Massachusetts Republicans are left wondering what thought processes Massachusetts voters follow in deciding how they will vote, and gaze with jealous eyes at the voters in the other parts of the country. Before we review the Frank/Bielat results, a survey of three other votes is instructive.
There were three referenda votes on the ballot, of which two are noteworthy. Recently, in order to feed the state’s demand for funds, the state sales tax was increased from 5% to 6.25% and beer and alcoholic beverages (which were already subject to a hefty excise tax) were subjected to the sales tax. The referendum would have rolled back the sales tax to 3% in order to make Massachusetts competitive and to create jobs. Small business along Massachusetts’ border with New Hampshire, which has no sales tax, have suffered large losses. Labor, which represents public employees, donated three million dollars to fight the measure, using the usual scare tactic of forecasting streets without police officers and empty schoolrooms. The Alliance to Roll Back Taxes raised a mere $90,000. The argument that a homeowner does not economize by cutting out money for heating oil and the state does not economize by cutting out critical functions fell upon a gullible public. The referendum was defeated resoundingly, 57% to 43%, adding to Massachusetts’ reputation as an unfriendly business state.
On the other hand, the referendum reinstating the exemption from the sales tax for alcoholic beverages did pass, 52% to 48%.
The position of state auditor was open for the first time since 1987. Contending for the office was Republican Mary Z. Connaughton, CPA. She has a record of public service and she uncovered official shenanigans at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Democrat Suzanne Bump, who is not a CPA, argued that her lack of professional qualifications is not relevant. Considering the frequent and long history of corruption in state government, the argument that the auditor should be, in fact, an auditor and Massachusetts needs an honest watchdog fell on deaf ears. Bump was elected with 49% of the vote.
The results may be reconciled by admitting that Massachusetts voters refuse to recognize or are unaware that there are laws of economics that apply to the state. They apparently also believe that corruption is a usual and tolerable state of affairs in Massachusetts so long as it stays politely hidden.
The gerrymander of the Fourth District did not fracture and Bielat did not reach the percentages that Scott Brown attained. Overall, Bielat got only 44% of the vote. In Brookline (25%), Newton (30%), and Sharon (30%), Frank’s support did not falter even though surveys showed the Jewish support for Democrats had fallen. In Fall River, where Scott Brown got 40% of the vote, Bielat received only 29.5%. That vote does not reflect an appreciation that Barney Frank was a significant cause of the financial blow-up, that his financial scandals were relevant to his fitness to serve in Congress, and that his personality is abrasive and arrogant.
John F. Kennedy, of sainted memory in Massachusetts, often quoted his father’s advice: “Don’t get mad. Get even.” The minds of Massachusetts voters are anomalous. Their points of reference seem to differ from those of the rest of the country. Republicans must overcome their disappointment, keep studying their fellow citizens, and gather strength and information for the future.