Could I offer some modest advice to anyone who might be a tiny bit tired of politics after what has been the worst, most witless campaign season in the history of representative democracy?
Run. Just run. Pack up all your belongings, pile them into the back of your cars, and flee down I-95 or out the Mass. Pike to the Great Plains. When you think you’ve gone far enough, drive through another state.
Because if you stay here in Massachusetts, here’s what you’re about to get: A perpetual campaign, two solid years of nonstop bickering complete with ominous television commercials, over-programmed candidates, and enough dinnertime robocalls to make your local Olive Garden thrive.
We’ll start with John Kerry, a front-runner for a high-level Cabinet job, justifiably so, maybe secretary of defense, if he’d accept that, but possibly secretary of state once President Obama realizes that it’s not worth a war with Senate Republicans to appoint Susan Rice.
That leads to a special election for Kerry’s Senate seat in the first half of 2013, which means we get Scott Brown driving his pickup right back into our lives. Even Republicans need to be honest: His prop-based, oddly negative, strikingly simplistic campaign wore poorly over time. But lest Democrats get too confident, the simple truth is that Brown plays better in a special election, pushing a message of moderation, with fewer voters, over a shorter duration.
The whole thing will be kicked off with weeks of hyperventilating over whether Deval Patrick will appoint another caretaker senator to serve for a few months with a commitment not to run, or will he name someone, say Ed Markey or Mike Capuano, both congressmen, to use the appointment to get a jump on Brown? Or would Markey and Capuano prefer to stay in their House seats, knowing that if they lost the Senate bid, they would still have a job?
A possible wildcard on the Democratic side: former Hancock insurance CEO David D’Alessandro.
On to the mayoralty. For years, every time I’ve thought about joining the chorus that says Thomas M. Menino should retire, I do something crazy. I look around this city. And what I see is a waterfront that may be the most booming urban neighborhood in America, clean streets and cranes in Dudley Square, a relatively low crime rate, stable property values, and sections from the North End to the South End that are packed with diners, play-goers, and just plain strollers through the week. Menino may not be fancy, but his effectiveness is indisputable. But today marks his 21st day at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which means that every member of that august legislative body known as the Boston City Council is plotting his or her own mayoral campaign for 2013. It’s a little scary when you consider that whenever anyone calls a recess at a City Council hearing, the entire group runs frantically for the doors to play kickball outside, juiceboxes in hand. Not that kind of recess, guys.
There are other possible candidates should Menino decide not to run — Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley, state Transportation Secretary Rich Davey, and Jim Rooney, the executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz is also an intriguing possibility. It’s not a stretch to think there could be a dozen viable candidates, not a front-runner in the group, if we end up with an open seat. A possible wild card: John Fish, the chief executive of Suffolk Construction.
The mayoral melee won’t be over by the time the 2014 gubernatorial campaign begins. Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray expressed his interest Thursday morning, two years out; state Treasurer Steve Grossman is telling people he wants to run; Republican Charlie Baker, assuming he goes again, will be a formidable candidate, maybe the favorite, provided he learned some lessons.
Guess what else comes in 2014? The reelection for whoever wins the Kerry seat.
It’s about to be all politics, all the time, leaving two choices — get ready or get out.