STATE PRIMARY ELECTION: SOME OBSERVATIONS

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^ A win for the good guys, but on a very small vote : Chynah Tyler will represent the 7th Suffolk State Representative District

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If barely ten percent of the state’s voters participate in our elections, what does that say about democracy ? What does it say, that the majority of those who voted were over 50 ?

One might conclude that there won’t even BE a democracy here much longer.

My statement reads rash, but consider the facts : ( 1 ) few if any campaigns go to all the voters; the mantra is “super voters,” those who always vote. Nobody else even exists ( 2 ) vast pools of PAC money fund selected candidates with dollars that other candidates could never raise ( 3 ) special interests dominate volunteer cadres and thus the entire primary, because if only ten percent of voters vote, the special interests overwhelm. Given these facts, why should the ordinary voter vote ?

During the Primary I oversaw the candidacy of Alex Rhalimi, who ran for Suffolk County Sheriff against the well known present Sheriff, Steve Tompkins. Suffolk County is large, far too large to knock on every voter’s door; but in our targeted neighborhoods, the candidate DID knock on every eligible voting door (he ran in the Democratic Primary, thus Republican voters were not campaigned to). My view is that if you are a registered voter, you deserve to be campaigned to, whether or not you’re a “super voter.” Why should a voter vote if the candidate(s) do not ask for his or her vote ? How do you think a voter becomes a “super voter” if not by being personally campaigned to ? Of course funds are just as important as door knocking. The candidate also needs to follow up his door work. Without serious funding, that’s almost impossible to do : mailings, advertising, staffing, a GOTV phone call on election day. None gets done without significant campaign funds, and Rhalimi, like every candidate not backed by a PAC, raised insufficient campaign money to do it.

But I am not here to write about just that one campaign. I mean to speak generally. The decision of most candidates to campaign only to “super voters” is a major reason why we have Trump. It’s bad enough that the economy, and the culture, have seemed to leave behind many thousands of voters who see no option but the vengeance/anger that Trump voices. From the defeated, why would we not hear defeatism ? (I speak, of course, of those Trump people who aren’t actual bigots.) Politicians share the blame for the rise of Trump. In a democracy, you HAVE to campaign to all the voters. Not doing so justifies their telling you to go to hell.

Not voting at all is just as much a “go to hell !” as voting for a Trump.

Sure, it’s enormously time consuming, and exhausting, to campaign to all the voters. That’s no excuse for not doing it. Once you become a candidate, it’s your civic duty to campaign to all the voters.

Sometimes there are issues that arouse significant numbers of voters even when they aren’t being directly campaigned to. An anti-LGBT voting record got Lawrence State Representative Marcos Devers defeated by newcomer Juana Matias. The same deficiency made State Senate hopeful Walter Timilty’s newcomer opponent Nora Harrington a serious candidate. (disclosure : we endorsed Harrington.) Likewise, in the three way contest to choose Gloria Fox’s successor in the 7th Suffolk State Representative district, Chynah Tyler’s support of the state’s “lift the cap,” charter school expansion question gained her significant volunteers as well as PAC money — enough of each that she defeated the candidate endorsed by the local City Councillor, by Sheriff Tompkins, and by the Boston Globe.

Even so, voter participation in the five contested Boston state representative districts failed badly. In the Tyler district, 2105 voters showed up (Tyler 901, Cannon 794, Tuitt 364); Evandro Carvalho gained re-election 1250 to 379 in the 5th Suffolk District, where only 1785 voters showed up. In the 11th Suffolk, 3210 votes cast (Liz Malia re-0electded over Charles Clemons, 2172 to 889); in the 12the District, 3330 votes (Dan Cullinane re-elected, 1660 to 1211; a third candidate received 344); in the 14th Suffolk District,m 3466 votes recorded (Angelo Scaccia re-elected, 2069 to Virak Uy’s 970. Third candidate received 230).

Every State Representative district in Massachusetts counts about 41,000 people, of whom about 12,000 to 18,000 register to vote. What good is it, if barely 20 to 25 percent of them vote even in a contest as intense as those of the Dan Cullinane and Angelo Scaccia districts ? For example, Readville — Angelo Scaccia’s lifelong home.  In the 2013 Mayor race, 985 Readville voters took a ballot in the Mayoral primary. Even in the low-interest 2015 City Council election, 524 Readvillers voted. This time, only 353 showed up despite their neighbor’s re-election much in doubt and him campaigning hard.

A voter who does not vote says “the election does not matter.” How do we change that perception ? That’s the challenge our political establishment faces. They may not care. As long as they can be re-elected, no matter by how few, they have the law on their side. Yet the law is not all there is to democracy. A government of votes is a government of participation. If participants are few — if voters do not think that it matters – there’s scant legitimacy no matter how legal the selection.

We’re seeing it with Trump. He insults everyone and everything, cozies with Putin, defrauds ordinary people, scams campaign funds, bribes officials, and lies about everything, yet he draws about 40 percent of voters.  To these voters, our government is illegitimate, our society alien, our future phony. We should heed their hate. It is directed at our way of doing things.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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