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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Power politics

Ultimately, the question of who will become the next United States senator from Massachusetts will hinge on power and clout. But not just the kind it takes to get elected. An even more important question is who will be able to deliver.

The Globe looks at the legacy of Ted Kennedy in terms of the sort of clout we all want but don't like to talk about -- deliverables. The legacy is clear:
“He kind of protected us in a sense,’’ said Thomas Glynn, chief operating officer of Partners HealthCare, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The question is five years from now will [hospitals] be getting as much money as they would if he were alive. I doubt it.’’
The high tech-biotech sector and higher education have the same issues. Massachusetts is already a net exporter of taxes -- getting back less than we pay in federal taxes. With the loss of Kennedy and the potential to see the overall congressional delegation shrink, that gap could get worse.

The importance of clout on Washington was on vivid display in the allocation of federal stimulus dollars to Massachusetts. And while we love to complain, studies from other states show we are well positioned to benefit from the new economic realities.

The state is also in fairly good shape in terms of clout -- with Barney Frank heading up the House Financial Services Committee and Ed Markey holding down a high House position. Senior Sen. John Kerry (a strange thing to say) chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, but his efforts on behalf of constituents seems to have kicked up a notch during Kennedy's illness.

While it obviously will be hard to replace the power and influence (and the deal-making ability) of a man who held the job for 47 years, the ultimate question on who should hold the job rests on the candidate's ability to get protect our interests.

In the end, it's not the power of the party or the candidate to win an election. It's the ability of the winner to get the job done with even half the success of the man he or she will replace. That makes the job of the handful of Republicans who have even been mentioned tougher in a Senate overwhelmingly dominated (if not controlled) by Democrats.

Let's hope we don't lose sight of that in the acrimony we are about to see over the question of a temporary appointment and in a special election with staggering implications for the future health of the Commonwealth.

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