Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Massachusetts Electorate

The special election for U.S. Senate we had this week was so uninspiring that I resorted to voting the way I do in city council elections, by computing which candidate lives closest to me. The theory is that a councilor who lives closer will be more likely driving over the same potholes as you and therefore more likely to get those potholes fixed. There are a couple of obvious flaws in that theory, of course.

So how did the election turn out? Hardly anyone turned out. So few people voted for the two party candidates, only 1,168,068 combined in our state of 6,646,144 people, that the total would not have won any of the U.S. Senate elections in the last 30 years, including the special election in January 2010.

Year Massachusetts U.S. Senate races Democratic votes Republican votes Democratic margin
2013 Markey v. Gomez 642,988 525,080 10.1%
2012 Warren v. Brown 1,696,346 1,458,048 7.6%
2010 Coakley v. Brown 1,058,682 1,168,107 -4.9%
2008 Kerry v. Beatty 1,959,843 922,727 36.0%
2006 Kennedy v. Chase 1,500,738 661,532 38.8%
2002 Kerry v. Cloud (L) 1,605,976 369,807 62.6%
2000 Kennedy v. Robinson 1,889,494 334,341 69.9%
1996 Kerry v. Weld 1,334,135 1,143,120 7.7%
1994 Kennedy v. Romney 1,265,997 894,000 17.2%
1990 Kerry v. Rappaport 1,321,712 992,917 14.2%
1988 Kennedy v. Malone 1,693,344 884,267 31.4%
1984 Kerry v. Shamie 1,393,150 1,136,913 10.1%
1982 Kennedy v. Shamie 1,247,084 784,602 22.8%
  Massachusetts Governor races      
2010 Patrick v. Baker 1,108,404 962,848 7.0%
2006 Patrick v. Healy 1,234,984 784,342 22.3%
2002 O'Brien v. Romney 985,981 1,091,988 -5.1%
1998 Harshbarger v. Celluci 901,843 967,160 -3.5%
1996 Roosevelt v. Weld 611,650 1,533,390 -43.0%
1990 Silber v. Weld 1,099,878 1,175,817 -3.3%
1986 Dukakis v. Kariotis 1,157,786 525,364 37.6%
1982 Dukakis v. King 631,911 549,335 7.0%

The drop in voting is so precipitous we may have found the new formula the U.S. Supreme Court says is needed for the Voting Rights Act.

What does this mean for Massachusetts politics? Well, first we will have another special election to fill the House seat of winner Congressman Ed Markey, and unfortunately I live in his district, so that's another trip to the polling precinct at the Cambridge Armory over the same potholed roads that aren't getting fixed.

Then we will have the 2014 elections, where there will be open race for Governor, assuming Deval Patrick retires after two terms or gets appointed to replace Eric Holder in the Obama Cabinet, while Ed Markey defends his new U.S. Senate seat. That will be a non-Presidential election year.

It may be time for the Republican Party to close up shop in Massachusetts, which would open the door for a third party to become a second party. As things stand, our idea of two party politics has come down to Italian Democrats v. Irish Democrats. I am neither, but tend to favor the Italians.

Occasionally we elect a Republican to broker the disputes between the Italians and the Irish, but that's really necessary in the state house on Beacon Hill, not in Washington, DC, so the Republicans have taken some really bad beats in some of those U.S. Senate races.

Governor Bill Weld, my all-time favorite Massachusetts politician wasn't really a Republican, or to be more precise was a Republican of the old libertarian school. The national Republicans hated him, and even went so far to block him from getting an Ambassadorship to Mexico because he might have once smoked a joint at a wedding weekend party. That block was supposed to help us win the War on Drugs, but very obviously didn't if you've followed what has been going on over the last decade in Mexico.

But, let's face it, the national Republicans hate Massachusetts, and what's the point of voting for a party that hates you. Even Mitt Romney, who was governor of this state, was forced to repeatedly diss us before the Republicans would give him the Presidential nomination in 2012. Really, what's the point?

That brings us to the Libertarians. Carla Howell polled 308,860 votes in 2000 on the Libertarian Party ticket, almost as many as the official Republican candidate Jack Robinson. In 2002, the Libertarian candidate Michael Cloud polled more than both of them. But the Republican voter base won't vote Libertarian, because they seem to think they have some chance of winning they really don't. And it's true that there is a crackpot factor when it comes to Libertarian candidates that has become part of the big-L Libertarian brand.

The Green-Rainbow Party has also fizzled in its attempts to break through. Jill Stein got 353,551 votes in her 2006 race for Massachusetts Secretary of State but only 32,816 votes in her 2010 run for Massachusetts Governor and 20,691 in Massachusetts in her 2012 run for President.

The good candidates who want to challenge the Democratic stranglehold should run as Independents.

So, for example, Scott Brown, who polled enough votes in 2012 to have won 7 out of the last 13 U.S. Senate elections, could simply announce that he has had it with both the Democrats and Republicans in Washington, DC. and run for U.S. Senate in 2014 as an Independent.

Also, it looks like Martha Coakley, my least favorite/most hated Massachusetts politician, may run for Governor in 2014 as the Irish Democrat. The Italian Democrats don't seem to have anyone yet, Mike Capuano being half-Irish, so I may have no one to vote for. But former Governor Bill Weld, who recently moved back to Massachusetts and bought a place in the Back Bay, could announce he is running as an Independent.

Year U.S. Senate and Governor races Democratic votes Independent votes Democratic margin
2014 Markey v. Brown 642,988 1,458,048 -38.8%
2014 Coakley v. Weld 1,058,682 1,533,390 -18.3%

Now that would be an interesting election.

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