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January 22, 2010

True Democracy

Roy Meachum

Coming one day before Barack Obama’s first anniversary as president, Tuesday’s column anticipated the big object lesson held up by both parties:


“However the Massachusetts voters decide, today will be taken by the winning side as proof positive that Republicans or Democrats are on the right track for giving Americans what they want in government.”


The column ended: “Me? I have some reservations.”


No partisan advantage should be claimed; it was hardly a fair race. Winner Scott Brown proved how democracy really works. He was the ultimate plebian in his manner and in his pickup truck. Loser Martha Coakley demonstrated a perfect aristocrat in her widely quoted answer to criticism for failing to campaign:


"As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?"


She felt so confidant in being awarded the Democratic seat, she took a Christmas vacation elsewhere; he did not. He told dissatisfied voters what they wanted to hear; she allowed the Kennedys to do the talking for her. As President JFK once said of himself: He had fire in his belly; she did not.


Having put none of their stars at stake, Washington Republicans claimed it was about Barack Obama and his administration policies, especially the plan for health reform. They could point out Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America became in effect only after First Lady Hillary Clinton failed at similar reform in the medical area.


Knowing all that, I totally disagree.


People are generally dissatisfied and angry; they must lay the blame on anyone else. Human nature shifts guilt on another person or events beyond the individual’s control. Americans, by and large, heartily approved of the wars that wrecked our treasury, with the help of larger financially institutions.


Knowing all that is why I totally disagree.


Precisely because George W. Bush and his men, notably his vice president, were put into office by questionable legality, they had to justify themselves. The massacre of 9/11 gave them an easy answer; the invasion of Iraq was cheered by millions of constituents and questioned by merely thousands.


As an African American, Mr. Obama’s election victory could be seen as reparation for slaughtering countless brown-skinned Arabs.


Not by many. His gaining the presidency was an overwhelming need for change. On that everybody agrees. Locally, voters last November turned out of office all four sitting aldermen: Republicans and Democrats. The GOP mayor and board president Marcia Hall did not run.



Men and women involved in the political process argue against the general indifference to politics despite the statistics of declining poll box figures. But the subject has become so non-controversial, along with sex and religion, it long ago became acceptable at social gatherings.


In fact, our form of government is on the wane in this country; the latest wave of insurrection against incumbents might save it.


Modern democracy was born of anger: the French rebellion against a corrupt monarchy and the American Revolution against a distant king. Citizens on both continents were fed-up with being shut out of decisions that affected their very lives: in Paris, the tax on bread, for example. In the colonies, a range of rulings, including the order to house troops in their homes.


In Massachusetts, Martha Coakley’s Fenway Park comment could be taken in the same spirit as Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.”


Considering both Republicans and Democrats have been sent to today’s version of the guillotine by angry voters, I can find little partisanship in Tuesday’s election.


And no guidance for either party, or for America.


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