Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

Entering political apathy

Massachusetts ain’t what it used to be. Senator Ted Kennedy, because of his name and his long service, was probably one of the most influential people in Congress for nearly thirty years.

But he wasn’t the only famous and influential person from Massachusetts. After World War II, three Representatives from Massachusetts: Joseph W. Martin, John W. McCormack and Tip O’Neill, served as the Speakers of the House for a combined total of 23 years.

John F. Kennedy, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were all Democratic presidential nominees. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was nominated to be the Republican Vice President in 1960. Former Governor Christian Herter served as Secretary of State under Eisenhower; Robert F. Kennedy was making his home in Massachusetts while he was Attorney General and former Lieutenant Governor; and state Attorney General Elliot Richardson was Defense Secretary, Health, Education and Welfare Secretary, Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce under Nixon and Ford.

So it looks like Massachusetts has had some major pull and influence at a national level. But it hasn’t really. Robert Kennedy, Herter and Richardson held their positions only briefly. Tip O’Neill retired in 1987 and Ted Kennedy died last August. Dukakis is best remembered for riding in a tank, while Kerry’s national persona is that he’s tall, has no personality and lost to one of the most unpopular presidents of all time. Kerry ranks 13th in seniority, but Teddy was second only to Robert Byrd. In the House today, the most influential member from Massachusetts is perhaps Barney Frank.

I am equating influence with “being well known” or being a celebrity. It’s not easy for those not in Congress to know who has “pull,” since the area where influence is most important is behind the scenes. But in a democracy, the politician-celebrity can certainly influence elections – although as several presidents have shown, that can have no effect or outright backfire. It’s certainly worth noting, in that case, that the public’s main exposure to Barney Frank is through Saturday Night Live sketches.

Politically, Massachusetts is entering a dinosaur phase. The Democratic Party has dominated for so long and the state’s main representatives to the public (Ted Kennedy, Dukakis, etc.) are so indentified with liberal politics at a national level that Massachusetts is sometimes derided as the People’s Republic of Taxachusetts.

In some respects, it’s a fair stereotype of politics. I’m from Vermont, which gets much of the same treatment, as it sometimes seems like Bernie Sanders is a reactionary even to Massachusetts standards. But this stereotype also ignores the fact that most people here not attending college tend to poll more towards the center. Somewhere between the blue dogs and Howard Dean, I’d say.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

There are two reasons for this problem. First, on Election Day, voters tend to do anything but vote. Secondly, there is no competition for the Democrats. We’re a one party state. This is interesting, as the second factor is the cause of the first. While Scott Brown was elected Senator last month and sworn in yesterday, there are still only five Republicans in the State Senate and 19 in the House.

Less than a quarter of registered voters nationally identify themselves as Republican, and the same figure goes towards voters in Massachusetts. The reason for this is largely because Massachusetts Republicans cannot escape identification with the national party, which does not share all their views on social or economic issues. Also, they’re conservative in policy, and that carries a fine stigma of its own in Massachusetts.

Personally, I would prefer the Libertarian Party to become the opposition party up here. The Libertarians, unfortunately, are poor in resources at a national level and while their social views have earned them some followers, their economic views don’t resonate with voters at all. However, as the economic troubles continue, this could change, seeing as how candidate Joe Kennedy actually has charisma and Libertarian organizations like the Campaign for Liberty keep spreading their word.

Until then, Massachusetts will continue to slide apathetically to political irrelevance, although it’s not a foregone conclusion. I can imagine Deval Patrick running against Brown in 2012, or Brown himself could stick and have the impact on Republican politics around the country that will make them stop thinking that Dick Cheney has a chance to be elected president. Or Kerry could receive a personality transplant, preferably from a lovably eccentric Charles Dickens character.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter that much. Massachusetts has other ways of influencing the country. They don’t call Boston the Hub for nothing. Between Red Sox Nation and MIT, Massachusetts has sports and technology covered. On our end, the Five Colleges will remain the literary heartland of the nation. Culturally, I believe Massachusetts is third in the nation, behind California and New York. In 100 years, stories will have been passed down of the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004. And all of the current political superstars will be Master’s degree thesis subjects.  
Matt Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at mrobare@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Entering political apathy”
  1. Jack says:

    I want to know why all the articles recently have held broad and ambiguous foci on “politics.” How about some newsworthy stories about real people and real life? As a reader, I’m tired of the sweeping, dateless, timeless, generalizations that have no more to do with today than they do yesterday or tomorrow. Do some reporting about life, and you’ll find that this “politicism” really takes nothing more than a jar of stock phrases and gargled opinions.

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