All Politics is Local...Some More Local than Others

by David Trumbull

December 20, 2000


Hey you in Davis Square: what do you people from Somerville call yourselves? Somer-villagers? Somer-villains? A phone call to the reference department at the Somerville Public Library yielded no definitive answer. I'd ask our publisher Dean Wallace, but Dean is not originally from Somerville, and this is not the sort of question you trust to a newcomer. Here in Cambridge there is, between native and newcomer (newcomer being anyone whose grandparents were not Cantabrigians) a great gulf fixed. It is, I suspect, if anything, a greater gulf in Somerville.

Alan Hovhaness was a native of Somerville. The Armenian-American composer (born 1911) known for his eclectic blending of oriental and occidental musical traditions died this summer. A good selection of Hovhaness recordings can be found at Borders Books and Music on Washington Street, Boston and Tower Records on Newbury Street. Here's to the memory of Somerville's second most famous musical son.

Somerville's most famous contribution to the music world saw his song "Monster Mash" hit number one on October 20, 1962 and reappear in the top ten a decade later. According to his official website--www.themonstermash.com--Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Karlovian imitation for Monster Mash was born when Pickett was 9 years old and spent time at the movie theater his father managed in Somerville, Mass."

Monster Mash brought Pickett money, fame, and television appearances, including a spot on the Steve Allen Show. Allen wasn't from Somerville, or even Massachusetts, but this Editorial Humorist must acknowledge the passing, this summer, of one of the greatest comedic minds of the second half of the twentieth century. I saw Steve Allen in one of his last live appearances in Boston, in May of 1997. He was as witty and entertaining as ever.

I always try in these columns to stick to local issues. It wasn't easy to do during the national election. It will, undoubtedly, be one for the record books.

It is more likely than not that Al Gore got a larger percentage of the overall popular vote than did President-Elect George W. Bush. We'll never know for sure because many states do not count absentee votes unless they could change the result. In California alone there are around two million absentee ballots uncounted because Gore won the state by more than two million votes. If those absentee ballots favor Bush slightly over Gore--likely, as absentee voters tend to be more Republican--they could easily wipe out about half of Gore's lead over Bush.

Similar situations in a handful of other states mean that the popular vote nation-wide, as in Florida, was extremely close. But not in Massachusetts, where Gore beat Bush two to one. That is why--exuberant speculation in the Herald and Globe not withstanding--few Massachusetts Republican politicians are going to be offered positions in the Bush Administration in the coming weeks.

Andy Card has already gotten his new job--White House Chief of Staff. I predict another Massachusetts Andy, Turnpike Authority Chairman, Andrew Natsios, will soon join him in a high, possibly cabinet-level, job. If so, Washington's gain will be our loss.

Natsios runs the big dig. Or shall I use the journalistic cliché "scandal-plagued big dig." He is the right man for the job. As a member of the General Court when the project was proposed he voted against it, arguing the it would take much longer to complete and cost much more than the supporters maintained. He was--as we all now know--prescient. Now he struggles to get the project done as expeditiously and efficiently as possible. Unlike his predecessors at the big dig, Natsios has no Robert Moses complex. (Moses was the mid-century Czar of New York road building whose name is synonymous with self-aggrandizing public works projects.)

Natsios has subdued the beast. Now watch for him to lend his talents, for a second time, to a Bush Administration in Washington. But don't expect a flood of other Beacon Hill Republicans following him. They have plenty of work right where they are.

[David Trumbull is Chairman of the Cambridge Republican City Committee.]