Making Sense of Barney Frank's Return to Power

A bad result cannot be avoided in the future without identifying the actual cause or causes of the bad result. An examination of the recent election results in the Massachusetts Fourth District requires a mind without preconceptions, a readiness to question all assumptions, and recognition that the true cause or causes may be emotionally distasteful. That the Fourth is a gerrymandered district will yield dividends beyond the district because it contains two types of loyal Democratic voters: the Volvo liberals in the north and the blue-collar Democrats in the south.

Homicide cases are like elections. The deceased usually cannot tell you who did it and the vote in an election gives the result of the choices but is silent as to the causes of the choices. The inquirer must take the evidence and reason back in time to pick out all the possible causes that are either consistent with the cause or probably were a cause.

Surprisingly, the first clue comes from an inadvertent half-truth from Barney Frank. Even though Frank won decisively, he had been truly worried by Sean Bielat’s candidacy. The election result relieved him of his fear and tension. His fear and his arrogance were displayed openly in his victory speech in which he spewed his contempt for Bielat, for Republicans in general, and for the Boston Herald (which had featured his corrupt actions) in particular. Frank branded the reporting of his corrupt actions as “distorted attacks” and triumphantly declared that "with the election of all ten congressmen, and Governor Patrick, one of the things we can acknowledge tonight is that Massachusetts has reaffirmed the complete political irrelevance of the Boston Herald.” Obviously, the Boston Herald is and will be relevant and Frank is megalomaniacal to think otherwise.

However, Frank is correct that the facts that the Herald had published about Frank’s corrupt actions, including the OneUnited Bank scandal, Representative Tierney’s wife’s plea of guilty to laundering seven million dollars of her fugitive brother’s money, and many other stories of governmental waste and inefficiency, were irrelevant to the choices made by a majority of Massachusetts voters. Why a candidate’s corrupt practices are irrelevant to a voter’s decision may not be the same for both groups of Democratic voters, but the result is the same.