POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Bay State Conservatives, M.I.A., once again.

by David Trumbull

October 20, 2006

The loneliest place to be a conservative is in a Massachusetts voting booth. In most precincts in the Commonwealth this November 7th there will be no candidate on the printed ballot for any office who consistently articulates the promotion of limited government and of traditional values.

Through the years Bay State conservatives have tried, several times, to organize a conservative party on the model of the Conservative Party of New York State which, since 1962, has been an important force in New York politics as a conservative alternative to the New York Republican Party. Such efforts were uttered doomed to fail, and fail they did.

You see, the success of the Conservative Party of New York State was due to the possibility of cross-endorsement of "fusion" candidates. Simply put, in New York, a candidate may be endorsed by more than one party and appear on the ballot with each endorsement. So the candidate of the Republican (or Democratic) Party, can be rewarded for taking conservative positions by winning the endorsement of the Conservative Party. No Republican has won an election for statewide office in New York since 1974 without Conservative Party support. But such cross endorsement is not possible in Massachusetts.

Current ballot law in Massachusetts stifles free association, free speech, and limits competition in elections. In Massachusetts a candidate is not permitted to run as the candidate of more than one party or political designation. (Technically, one can as a "write-in" candidates, but, we can ignore that provision which is little-used and of little use.) With no legal mechanism for cross endorsements, efforts to run Conservative Party candidates in Massachusetts were worse than futile. Not only did such "third party" candidates not win, but they drew votes away from the more conservative (usually the Republican) major party candidate, and so, perversely, benefited the least conservative candidate in any race.

Ballot Question 2, if passed on November 7th, will change that. Question 2 would change state law to permit cross endorsements of the sort that have made the Conservative Party an important political force in the Empire State.

Of course it would not help only conservatives. The whole array of left-of-center minor parties --green, rainbow, liberal, etc.-- could use cross endorsement to attempt to push Democratic Party candidates further to the left. (Although I cannot image how Massachusetts Democrats could possibly be more liberal than they are now!) One would thank that the Libertarian Party in Massachusetts would be supporting Question 2 as a means to entice Republican or Democratic candidates to vie for the libertarian vote.

Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely given their history of withdrawing from the political discourse just at the times when they are most likely to succeed) the conservatives who for years voiced their dream of a Conservative Party on the model of that in New York, are silent on Question 2. Of the more than 50 endorsing organization listed on the website of the pro-Question 2 committee ( not one is recognizably conservative, and several are on the extreme left. Never mind, the justice and prudence of an idea are not determined by its supporters (or lack thereof). Cross endorsements will give Bay State votes more, and more clearly defined, choices. I urge a vote of yes on Question 2.