Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A good night in Massachusetts

Herald Compilation
Yesterday Margery Egan's column in the Herald - featured with one of that paper's patented full-front-page splashes - declared "Dem hacks finally get what's coming."  Keying off the just-announced criminal indictments of former state Probation head John O'Brien and Tim Cahill's former chief of staff, Egan marched through a familiar rogues gallery of Massachusetts Democrats who have recently found themselves on the wrong side of law enforcement (Sal DiMasi, Diane Wilkerson, Chuck Turner, John Buonomo... just in the last year).  "The worm has turned on the criminal cartel otherwise known as the Democratic political machine that runs Massachusetts," declared the unabashedly liberal columnist, who on most other days does more than her part to perpetuate that "cartel's" hold on power.

Although seeing that list in prominent print carried a measure of satisfaction, overall my reaction to the column was a mental shrug.  Meh.  So a guy caught taking brown bags of bribe money and a woman photographed stuffing wads of bills into her bra are doing some jail time.  So a year too late the press decided there might be some fire beneath the clouds of dense smoke that emanated steadily from Cahill-land since well before he launched what would become a Kamikaze run for governor.  The "Dem hacks" - Egan's "criminal cabal" - may have lost a few more foot soldiers than in an ordinary year, but it isn't like that crew is unfamiliar with the occasional need to ride out an indictment or three.  Until the voters of Massachusetts wake up and recognize that by perpetuating total one party control of government they are creating and maintaining a laboratory-perfect environment for incubation of tomorrow's criminal defendants, the Commonwealth's Democratic machine will not truly get "what's coming."

Which is why it was particularly fitting that in an election held on the very day that Egan's column ran, yet another Republican was elected to the Massachusetts House, replacing a Democrat who recently moved on to more lucrative pastures in a district that has long rested safely in the Democratic column.

Freshman Rep. Keiko Orrall will become the thirty-third Republican in the House.  While the party is still most decidedly in the minority, it bears remembering that fewer than three years ago House Republicans numbered fewer than half that, a mere sixteen, comprising a caucus so small that its ability even to be heard could plausibly turn on an ill-timed bathroom break.  Perhaps more importantly, the caucus's bulking up has been driven by people like Keiko Orrall - young, energetic, accomplished individuals eager to work hard and make a difference. Somewhat below the radar the party is finally building a bench, even as the opposition empties its own bench into the state and federal correctional systems.

Aside from the candidates themselves, who do we have to thank for that?  Jenn Nassour, obviously.  She took a thankless job at a very difficult time and did a great job in the face of a whole lot of adversity.  Jenn and her staff took a foundering committee from deep in the red and put it into the black, and contributed immeasurably to the individual successes that make up the aforementioned doubling of the party's legislative clout.  She'll be missed when she steps down at the end of next month, no matter who replaces her.

Then there are the people who always, always, always show up to help out a good candidate like Keiko Orrall.  My friend Christen Varley, who has the energy of ten women half her age and gives unfailingly of her time, her wit, her huge network, her resources and even her hospitality to push conservatives over the finish line.  There's Michael Graham with his candidate school and his multimedia bullhorn.  Rob Eno who beats the drum relentlessly at Red Mass Group.  And let's not forget folks like Charlie Baker, who never stopped showing up at candidate events across the state to lend his support; and Senator Scott Brown, who hasn't let the small complication of a U.S. Senator's grueling schedule get in the way of the hands-on, personal encouragement and support that he's always been eager to lend to any Republican willing to put his or her name on a ballot.

I'm going to stop, because the longer this kind of list gets the more egregious each inevitable omission appears to be.  There are a lot of people like these folks; people who don't get discouraged by perpetual minority status.  We're moving in the right direction here, and they are pulling disproportionate weight for a lot of the rest of us.  To the extent that Margery Egan's "worm" is in fact in the process of turning, these people are owed a big thank you.

On a related note, Dan Winslow's "Beer Pong and Politics" fundraiser last night in Boston was a big success, especially considering how many folks who might otherwise have attended were outside the city, working hard to give Winslow a new colleague in the House.  I am getting a kick out of the news coverage the event has generated, and the press's insistence on generating "controversy" where there is none.  The good folks who produced this clip from Fox Boston were at pains to find a couple of passers-by willing to express some small degree of indignation at the notion that a politician dared to use "beer pong" (with cups full of water, people!) to generate some interest in politics amongst the conservative yewts of the Commonwealth. 

To such feigned Puritanism there is only one appropriate response:


  1. There is no controversy but for one exception, this isn't beer pong.

    Beer pong is played on a ping pong table, with a one cup in the middle of each players side filled 1/3 with water... keep your own beer off on the side.

    - You play points just like ping pong: Hit the ball before two bounces on the table. A ricoche off the cup is in play.

    - Whoever loses the point must take a sip.

    - If you knock your own cup over (with your paddle), you take a drink.

    - If your opponent hits the ball in the cup you drink chug a beer.

    Dan should get mad props for the idea and a D- for follow through.

    It's sad the political press had to find a controversal angle (and I'm not a big fan of Republicans although I do like Dan personally)

    PS. In fairness, you should post Jeff Perry's photo in your hall of shame. His 'hear no evil' , 'see no evil', and 'run interference for his buddy who pleaded guilty to criminal sexual assault on a minor', even without a conviction deserves as much.

    PPS. We deserve better governemnt that the men and women listed above but let's be honest, this is not a partisan issue.

  2. A purist! Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. The crew Dan had there handling the 'pong puts on these events all over the country - they are "professionals," as it were, and I imagine they might quibble with your quibbles.

    As to the other point? Eh. That's always the response. And I agree! In a vacuum, political and government corruption are nonpartisan. Here in Massachusetts though? Most definitely a partisan issue, for two inter-related reasons. First, the sheer numbers. Just as there are a lot more left handed Democrats in Massachusetts state government than left handed Republicans, purely by virtue of their relative numbers, it is inevitable that there are more corrupt Democrats than Republicans in Massachusetts state government. Second, opportunity. Political power and influence is a necessary condition precedent for political corruption, and right now, here, Ds have all the power. I cannot say for sure that political parity in MA would bring indictment parity as well... but it strikes me that there is only one way to test the theory...


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