TODAY I AM A DEMOCRAT.
I'll be out of town and unable to vote at the polls next Tuesday, so I obtained an absentee ballot from the town clerk in Brookline. Since I, like more than 46 percent of registered voters in Massachusetts, am officially "Unenrolled" -- i.e., independent -- I had to decide which party's primary to vote in. I chose the Democrats, which automatically makes me one.
When I return home, I'll stop at Town Hall and change my affiliation back to Unenrolled. Until then, just think of me as -- Jeff Jacoby, Registered Democrat.
Registered Brookline Democrat, yet. There's a tautology. Talk about the Department of Redundancy Department. No, Forrest, Brookline elections are not like a box of chocolates. You always know what you're going to get. Either the liberal wins, or the other liberal wins.
Be that as it may, let's see what we Brookline Democrats are voting on this primary.
The US Senate race is listed first. Since Edward M. Kennedy has no primary opponent, I have to wonder why his name -- I'm not making this up -- is printed in letters twice as large as every other name on the ballot. Not that it matters. They could make his name six times bigger, but I wouldn't vote for him. To do so would violate several longstanding rules of mine. Among them:
1. Avoid voting for unopposed candidates.
2. Avoid voting for incumbents.
3. Avoid voting for Ted Kennedy.
In fact, nine of the 15 races on this ballot are uncontested. I'm giving them all a blank: attorney general, treasurer, auditor, state senator, and state representative, plus Norfolk County DA, clerk of courts, and register of deeds.
I'm blanking the congressional race, too. US Rep. Barney Frank is opposed by a Lyndon LaRouche loony named Denise Ham. (Frank vs. Ham -- the lunch-meat contest). No vote for Frank; he's been in Congress 14 years, and that's too long. No vote for Ham, either. Wouldn't be kosher.
For lieutenant governor? Tough choice, but I'll take Marc Draisen over Bob Massie. I know, I know, Draisen would be Central Casting's top choice to play the lead in "Young Michael Dukakis." But he's a bright and likeable guy. He's paid his dues and gotten things done. He gets my vote.
As does Augusto Grace for the secretary of state nomination. It's been 30 years since the Massachusetts GOP nominated a black man for statewide office. About time the Democrats did likewise.
There's a four-way race for a seat on the Governor's Council, which votes on judicial nominees and commuting prison sentences. The nice respectable candidate is Cynthia Creem, a lawyer and Newton alderman, and surely the only candidate in America with a radio spot that repeatedly mentions Al Gore. Creem is big on domestic abuse cases, and very PC on "women's issues." In other words, if she gets in, the rest of the Framingham 8 are getting out.
The others: Joseph Downes, a Lowell chiropractor; hairdresser Bo Morrissey, who is running as "Jackie," to make voters think he's a she; and local crackpot Robert Kahn, a Brookline security guard whose essence is uniquely captured by the term "nut."
Of the many Kahn stories, the best may be the one about the time he claimed he and his mother had to move to a hotel because their air conditioning in their apartment broke down. Kahn then sued the apartment manager for the cost of the hotel stay. He lost, even though he submitted receipts from the hotel he and Mom had stayed at -- the Trump Regency in Atlantic City.
Kahn is a joke. But the Governor's Council is, too. It's a relic of George III's day that should have been abolished decades ago. I'm voting against the council -- by voting for Kahn.
Finally, the governor's race. Which of the three amigos should the Democratic Party -- my party, now -- put up against Bill Weld?
Mark Roosevelt, who modestly announced that his record as a state representative is "probably unsurpassed in the 20th century," yet refuses to identify himself as a state representative on the ballot?
Michael Barrett, who launched his senatorial tenure by asking Bill Bulger for a big favor and never voted against him for Senate president -- and now runs commercials congratulating himself for not being a Bulger patsy?
Or George Bachrach, who has given money to Republican Treasurer Joe Malone and Republican Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci, but not to any of the Democrats running to replace them?
My choice is Bachrach, because he's right. That is, Left. He is the only Democrat running on a consistent ideological platform, and that is just the kind of candidate primaries should elevate.
I buy Bachrach's argument that Barrett and Roosevelt are campaigning as "Republicrats," stridently condemning the Weld administration while simultaneously embracing a menu of conservative policies. Roosevelt and/or Barrett support the death penalty, term limits, NAFTA, welfare cutbacks, no-new-taxes, privatization, and less government regulation.
Bachrach, by contrast, is running as an unabashed left-winger. He thinks the solution to unemployment is a North-South Rail Link. He says less cash for unwed mothers won't reduce illegitimacy, but more "pregnancy prevention" programs will. He'd like the health-care system to be run by the government. He wants taxes to be higher.
As a conservative who values liberty and mistrusts government, I don't agree with anything Bachrach stands for. But as a serious voter, I do want Democratic and Republican nominees to stand for different things. Democrats should be clearly liberal; Republicans, clearly conservative. Campaigns should emphasize differences between the parties, not obscure them.
Come the general election in November, I'd like Massachusetts to have a choice between gubernatorial alternatives that are, within reason, as opposite as possible. For the more unalike the nominees, the more meaningful the final vote. Each of the candidates is a talented, interesting man. But of the three, the best Democrat is Bachrach.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)