other shoes dropping, this guy is Imelda Marcos.

Man, that must hurt.
The seven who bucked the tide, Reps. Atkins, Callahan, Calter, Canessa, Quinn, Stanley and Torrisi, were gutsy beyond even the credit that Abraham gives them this morning. Because theirs was not simply a bet that Sal would, as he did, ultimately fall from grace and resign his recently-renewed Speakership. Just because DiMasi is gone does not mean all is forgiven and forgotten within the Democratic caucus. Those seven marked themselves with their votes as the rare Beacon Hill legislative Democrat who will not automatically fall into line with leadership in response to promises or to threats. Rep. Quinn tells the Globe, “I’ve had more pats on the back or whispers in my ear saying ‘John, you were right, you had the backbone to stand up there and I wish I had done that.’ ’’

Sadly, there's a reason that his colleagues are still whispering their praise. It's the same reason none of the 'brave seven' is in leadership, and only one (Torrisi, co-chair of the joint committee on higher ed) has a committee chairmanship. Sure, DiMasi is gone. But he was replaced by Bob DeLeo, his hand-picked successor. There's been no suggestion whatsoever that DeLeo shares in DiMasi's ethical shortcomings. But it is indisputably the case that while the king changed, the regime remained more or less intact. And so the ramifications of the votes cast by those seven Democrats linger.

Soapbox time: the only way to fundamentally change the paradigm in the Massachusetts legislature - the one that resulted in an overwhelming majority vote to reelect a guy who was about to be indicted based on facts that had been plastered all over the newspapers for weeks - is to restore some semblance of partisan balance in the Legislature.

Vote Republican.

1 comment:

  1. Dan, I couldn't agree with you more. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." We need a two party state to provide genuine debate and a check on the current Democratic leadership team. Fortunately, (thanks in part to the issue you cite in your blog post), viable Republican candidates are surfacing across the state. One to watch is Brad Marston, a state rep. candidate from Beacon Hill who is seeking to unseat one of the 135 legislators who supported DiMasi. Keep your eye on that race...it should get very interesting!

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