Voters can make a turn on a dime
The election results are in. To put it mildly, politicians are nervous. They fear for their political lives.
Across the state line in New York, the Republicans were rocked by an angry electorate who rejected the Howdy Doody-like Rick Lazio — a genuinely decent inside, moderate Republican — in favor of radical whack-job Carl Paladino. The tabloids are doing quite a job on the guy — the Daily News had a full front page headline reading “Meet Crazy Carl.”
This comes on top of the U.S. Senate election right here earlier this year in blue-state Massachusetts where Republican-lite Scott Brown defeated Democratic standard bearer Martha Coakley.
The message here is this: The electorate will go along with most shenanigans as long things are going moderately well for them. But when tummies and bank accounts are empty, people are out of work, houses are under water and foreclosures are happening, voters will send a message. FDR knew it. He took the nut-jobs very seriously.
You won’t see something that smells like political revolution unless things are bad. When things were bad back in Germany in the 1930s, the very dangerous Adolph Hitler was dismissed by a lot of people as being a clown. We know what happened there. Put another way, it is unlikely but if the wind blows right and Paladino captures the public imagination, he could win.
In Berkshire County, the sheriff’s election turned out pretty much the way I expected it to. This was a big election since the sheriff’s position is big stuff in the county. To begin with, Tom Bowler the police officer beat Dan Bosley the politician. There were a number of reasons. Bowler had Pittsfield and there is a real question whether Bosley, who is joined at the hip with John Barrett III, the defeated mayor of North Adams, had enough popular votes to overcome the Pittsfield geopolitical lead of the cop. Then, too, people would rather have a cop than a politician as sheriff.
I continue to be a huge admirer of John Barrett who may have lost to another good man because he just stayed too long. I am one of those who believe that Mayor James Ruberto was positively brilliant to hire Barrett, with his wealth of experience, to help Pittsfield out.
The people of Pittsfield are divided into two major groups. There are the people who are fighting to bring their city into the 21st century and those who are still waiting for GE to come back. Wake up and smell the coffee, folks. Them GE days are gone forever. When you get a man with Barrett’s knowledge and practical experience, it makes sense to grab him.
Back to national politics, it is certainly conceivable that the House of Representatives may go back to the Republicans and it is also conceivable that the Senate could turn red. The secret here is the middle class. These are the people who vote. They often respond to cues given to them by the competing parties. The Republicans try to convince those of us in the middle that our interests are with those who do better than we do. The Democrats try to convince us that our interests are with those who make less than we do.
The truth is, if the poor all just voted, the Democrats would never lose but the poor vote in far fewer numbers than those in the middle or at the top. Right now, the folks in the middle are hopping mad and likely to see their interests with those above them. I’ve never quite understood this. But it’s sort of like the lottery. Someone has to win and even though your chances stink, you still think it could be you. You don’t want Uncle Sam touching what you might have someday.
Same thing with taxing the rich. Most of us will never be filthy rich but we can dream, can’t we? If we do strike it rich, we do not want the government taking our money in the form of taxes.
It is fascinating that the Republican moderates are being vanquished by the Tea Party right-wingers. The rule in politics is that Republicans run right in the primaries, and then run toward the middle in the general elections. There are those who believe that the right-wing wins in the primaries are good news for the Democrats because the middle-of-the-road voters will not be able to stomach the nut-jobs on the right and will have to vote for the Democrat. In two months, a lot can change.
Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 9/18/10