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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Profiles in democracy

The contrasts could not be more stark.

Lawyers in Lahore, Pakistan battling to snatch democracy back from the hands of US "friend" Pervez Musharraf.

Half a world away in Boston, a mere 13.6 percent of Boston voters turn out at the polls to elect a City Council, throwing out an incumbent who didn't seem to care about the job and replacing him with a candidate who slimed an opponent -- and now colleague -- for the same indifference.

Boston has hardly been a crowing symbol of democracy in recent decades. The current Mayor for Life is the third in a row to hold office for a double digit years. The council has been home to such notables as Dapper O'Neil, Louise Day Hicks, Jimmy Kelly and David Scondras.

The city charter renders the body virtually powerless -- it can only cut a mayor's budget. In the past, it's principal raison d'etre has been to produce mayors -- but Ray Flynn's and Tom Menino's longevity have pretty much eliminated that option.

Toss in a rainy day and why bother to get wet becomes a real question. A very wrong one.

The rise of the Christian Right -- which started with school boards until it elected a president who will leave us with anywhere between two and four wars -- shows the value of voting in every election.

And so do the lawyers of Pakistan -- wearing coats and ties and carrying their legal briefcases as they battle with police -- trying to carry out the will of a military strongman who seized power, professed to be a democrat while taking in $10 billion in American dollars while always refusing to give up his uniform.

Or a president, who after winning by the narrowest of margins and the shakiest "mandate", proceeded to steer hard right and start those wars in the name of the people.

Joni Mitchell said "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." The lawyers of Pakistan know. Do we?

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