Elitist Liberal Chablis-Sipper? Moi? Massachusetts is about to take its usual election-year beating from the GOP. But we're really a bunch of regular chowderheads.
(FORTUNE Magazine) – You know who John Kerry is. He's the candidate running from Massachusetts.
Weak play on words intended. Ever since Lee Atwater tap-danced on the campaign of Michael Dukakis, hailing from Massachusetts has been the black spot of presidential politics. When Boston "won" the right to host the Democratic National Convention, former House Republican leader Dick Armey of Texas opined, "If I were a Democrat, I would feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in Boston than, say, in America."
You know what they say about Dallas, Dick. It's not the heat, it's the stupidity.
We Massachusetts residents have seen this movie before. We are the Chablis-sipping, tax-crazed liberals with wild-eyed judges who want to shove gay marriage down the craw of the God-fearing. I will admit that--three Purple Hearts notwithstanding--our boy John Forbes Kerry is a little fey. He prepped at St. Paul's School, home of America's first squash court. Then he swanned around Yale, a member of its most elite and exclusive fraternity, Skull and Bones. (Bushes father and son were Bonesmen too. Don't look for it to be an election issue.)
The "Forbes" in Kerry's name doesn't refer to flat-tax enthusiasts, by the way. These Forbeses were Yankee merchants who opened up the China trade and weren't squeamish about dealing a little opium. They have been rich since the 18th century, about 150 years before Representative Armey's old district got its first paved street. (For more on Kerry and trade, see "Borrowing From Bubba.")
We know Karl Rove has our state in his sights. But we are as American as apple pie and then some. In fact, when Rove needed a prop for his boss's lackluster State of the Union speech this year, to whom did he turn? One Tom Brady of Medfield, Mass., a new-fashioned New England Patriot.
The Republicans think we are out-of-touch cupcakes. Well, chew on this: We've been under continuous Republican rule since 1990. Our taxes are lower than those in the states run by George Pataki and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, dear reader, it was your taxes that paid for the "Big Dig," the federally funded transportation plan that has transformed downtown Boston. You can call our politicians liberal, but don't call them stupid.
Cupcakes? Perhaps you have heard of Salem's "Neutron" Jack Welch. Or South Boston's James "Whitey" Bulger, described on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list as an "avid reader with an interest in history." Even our triggermen are bookworms here in what Oliver Wendell Holmes called the hub of the solar system.
Have you heard of the John Birch Society? They are the original communists-under-the-bed whack jobs, the people who thought Eisenhower was a pawn of the Kremlin. The society was founded in Somerville, Mass., by candy manufacturer Robert Welch, creator of the Sugar Daddy. We contributed raging right-wingers to the national stage back when the Bushes were trolling for votes among the twill-trousered suburbanites of their real home state, Connecticut.
Yes, we are a state chock-full of average Americans. America's Everyman, Jay Leno, hails from Andover. Before they moved America's emergency room to Chicago, home of E.R., it used to be in downtown Boston: St. Elsewhere was a stone's throw from Boston's Public Garden. Speaking of the Garden, there used to be a bar there where one night in 1993, 80 million people got together. It was called Cheers, and its final episode still holds the record for largest prime-time sitcom audience.
Once, a candidate hailing from the Bay State had an advantage. Fear of tyranny by Virginians (!) helped both John Adams and his son along their paths to the White House. And more recently there was the other J.F.K.--you know, the Senator with all the disadvantages attached to his candidacy: He was Catholic, his opponent was a more experienced politician from a bigger state, he wasn't particularly well known.
Mock us all you like. Underestimate us at your peril.
ALEX BEAM is a columnist for the Boston Globe.