Thursday, July 17, 2008

The price of ineffective opposition

It's the nature of citizens in a democracy to seek opposition and accountability. Here in Massachusetts, we don't have a whole lot of either. The Republicans have completely blown any chance of being an effective voice against the Democratic Party here, leaving some people desperate to hold our government accountable. Some may have concluded that if you can't get people you don't like out of government, the only alternative left is to make the government disappear.

I'm a loyal Democrat, but I believe that democracy requires accountability. The federal situation is bad enough, where on everything from FISA to Karl Rove, the Democrats have a poor record in seeking that accountability. They talk a decent game, but don't actually do much.

At least Democrats in Washington have a systemic interest in oversight, however. In Massachusetts, there really isn't any accountability for the donkeys in charge. Take the Big Dig, a phenomenally expensive and fatal mistake that occurred on the watch of the former Democratic Attorney General, Democratic Auditor, and Democratic State House. While perhaps not responsible, they were there and they were silent. Hence folks may be suspicious that the Democrats of Massachusetts aren't always looking out for them. Sure, Democrats win, but most Bay Staters aren't registered with that party. Unbroken and increasingly total Democratic control over an uneven state government gives any reasonable citizen suspicions that it's getting a little too cozy in Boston.

And the Republicans, for many reasons, can't exploit this golden opportunity. And the Massachusetts Republican Party is really such a sad joke that they can't capitalize on the Big Dig Boondoggle, the Finneran and Bulgar episodes, the crack-ups of down-ticket Democrats. Since there appears to be little real consequence for the Democrats in the Democratic government of Massachusetts, some folks are attempting to create consequences for the "government" part of Democratic government. That's right, I'm talking about the appeal of the state income tax.

Now, I can't imagine anybody with a working cerebellum would think this is a good idea in its merits. Forty percent of the state's revenue comes from the income tax, so passage of this question would ax the government almost nearly in half. And to believe that 40% of our state government is waste that won't be missed is a simple disconnection with reality.

Given how inept the Republican Party has been in exposing chumminess, corruption, and waste in this state, that role in government is left empty for somebody to fill. While the average voter may not know the names Joe DeNucci and Bill Galvin -- two people who repeatedly receive undeserved free passes -- they know that accountability isn't much of a watchword to most folks on Beacon Hill. And while I firmly believe that 90% of the people in our state government are just doing what they think is best, there is currently nothing in the system to find and throw out the other 10%.

So people vote to "send a message", to "clean everything up" -- by voting to kill the income tax. Heck, for many conservatives who'll be looking at a ballot without real Republican candidates, this will be their only chance to cast a vote at a state level against Democrats. Without Republican candidates for State Senate or State Rep, the only conservative choice on the entire frakkin' ballot is to kill the income tax! Not much room for moderates there.

Had we a political movement in this state that could effectively keep an eye on Democrats, and truly call the Diane Wilkersons and Joe DeNuccis to account for their lassitude and poor judgment, this wouldn't be necessary. However, I think that many, many people feel the only effective way to send a message to the leadership of the Commonwealth will not be by voting for a Republican, but by voting to kill the income tax. If 50% + 1 feel that way, we're screwed.

It's ironic that the surest way for Republicans to achieve on of their goals -- shrinking government and opening up space for the private sector to replace it -- is by being stunningly incompetent. Talking about failing one's way to the finish.


noternie said...

hope you don't mind me passing this along to Jay at I was curious to see how he'd like it. Apparently, lots!

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