Thursday, September 23, 2010

Here come the warm jets

The news this morning was that the Republican Governors' Association will be releasing their latest multi-million dollar ad campaign targeted directly on Deval Patrick. Up to now the cross hairs had been on Tim Cahill, the more tactically immediate target. Of course Cahill's punishment has been much deserved —he has agreed with virtually every policy stance the RGA advocates. He needed to be dealt with.

But now we're going whole hog for the big prize.

I actually don't have a working television, so I'll probably be spared most of the onslaught —and maybe I am being unfair about a sight as yet unseen— but somehow I doubt we are going get a lot new from the next barrage —much else beside 'he-raised-taxes-spent-wastefully-rinse-and-repeat'.

Nevertheless, here they come.

As I mentioned on an earlier post, I spent a good amount of time at the polls on September 14th, holding a sign for a candidate I supported in the primary. What I didn't mention in my earlier post, and what I have been stirring around in my head (a.k.a. 'the crockpot') ever since, was the conversation I had there in the waning hours with an obvious Charlie Baker supporter (the large sign was a dead give away). I've known and liked this person for years. We met literally within hours of our moving our family to Holliston and we felt warmly welcomed then and there when we did.

We hadn't stopped to chat in a while and we actually had quite a pleasant and interesting conversation. I don't think my Deval Patrick support was any less obvious (the button on my shirt being a dead give away) and so the discussion went to the subject of how to accommodate our differences, how to make them less personally contentious and get ourselves back to that place where debating our differing views and approaches was about something more than merely winning a contest.

We each told stories of our family backgrounds, our personal traditions of argument and activism. We each of us described what we believed in as a previous better way, where beyond the magnetic pull of the poles at the extreme there was some room for reasonable moderates to find compromise and consensus.

If we agreed on anything for sure it was that we should all work on making and taking the attacks less personally. Oh, and we agreed on one other thing —and that was that it was lamentable to see our elections turned into contests of campaign coffers and away from the better possibility of candid citizens challenging (and thereby refining) each other's ideas. We agreed that the contest should be on that level of the ideas themselves, not on the level of who could call on the larger resources of cash and organization, who could sell a better message like so much soap.

And so we have it today, that the election season news is of another advertising campaign with some amount of millions attached to it as a price tag. I have no doubt I'll receive a few emails today, asking me for a contribution so as to counter. I'm left with these thoughts of my friend and I talking in the growing darkness as a day at the polls came to a close. And stirring in my mind, the words from an old song:

...though we've nothing these days
Nothing these days
Nothing these days

We're down on our knees and we've nothing to say
Nothing to say
Nothing to say...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Once more from the dog in the race

by Tom Driscoll

I spent a good amount of time at the polls Tuesday. Holding a sign for Mike Lake. I thought he was a candidate running for Auditor (but according to my radio the next morning 'Suzanne Bump beat Guy Glodis' so I must have been mistaken). I had previously posted a piece about how I thought Mike Lake's candidacy deserved more respect —that he should be treated at least like "a dog in the race" —maybe I was barking up the wrong tree?

While Suzanne Bump won handily, Guy Glodis edged out Mike Lake here in Holliston by about 23 votes. Lake beat Glodis in Framingham and Wayland. Yet Lake doesn't even warrant mention in the reports I hear on my radio in the morning?

The report l heard segued into coverage of the gubernatorial debate that had happened election night. Tim Cahill (whose poll numbers are running at about the same level Mike finished at) was given his place at the table. He got his voice heard in the reporting. There was even special focus in the news coverage of the fact Jill Stein had been excluded from the radio debate. She was given a voice in the morning air at least.

But the same reporting team refused to even mention Mike Lake in discussions leading up to the Auditors race (as I complained in my earlier piece) and he didn't even warrant mention in reports of the election returns (as I am complaining now).

There's something wrong here, folks. I don't mean to complain of the results of a fair election. I don't mean to start a conversation about why or how my candidate lost —and coulda or shoulda done better. I do get a bit concerned though about the media that lenses and filters our democratic process such that the guy who got 27.6% of the vote in my home town merits note and the one who received 23.8% gets dismissed as a "non-factor" not even worthy of mention.

One reason, in my opinion, that Mike Lake got the invisible treatment: he lacked monied backing or a useful role to play as a pawn for the folks who consider themselves 'the players' in our political game. He simply had an interest in the real work of the position and a commitment to try for it. I know that sounds a little bitter —and maybe it is. But there is something other than my disappointment I want to voice here.

I had someone tell me the other day, as I first started to vent on this topic, that in hindsight they saw why I liked my candidate, but that our political world is such that we simply can't expect the public to notice or respond to a candidate who is merely "a good guy who, all things being equal, is worth listening to.” I'm not quite sure if this person meant to console me or to rub salt in my wounds. Because in my world "all things being equal" isn't a bad starting premise, and "a good guy worth listening to" simply should in fact be listened to —media players shouldn't be making the call as to who gets heard. The public can't notice or respond to someone they never hear about.

And if the game of our politics is going to play out that way —if the media attention is to be so taken with the winner take all contest of "resources" and organization that the points "worth listening to" get forgotten or ignored in the first place —well it's incumbent upon us to demand something better. I do believe we have to change the whole mentality of how we elect our political leaders and public servants, within our parties as Democrats and Republicans, and in the general elections, as citizens. There's a step past being disappointed or angry, that is demanding something better. And towards that end —when something's not right it's wrong —and it's worth barking about.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mike Lake, a dog in the race

Last week I remarked on the way the tiny little analysts in my morning radio were reporting the different primary results from around the nation —how it seemed the sum and substance of the political contest was how the dollars played out —what cold hard cash 'Candidate A' had spent as opposed to 'Candidate B' and what he or she had left in his or her pocket for the general elections.

(Heaven forbid they should discuss the points of difference on policy.)

Well as it turns out those tiny little analysts in my radio don't get any larger when it comes to discussing local politics.

Another week, another morning, and it was Dan Payne and Todd Domke sharing their insight on the race for State Auditor on WBUR. The "analysis" being offered amounts to this: Candidate Guy Glodis has said some really loutish stuff in the past, he's been "shown to be on the wrong side of nearly every liberal issue — gay rights, the death penalty, gun control, taxes, diversity." But he has $800,000 in the bank (though recent news stories of how some of that money got there have become problematic).

Suzanne Bump, on the other hand —credited with a record of being an "activist reformer" will soon "get a $100,000 bump in public funds, which will bring her cash on hand to nearly $200,000 — enough to run a heavy radio campaign."

There was some talk of her ties to the Patrick Administration and the insightful observation that she is a female candidate.

And there you have it.

—Oh, and by the way there's this other guy... Mike Lake "...he’ll have about $58,000" ...might act as a spoiler.


I'll make no bones about it. I'm a Mike Lake supporter. I first met him at this June's Democratic Convention. I'd walked into that convention with an open mind about who to support in the Auditor's race and I found myself being pulled aside by Bump and Glodis supporters, each with dim views of the other candidate to share. From Lake and his supporters I got something entirely different. Here was a candidate who described his interest, not in holding the job —or how it would just belong there on his resumé, he described his interest in actually doing the work.

Mike gave a great speech at the convention and got his name on the ballot as the dark horse and he's been on the trail ever since, plugging away at his campaign —advancing his vision of a new role for the Auditor's Office as an activist advocate for better practices —for better government —where the transparency and accountability brought to the different agencies of our state's government can enable and empower reform and bring about simply more efficient and effective use of public funds.

Maybe that's just campaign rhetoric, I do talk that way sometimes, but as the campaign has played out there's come about opportunity to see his different approach in action.

When recently Auditor DeNucci, on his way out the door, announced that he intended to award his senior staff with raises, an action seen as something of "a fitting parting gift" from the guy who has held the office for more than twenty years, it was Mike Lake, who (while the other candidates cleared their throats and shuffled their feet) simply and unequivocally offered that this was "the wrong move at the wrong time." And Mike Lake pointed out that the first office he intended to audit if he was elected was the Auditor's Office.

That one move, though it is a pretty good indicator of how he would actually approach the job, doesn't qualify Mike Lake for the job. I can recognize that. But the balance in his campaign account shouldn't disqualify him either. That's the point I see lost in the pundit pronouncements flowing from my radio.

Our politics has got to be about something more than the dollars in the contest —especially in a race so much about the public dollar.

That's why I'm barking. Because, beyond the opinings of the political opinion elite, I believe we have a dog in the race.