Sunday, June 23, 2024

Voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. (Photo: Jason Langheine)

Tuesday is Election Day for the president, U.S. Senate and a slew of other races big and small.

Voting the person, not the party, is usually a noble thing, but Republicans have erased its virtue. The lockstep radicalism compelled by the tea party, big-dollar extremist donators and Fox News has meant the loss of GOP moderates such as Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe and the arrival of yahoos such as Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, Rand Paul in Kentucky and Allen West in Florida.

While there are hints of sustained reason from Republicans such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, on the whole the party has adhered to and enforced fiscal and legislative lunacy with ridicule or shunning for those who diverge. In the past four years we’ve seen such a refusal to govern from Republicans that Standard & Poor’s lowered the country’s credit rating for the first time because of “political brinkmanship” in Washington — and Republicans, supposedly the party of fiscal responsibility, shrugged off the significance of it and even of a brief default on debt. The same party agreed in August 2011 to take steps to cut the deficit or trigger $500 billion in defense cuts and now disavows the deal, which had to be made only because it won’t raise taxes on the very rich even back to the prosperous levels of Reagan or Clinton.

Because this list goes on, it is hard to trust party members will do what’s right for the country rather than just stick with what’s most damaging to our president. What else explains the accusations of socialism for health care insurance reform that implements a proposal from the conservative Heritage Foundation that was put in place by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts?

Yet newspapers such as The Des Moines Register endorse Romney as a reward for Republican intransigence and hysteria (“Early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed,” the paper says, oddly failing to identify why it is that “since then, he has abandoned the effort”) and in faith Romney was lying throughout his campaign. (“Romney had to tack to the right during the primary season. Since then, he has recalibrated his campaign to focus on his concern for the middle class, and that is believable if the real Mitt Romney is the one on display as governor of Massachusetts who passed a health care reform plan that became the model for the one passed by Congress,” it says, without stressing that its endorsement rests on an “if” and whether voters “believe” this is the “real” Romney. Ouch.)

Given all this — a demand for unity in a party tilting dangerously to the right led by a candidate whose appeal rests in the fact we don’t know whether he was lying then or now  —  voting down ticket for a Republican who seems reasonable and bipartisan is too big a risk. The party needs an electoral rebuke that will allow it to finally break with the socially conservative faction that has been perverting its message since its Reagan-era alliance with the Moral Majority. If the party wants to be plausibly for fiscal conservatism it has to be able to compromise. If it wants to be for small government, it can’t simply be anti-government, and absolutely has to stay out of people’s bedrooms … and uteruses. Its hypocrisy drives away ethnic minorities, women and anyone other than close-minded heterosexuals. That puts it at most a generation away from irrelevance.

Democrats are a classically weak party on the correct side of many issues. They need to govern more firmly and wisely while Republicans contemplate their approach. Vote Republican anywhere from top to bottom and it reinforces an infrastructure that was installed wrong to begin with.

What does this mean?

No on Mitt Romney. The chameleonlike Romney began badmouthing Massachusetts in pursuit of higher office before his term as governor had even ended, and he hasn’t stopped talking out of both sides of his mouth since. This “Etch A Sketch” of a politician — a phrase supplied by his own campaign — has no bedrock political positions except, seemingly, more of the same trickle-down economics that have been proven disastrous to the country for three decades. He’s a mass of presidential-looking hair propped up by privilege and entitlement. He doesn’t know who makes up the “47 percent” he’s so quick to disparage to his chums, and for someone so busy talking about America and family he’s awfully willing to stand in the way of any American or family that doesn’t look like him or his.

No on Scott Brown. The Republican U.S. senator has not been as bipartisan as he would like voters to think, and certainly not as accomplished, while Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, has had a tremendous effect on every consumer — by crafting the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau — without ever being in office. With a not-too-impressive résumé to run on, Brown has pushed surprisingly hard on the idea there’s political or even personal significance in Warren claiming Native American ancestry on an employment form; that’s really pushing it for someone who’s boasted repeatedly and groundlessly (and weirdly) of “secret meetings with kings and queens and prime ministers” and said he “served in Afghanistan” because he did two weeks of National Guard training in one of the safer areas there.

No on Thomas Vasconcelos. The 25-year-old Republican has held his own in debates, even with the longtime incumbent he hopes to unseat in the 26th Middlesex District state rep race. Vasconcelos has had facts at his fingers and shown a good instinct for probing where an opponent is vulnerable, has a grounding in finance and ethics that would speak well for any elected official and a plan to fix what he sees as a looming fiscal apocalypse. He has also spoken with despair of the missteps being taken by his own party and stated — much more convincingly than Brown, certainly — that he stands apart. He truly is more libertarian in bent and has proven it with admirable positions on legalizing marijuana and basic LGBT rights. Politics has a way of smoothing out those sharp differences, though, and even if we had the luxury of electing a Republican to help replenish the dying stock of GOP iconoclasm there are other reasons to stick to the blue side of the ticket: As encouraging as his performance was in the second of two debates, his performance in the first raised questions of temperament; his disengagement from the campaign outside those debates (including long silences in social media) is worrisome; and some of his solutions need seasoning.

But not voting for Republicans doesn’t have to mean voting Democrat-only. If there’s any place safe to elect an independent progressive who’ll caucus with Democrats, it’s here. And that means:

Yes on Mike “No Money” Connolly. To repeat an endorsement from September, Connolly’s candidacy for the seat of Tim Toomey in that same 26th Middlesex District state rep race can send a powerful message about getting money out of politics that can be emulated in coming races by other candidates. While Toomey’s behavior in the race was at times disappointing — one example was digging into Connolly’s college term papers for a rather weak attempt at a smear about his employer’s misdeeds — this still isn’t meant as a rejection of Toomey so much as it is a vote of hope for another approach to politics. Connolly has mounted a serious challenge to a two-decade incumbent with an incredible power base, and all for about 13 percent of the money. Connolly’s policies are in line with those of voters in Cambridge and Somerville and there is no question about his temperament; he took all Toomey and Vasconcelos could throw at him and responded with dogged good cheer and rationality.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The city’s Election Commission website is here.