The Message Behind The Failure Of Question One

( – promoted by Patrick)

Today’s Boston Globe (11-05-08) claims that Question #1 not only failed by a 2 to 1 margin, but that at press time not one community out of the state’s 351 cities & towns passed the ballot question. Carla Howell has tried to grasp at excuses for her team’s loss but the reality is that Question #1 proponents suffered a debacle of major proportions.

Does it mean Massachusetts citizens love higher taxes? The failure of five overrides in their respective communities suggests that’s not the case (& the loss/win ratio in the state for overrides thus far has been slanted in favor of its opponents). Are Bay State voters by nature content with the status quo? Well, the success of Questions #2 (marijuana decriminalization) & #3 (dog racing ban) suggests otherwise. The results of all three ballot questions, in fact, indicates to me that the majority of voters wanted dogs to be free from what many felt was a form of exploitation, less governmental harassment on what should be to most people a recreational activity, & a rejection of what they perceive to be a threat to the state’s sense of community. In other words, voters embraced personal freedom (human or otherwise) but not at the cost of community (as defined by the Democrat Party).

The blowout from Question #1 seems to me to be a clear rebuke not only to the libertarian fantasies that motivated some of its proponents but also to the “starve the beast” apologists who in some cases were gleeful about the prospects of chaos engulfing the state. The Massachusetts Republican Party found itself divided on the ballot question between Republican public officials who opposed it (from Beacon Hill on down to local officials) & many GOP activists who supported it. In contrast to Republican squabbling, the Democrats presented a united front behind a clear & compelling message that swayed voters in large numbers. Thanks to the GOP, Democrats seized the opportunity to reinforce the necessity of their paradigm.

Regular readers of this blog know that I vehemently opposed Question #1 from the start & offered a counterproposal which would have put the Democrats on the defensive & marginalized Carla & her Howellettes as fringe extremists while conversely situating the GOP as responsible, mainstream problem solvers. Given the party’s blowout on the national level & how it might have affected races in this state, it’s possible that even the counterproposal would have failed to win over a majority of voters. Yet even the failure of the counterproposal this year would have been a respectable foundation to launch another attack the following election cycle with a greater chance of success. Instead, the tremendous failure of Question #1 will now be used as proof by the Democrats that voters prefer their paradigm & that Democrat advocacy against Question #1 reinforces said party’s bona fides as the party that governs responsibly (as opposed to the hapless GOP who can’t even agree among themselves as to how to respond to the “crazed” Howellettes – let alone how irresponsibly some of them behaved when faced with the threat of social instability). I have no idea to what extent the implied GOP indifference to the ramifications of Question #1 played in the defeat of many GOP candidates this year who came from strong municipal backgrounds but I’m sure said perception’s didn’t help either. Democrats had multiple echo chambers; the GOP had none.

I’m as passionate on reducing government as anyone else on this blog & I think a case can be made to the voters to do just that. However, Republicans/conservatives need to abjure reactionary quick fixes as symbolized by Question #1. To persist in such follies damages the credibility of the party/movement & guarantees that the voters will NEVER be comfortable giving its consent to a group of people whose absolute hostility to the public sector makes them incapable of being good stewards & managers of local & state government.

About ConcernedVoterInMass


    Note to Dems:

    The state constitution mandates that all tax increases must be voted on by the electorate in Colorado. There were 4 tax increases on the statewide ballot this year.

    Democrats dominated the state in the elections, yet all 4 tax increases were voted down.

    Just because people rightly repudiated Bush/McCain does not mean they have embraced big government.

    Is TABOR the answer?

  • Although we disagree, I think it is fantastic post. I am going to write my own thoughts on why Question 1 failed soon.  

  • The bad news…

    Q1 didn’t pass.

    The good news…

    The MTA and it’s overpaid teachers ended up spending millions.

  • joeu

    The people I spoke to who voted against Question 1 all bought the argument that their property taxes would rise. If supporters had the funds to counter this it would have been a competitive race.

    California’s Question 8 was a different kettle of fish with built-in supporters among the various churches.

    Money is a buyer of elections and Question 1 was outspent. Plain and simple.

  • for one reason and one only.

    The scare tactic worked.

    Step one:  put out ads saying fire, police, education, and essential services will be cut.  “When you need help…..they will not come….”

    Step 2:  make potential cuts to essential services for the blind and other state services that some people might care about…….and ensure that the media hammers the notion home.  Note: these cuts were propaganda pieces to sway the vote…..and those cuts will now be nullified.

    Step 3:  claim property taxes will go up…..this gets the old vote that has no real income to tax, but own houses……and guess what old people?…your property taxes are going up anyway.

    The same scare tactic worked last time with the beer/wine question:  “Kids will be selling to kids and all teenagers will be drunkards!!!”

    …….and Carla Howell ran a VERY poor campaign that didn’t counter ANY of the propaganda.  Shoe SHOULD have been pointing out the SPECIFIC waste in the State and specific changes the State could make to save that 40%….cuts and re-orgs.

  • The Democrats are growing because they are unified by a sense of community and spending. I’ll support funding your project if you support funding mine. I’ll enact protections for your dogs if you’ll enact protections for my pot smoking.

    AO, I once heard that you kicked people off a town committee because they voted for a Democrat. Is that true?

    The one thing I haven’t liked about R’s is their really skewed loyalty/one-mind thing. The Christian Coalition worked for the R’sbecause that’s an indoctrinated belief system. But a political party that wants to grow surely has to show some of that kindness you so often speak of.

    Supporters of Q1 are of a minority opinion. You consistently paint them as fringe whackos. Maybe you mean this to be comments about certain individuals, and if so have the guts to say that. Otherwise it sure is sounding like you don’t want the GOP to welcome those who supported Q1. I don’t think the MassGOP has that luxury.

    Q1 probably is associated with Republicans, and despite that, the MassGOP let their ratings slip from 45% who used to support this initiative to 25%. Maybe it’s the Yes on 1 folks who should be blaming the false ties to the GOP for the failure rather than the other way around?

  • I’m a Libertarian myself and I supported Q #1.  I can see your logic however.  I endorsed the Question on the belief that there is at least 40% fat in the budget and because it was an a Boston Tea Party moment.  Any observer knew that it didn’t matter whether it passed by a 90% margin.  DiMasi and the Dems would just re-institute another one or a differnt tax altogether. But they’d have had to deal with it directly.  No weasling as they attempted with the Gay Marriage Amendment.  All that being said, the persuasion of your argument is that the proponents were “preaching to the choir”.  Hardly a way to get converts.  Massachusetts resident have been drinking the Kool-Aid for a long time.  They are easily scared by threats about police lay-offs.  They are too ill informed to know that Prop 2 1/2 protected them from unreasonable raises to the RE Tax.  They are too soft and unwilling to except even temporariy inconvenience.  The drastic nature of the issue only spooked the herd.  Better to woo the soccer mom than to chase her deeper into the arms of the socialist unions.

    I don’t know how “angelic” you are but it was a worthy piece and an interesting thread.