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Nerd Spot

A shout out to the nerdy and proud.

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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Lifelong nerd, shameless Constitution-hugger, unreconstructed Democrat and thoroughgoing misanthrope

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tempted by the fruit of no other

So the Boston Globe has a story today about the Mass. Dems doing some navel gazing, wondering whither their members? According to the article, the percentage of voters registered as Democrats has fallen from 46% in 1980 to 37% right now, and attendance at caucuses has fallen from about 100,000 in 1982 to estimates of 30,000 likely to show up at the caucuses this coming weekend. The fact that some caucuses are being held on the day of the SuperBowl isn't going to help. Primary participation is way down, too. In '82, almost half of Dems and unenrolled voters showed up for the Ed King/Mike Dukakis primary. Granted that '82 was a watershed year here, primary participation in the last three Dem. gubernatorial primaries wasn't much above 20% of eligibles.

These drops aren't limited to Massachusetts. This is more or less a nationwide trend. There are lots of theories. I'm no social "scientist" so I won't speculate. What I can talk about is why I'm thinking of leaving the party.

No, really, there's nobody else. I haven't fallen in love with another party. The Republican Part still creeps me out in the same way that Celebration, FL does, and the Greens remind me of your supernice, patchouli wearing, vegan roommate who harps about oil dependence, but yet somehow always manages to bum a ride from you. I don't harbor the romanticism for third parties that Jon "isn't there another way" Stewart and others seem to have. This is a winner-take-all democracy, so let's stop with the nonsense. Nope, what we have here is a bad marriage, and I'm deciding whether to make good on my threats about all this philandering going on under my nose and call the divorce lawyer.

#1. Stop playacting about being the party of the common man and get back to your roots. As the little blurb from Center for Responsive Politics above highlights, Dems are the ones raking in the dough from rich folk. I know I don't feel like my $100 is particularly sought or appreciated. Especially true when we see where the lobbying money is being spent. According to this Phoenix article, lobbying expenditures worked out to almost $300,000 per legislator in 2003/2004.

Top spenders on lobbying activity 2003-’04

  1. Massachusetts Teachers Association (teachers’ labor union): $3,941,852
  2. Massachusetts Medical Society (physicians’ organization): $1,245,268
  3. Retired State, County, and Municipal Employees Association of Massachusetts (retired government employees): $1,213,902
  4. Associated Industries of Massachusetts (business groups): $1,165,473
  5. Massachusetts Hospital Association (health-care organizations): $1,117,007
  6. MassEquality.org (pro-gay-marriage group): $932,034*
  7. Life Insurance Association of Massachusetts (insurance industry): $732,442
  8. Competitive Power Coalition of New England (energy industry): $730,000
  9. AFSCME Council 93 (labor union): $615,242
  10. Northeast Utilities (energy industry): $594,026
  11. Eli Lilly & Co. (pharmaceutical company): $587,050
  12. Massachusetts Nurses Association (nurses’ organization): $572,091
  13. MassMutual Life Insurance (insurance company): $514,884
  14. Clear Channel Outdoor (media company): $497,451
  15. Children’s Hospital (health-care organization): $496,403
  16. Philip Morris USA (tobacco company): $489,547
  17. Massachusetts Municipal Association (cities and towns): $463,410
  18. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (insurance company): $443,799
  19. American Petroleum Institute (oil industry): $426,223
  20. NStar Services Co. (energy company): $420,000
  21. Verizon (phone company): $404,421
  22. Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (pharmaceutical industry): $401,387*
  23. Massachusetts Association of Health Plans (HMO consortium): $400,725

*Through June 2004; filing for July-December 2004 unavailable
Source: records at the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth

Top PAC contributions to candidates

  • Retired Public Employees: $65,150
  • Massachusetts Corrections Officers: $51,200
  • Operating Engineers Local 4: $49,000
  • Boston Carmen’s Local 589: $45,905
  • Massachusetts Federation of Teachers: $42,885
  • Fire Fighters of Massachusetts: $42,350
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 12: $39,275
  • Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association: $36,200
  • Massachusetts Laborers’ District Council: $31,750
  • Beer Distributors: $28,260

Source: Institute on Money in State Politics

Look at 'em. Mass. Medical, Mass. Hospital, Children's Hospital, Pharma, Blue Cross, Mass. Nurses, Eli Lilly and Mass. HMOs. And people wonder why there's no health care reform bill out yet. As for Labor, God love ya, but you're certainly overrepresented here. Sidebar to my own Congressman (I know, I know, state/local yada yada): I've written three letters to you in the four years I've lived in your district, and I've never received even a form response. Should I get a lobbyist? Will a donation get me a form letter?

Want to check some of this stuff out for yourself:
Center for Responsive Politics

Federal Election Commission

Institute on Money in State Politics

Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance


And Dems, how about talking to what's left of your base once in a blue moon? The Republicans do this. Get off your asses. I know it's annoying. The people, after all, revolt. However, as Dukakis pointed out in the article, "'My rant on this, and it's not just Massachusetts, is that Democrats have forgotten what it means to organize at the grass-roots level, and I don't mean parachuting kids in before the election,' Dukakis ... said in a telephone interview. He rejects the notion that people today are too busy or too removed from politics to invest that much effort. 'This is not too complicated, going to people's doorsteps, into their homes and connecting with them.'" SEIU certainly got this grassroots message. In 5 years, they'll have a much more politically robust membership and AFL will be reduced to whithered husk if it hasn't changed.

#2. Defend Yourself, Poindexter! The only way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them. The other guys have both houses, the executive and the courts. You literally have nothing else to lose. When Republicans attack government, don't concede that it is a horrible beast to be tamed. Government is police and fire, schools for your kids, clean drinking water and immunizations for babies. And guess what? Liberal wasn't on George Carlin's list of 7 dirty words. Warrantless domestic spying isn't terrorist surveillance. The estate tax is not the "death tax", and no family farms have been saved because of its repeal. Republicans don't have a monopoly on values. Where in the New Testament does Jesus speak about Social Security privatization or drilling in ANWAR. What would Jesus do about letting children get through that strep infection without seeing a doctor because their parents don't have insurance? When Republicans attack you for representing the liberal elite, why do you hide that tasty microbrew behind your back? Imagine what they're hiding in their "average joe" income tax returns. And why is it that only liberal elitists can care whether their friends are killed overseas or whether Alberto Gonzales knows what you're googling ("mandatory gay marriage", naturally). Defend yourselves! No one else is going to.

#3. Give me a reason to spend my time with you.
Having done time in Democratic Town Committee meetings, I know that I wasted several hours of my life that you're never going to pay me back. There surely must be something more meaningful for us to do than argue over PC terminology and strategize outreach to left-handed bi-sexual bus drivers. The conventions are just as painful. Let's do some real work.

#4. Let the Democratic Party be the Democratic Party again, to paraphrase Langston Hughes. What was with the cowardly and mean-spirited immigrant tuition vote earlier this month? If you play your cards right, those are your future voters. Again, SEIU gets this and you don't. Why are you acceding to Romney's tax cuts (they'll be HIS after all, no matter what you do)? Yeah, yeah, I know the people almost voted to repeal the income tax, but the people don't always get it right, especially when voting on a question utterly divorced from any other issues or larger policy (or reality for that matter). The electorate needs someone to smack 'em and let them know there is a connection between tax cuts and the higher property taxes/fewer services/less local aid they're getting. Why did you ever start listening to these DLC turkeys? People who wax on about "centrist" Clinton's victory tend to conveniently write H. Ross Perot out of their memories of the 1992 election. Notice who showed up to the caucuses in 2002? Newbies showed up for a kooky, unabashed liberal named Reich. Moving center got us Shannon O'Brien and nothing else. If I may digress for a mo', in The West Wing's Short List, the following exchange between Bartlet and departing Justice Crouch sums it up better than I can:
You ran great guns in the campaign. It was an insurgency, boy, a sight to see. And then
you drove to the middle of the road the moment after you took the oath. Just the middle
of the road. Nothing but a long line painted yellow.

Excuse me, sir...

I wanted to retire five years ago. But I waited for a Democrat. I wanted a Democrat.
Hmm! And instead I got you.
It would be more accurate to say we Dems keep chasing the center rightward. Ford, Nixon and Ike look more liberal than many so-called Democrats today. Don't believe me? Check out Eisenhower's farewell speech which has resurfaced due to the new documentary Why We Fight. Link to text. Link to audio. If I wanted to be a Republican, I'd join them.

As for your grey hair problem. I don't have any answers. Hoping for the right cult of personality isn't really viable. Talking to them is a good way to figure out the answer to "what's in it for me?" Advancement or support based on merit is another radical option.

We've had some good times. Remember Atlanta in '88? You were so adorable back then. Young, optimistic, on the verge of conquering the nation. It would be a shame if we have to go our separate ways, but I'm afraid the time may have come. What's it going to be?

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