POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Why We Shan't Throw the Bums Out
by David Trumbull

August 10, 2007

Two weeks ago in this paper there appeared a well-written and thoughtful appeal to vote out of office the Massachusetts legislators who caved in to the will of “a loud minority” with “a lot of money” and denied the civil rights of the majority. The author of that letter-to-the-editor was correct “it is a sad, sad day for Massachusetts…[when the legislators] forgot whom [they] represent.” But, even sadder, is the realization that the writer was, in all likelihood, mistaken in believing that this betrayal will result in any significant change in the composition of the General Court after the November 2008 elections.

Since the court’s Goodrich decision in 2003 there have been two state elections—two elections in which the definition of marriage was at issue—the result? The loud minority with a lot of money gained support in the legislature with each election. The group MassResistance, which led the charge to overturn judicial tyranny and legislative unaccountability said after the 2006 elections

The Republicans and pro-family Democrats lost every open seat but one. They couldn't even beat the worst liberal rep incumbents in conservative districts. A lot of it was due to the incompetence of the Republican Party and others, and also the huge money and organization on the other side.

I cannot fault the proponents of this radical and undemocratic change to the definition of civil marriage. They merely do what anyone must do who wants to influence public policy. They know who their friends are among the candidates and they support them. They also know who is on the other side and they recruit and support candidates to oppose them.

On the other side—among those who oppose state-imposed social engineering or who simply believe that an unprecedented change to a critical 5,000 year-old civil institution ought, at a minimum, to be submitted to a vote—I see near total lack of focus on solving the problem at hand. The legislature (collectively) is held in the lowest regard, but each individual representative or senator gets re-elected with out regard to his performance in office. Election after election most incumbents face only token, if any, opposition in the general election. Serious inter-party challenges in the primaries are equally rare.

Without doubt, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the General Court. But where are the candidates? Anyone who wants to be a serious contender in 2008 needs to be an active candidate now. It takes times—many, many months—to get the necessary name recognition. And restrictive campaign finance laws are such that anyone who wants to run in 2008 must raise a lot of money in 2007. If you’re fed up with that state of things and want to run for office you’d better step up now. Soon it will be to late to jump into the race with any prospect for success.