The Liberal State | The Nation


The Liberal State

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In June the Republicans trotted out Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey to accuse John Kerry of shirking his senatorial duties. Healey was startlingly animatronic for a lieutenant governor--an extraordinarily vestigial political office even by the standards of the Commonwealth (God save it!), which also has a Governor's Council, which hasn't been relevant to anyone's life since John Hancock and the Adams boys packed Thomas Hutchinson off to Nova Scotia. Anyway, Her Excellency opined that Kerry should leave his Senate seat because he couldn't give the job its due because of the demands of the campaign trail. She essentially was accusing Kerry of having a no-show job, which was pure goo-goo, no matter how transparently insincere it was. The argument lasted about one news cycle before it degenerated into a brawl over how Kerry might be replaced, and by whom. There's the arc of contemporary Massachusetts liberalism: Everything that starts out as a good-government issue eventually devolves to the fundamental political question of "Where's Mine?"

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Charles P. Pierce
Charles P. Pierce is a staff writer for the Boston Globe magazine, a contributing writer to Esquire and the author of...

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The music on Townes, Steve Earle's tribute to Townes Van Zandt, is simple and literally homespun. There is sinew to this music, and blood in the words.

It may not seem an improvement, but it's certainly superior to banging ourselves on the head over an issue like gay marriage, which seems to be the domain of Governor Romney. His Washington testimony didn't play all that well here at home, where the primary TV images of the "heated" debate have been angelic, happy children with balloons helping Dad and Dad, or Mom and Mom, tie the knot. As long as people throughout the Commonwealth (God save it!) don't start turning into pillars of salt, the issue may not be as useful in constructing an effective cartoon as the people in Karl Rove's workshop think it will be.

However, gay weddings may be all the Republicans have left with which to turn John Kerry into their concept of a Massachusetts liberal. Soft on national defense? A guy who found his way to the Mekong Delta when the incumbent was struggling to find Alabama? Soft on crime? A guy who was manifestly better as a prosecutor than, say, Kenneth Starr? In its frustration, the Bush campaign may find itself running against a genuine Massachusetts liberal, an heir to Lomasney as well as to Kennedy and Dukakis.

"It's going to be tough for them to create what they think a 'Massachusetts liberal' is out of John Kerry," explains Barney Frank. "He's a guy who's actually shot Communists and, when he was a district attorney, he locked up murderers." And an heir to the oldest school, as well--that noisome bunch of bandit merchants who first moved against the arrogant stupidity that is the inevitable product, and the ultimate weakness, of unaccountable power. It's time to welcome those old enemies, again, to the real Commonwealth of Massachusetts, God save it. Bring it on, if you like, and we'll see what ends up in the harbor this time around.

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