Seventeen hours and counting

I’m not given to quoting Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s blog, but, as we embark with certain misgivings on the last 17- hour countdown till the polls open, I note that his exhortation to Catholics to vote speaks of hope guiding civic participation. I found myself thinking, yeh, but doesn’t it depend on what you hope for?

I was a big fan of Charlie Baker when he started running. He exuded competence, and his Baker’s Dozen concrete ideas for saving money and rationalizing the abuses made sense. I thought his ideas could inform the discussion during the race, even though many of the ideas had already been rejected by the legislature. I hope that Deval Patrick, if he is reelected, will do as he said, and adopt some of Baker’s ideas.

But something happened during the campaign. Despite awkward attempts to be a Scott Brown-type man of the people, Baker came across as elitist, a numbers cruncher without a sense of warmth and compassion that he can exhibit in private. We know he’d increase unemployment by 5000 people to start, the state workers he’d eliminate. And there would be more. We know his tax policies cannot be achieved without cutting into the heart of programs that government is all about, from higher education, to infrastructure to human services. We question his commitment to clean energy if that entails public investment to spur private sector initiatives. Deval Patrick has not been without flaws, some of them foolish newby mistakes, some of them a reluctance to go far enough with reforms he initiated (after four Republican governors had done nothing.) But there’s an optimism and humanity to Patrick that is very important in these divisive times.

Many will be looking to Patrick’s success or failure as a signal regarding Obama. They both have approval ratings of less than 50 percent. 

Given the pessimism most voters are feeling about the economy, it’s amazing that a scant half are still somewhat approving, of both the Governor and the President. No surprise, however, that Patrick and Baker are running neck-and-neck in the race for the corner office. We have an ADD society in which people’s short attention spans don’t fuel patience with a slower than desired pace of improvements, even if we are doing measurably better than the rest of the country.

As noted in a Ross Douthat op ed in today’s NY Times, a years-long, growing tilt toward progressive policies and politics culminated with the election of Obama, but the difficulty of implementing change in the worst recession since the Great Depression has cooled the ardor. People are impatient for change. Some say that Obama overpromised, that he engendered hope he couldn’t possibly fulfill and that he would have been a great President for times of prosperity. We all have a choice to make between dashing those hopes or embracing a politics of fear. I, for one, am not ready to give up on those hopes.

Massachusetts Democrats running for Congress will probably win tomorrow and, by and large, bring competency and experience to the table. But seeing them get slapped around during this contest makes one hope they wake up to the need to become better listeners.

I suspect that Mary Z. Connaughton will prevail in the low-on-the-ballot but important race for state auditor, and I haven’t a clue as to whether Steve Grossman will defeat Karyn Polito. You know, the one who shipped at least one job out of state by hiring (it is rumored) a professional Doberman for her “watchdog” television ad.

For now, whatever the outcome, polling day will bring relief from the unrelenting harangues and endless campaign advertising. One hopes it will also being an end to – or at least a diminution of – the mean and polarizing rhetoric. We have so much to do as a nation, and soon enough Campaign 2012 will intrude on how effectively we can accomplish anything.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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