SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 9, 2012

Benton: Post-election musings

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — After $6 billion in spending that made for one of the nastiest campaigns since the days of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, we find ourselves in essentially the same place today as we were Tuesday morning with Barack Obama still in the White House, the Republicans holding a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Democrats holding a slight edge in the Senate.

A couple of things the Grand Old Party needs to keep in mind:

You can’t win a national election by dismissing the “47 percent” who receive some sort of government benefit and tailoring your campaign primarily to well-off white men. And pandering to the more extreme elements of the conservative base of the sort that gave rise to the tea party is a recipe for electoral disaster.

The Republicans had a net loss of seats in the House, but might have taken control of the Senate were it not for the anti-women rants of people like Missouri’s Todd Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock. The ultimate irony for the right is that the much-maligned Harry Reid will continue to preside over the upper chamber, when just two years ago he was considered ripe for defeat in his home state until Nevada Republicans opted for a tea partier over a more moderate candidate.

Mitt Romney was gracious in defeat early Wednesday morning, and Obama was his usual eloquent self, urging unity in the wake of a bruising campaign. But whether there is any real change from the partisanship that has characterized Washington for the past two years remains to be seen.

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Another sign of a changing electorate: Ballot measures legalizing gay marriage were approved in Maine and Maryland, and initiatives allowing recreational use of marijuana got the OK in Colorado and Washington state. (Massachusetts took a further step in that direction by approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes.)

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Rep. John Tierney defied the conventional wisdom and retained his 6th District seat for at least another two years. His margin of victory was razor-thin, however, which must have at least a few Democrats wondering if he could be vulnerable to an intraparty challenge in 2014.

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Look for organized labor to claim a lion’s share of the credit for Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s victory over incumbent Sen. Scott Brown. And union support was doubtless a key ingredient in Tierney’s win here on the North Shore.

Which should have Massachusetts taxpayers wondering how much more Big Labor’s influence is going to cost them over the next few years.

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The nabobs of negativity on the Salem City Council received a slap Tuesday night when voters approved a 1 percent surcharge on their property taxes to make the city eligible for state Community Preservation Act funding.

The CPA initiative was vigorously supported by Mayor Kim Driscoll, and its passage gives the lie to those on the council who claim a majority of their constituents would prefer to see the city return to those moribund days when one could fire a cannon down Essex Street without fear of striking anyone.

Under Driscoll’s leadership, Salem has become a model for smart urban growth, and the question that should be uppermost in voters’ minds at this point is who will replace her should she be enticed to seek higher office or accept a job elsewhere.

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Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.