Like a movie shown out of focus and at a high rate, the election in Massachusetts’s Fourth Congressional District has been exhilarating but difficult to appreciate fully. However, in the last week, the film has slowed and there is a laser-like focus to the race. Massachusetts will do it again. A little-known but young, intelligent, and energetic candidate will transfer a seat thought to be impregnable by the Democrats and the pundits into the Republican camp.
Support for this prediction is both objective and subjective. Recent polling shows that the race has narrowed to a gap that is well within the range that cannot be measured accurately by polling. Moreover, the polls show that Bielat’s momentum has continued to build and that the momentum has occurred among crucial independents and in the usual Democratic strongholds in the southern part of the district. Frank’s support, which has been consistently below 50% (a crucial indicator of an incumbent’s chances), does not appear to be rising. The curve of Bielat’s support is on a vector to exceed Frank’s support before the date of the election.
To those who denigrate the polls, like Barney Frank, an objective and persuasive rule convinces even cold-eyed lawyers like me that the polls are reliable. The rule is that “money talks and bull—t walks.” The amount and number of contributions to Bielat’s campaign represent concrete evidence that Bielat has reached the plateau that Scott Brown attained; that Bielat not only should win but that he will win.
There are also numerous subjective factors that have weight because they all point in the same direction and mimic the factors that applied not only to Scott Brown but also to the second Reagan election in which Massachusetts voted for Reagan.
In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell published The Tipping Point, which explained that there are tipping points of critical mass in sociological matters, i.e., “ the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” that marks the point at which qualitative changes occur. That is what happened in this election. Gladwell explained how such changes happen, but one of the factors is that certain people, opinion makers, have a large impact.
I can cite an example of such an event in this race. The Obama administration has mouthed support for Israel but has taken actions inconsistent with the supportive statements. Obama clearly shows an attitude of flaccid support of Israel and instituted policies that increase the existential danger to Israel. Barney Frank represents himself as a supporter of Israel, but his statement during the Gaza flotilla incident caused many Jews to doubt his sincerity. Frank has not been proactive.
A record number of AIPAC members, over one thousand, attended its dinner in Boston this year. That is an objective indication of the level of fear in the Jewish community. Barney Frank gave a short statement in which he assured the audience that if there is a crisis, the audience could count on him. Frank’s statement showed a devastating lack of understanding of the issue. If there is a crisis in the Middle East, it will be too late. Frank was greeted by a wall of coldness: members walked out to show their displeasure. Frank’s body language and the tone of his statement were uncertain. In the several events I attended in which there was a substantial Jewish audience, Bielat’s announcement that “I am Sean Bielat and I am running against Barney Frank” was greeted by unusually loud and enthusiastic applause. AIPAC members define the term “opinion makers.”
That reaction means that Frank will not get the 75% of the Jewish vote enjoyed by Obama. In addition, the recent polling of Jews showed that a significant percentage of Jews have finally begun to open their minds to the fact that the world has changed for Jews and for Israel and that the mistakes of the 1930s must not be repeated.
Combine the loss of a percentage of the Jewish vote with the unemployment rate in the southern portion of the Fourth and the basis of the gerrymander has been fractured. Massachusetts will send another Republican to Congress and another Democratic politician to the Kennedy School of Government.