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The Boston Globe

Opinion

the podium

A question for swing voters

Excerpts from the Globe’s “Voices of New England’’ blog at www.bostonglobe.com/podium.

A QUESTION FOR SWING VOTERS

You don’t have to be an independent “swing” voter to be fed up with obstructionist gridlock in Washington. Believe me — enlightened Republicans and Democrats are sick of it, too! But if swing voters are, arguably, less ideological and more centrist than voters affiliated with the major parties, their pragmatic analysis of the consequence of their Senate vote is critical before Nov. 6.

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The tight Senate contest in Massachusetts is touted as “the Number One Senate race in the country” because its outcome could determine which party will control the Senate.

So, it’s reasonable that Massachusetts swing voters ask: “If the heart of Scott Brown’s 2012 campaign is his boast of “independence” and “bipartisanship,” why are the obstructionist Tea Party activists who helped elect him in 2010 supporting him again in 2012?” Here’s the honest answer. To them, he’s just a number — a numerical means to a political end. All the Tea Party cares about is increasing the Republican Senate caucus from 47 to 51 members. If it succeeds succeed in just four states, the Senate’s Tea Party maestro, Jim De Mint of South Carolina, or current minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, will take majority control of an obstructionist agenda in the Senate; the strident ranting of a newly emboldened Tea Party against constructive compromise will be louder than ever; and Massachusetts’ junior senator will be further marginalized by his right-wing colleagues.

In an earlier time when pragmatic deal-makers from both parties held the Senate’s balance of power, when a clash of ideas in civil debate led to legislative compromise, when shared responsibility for resolving political differences led to more enlightened public policies, it may have made sense for Massachusetts swing voters to pair Republican Leverett Saltonstall with Democrat John Kennedy or Republican Ed Brooke with Democrat Ted Kennedy. Each worked to deliver votes from their respective and respected parties to advance the larger interests of our Commonwealth and country.

Sadly, this is a different time.

PAUL G. KIRK

Former interim US Senator

A VETERAN OF THE CHARLES

It’s difficult to resist sculling on the Charles River if you live only minutes from the Cambridge Boat Club. So effortless. So tranquil. So centered. And oh, to become one with the reliably adorable ducks, the loose-bowelled geese, the edgy cormorants, the uxorious swans, the basking turtles, and, of course, your own unstable boat. I succumbed in the mid-’90s.

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Most of my contemporaries who are still racing have collected more than their weight in medals, plaques, trophies, and decaying T-shirts. I, on the other hand, have garnered a single second-place medal, which I am obliged to admit was earned in a two-person boat in a three-boat race.

Some years ago, I reached a new developmental stage. I shuffled into the Senior Veterans (70 and over) division. Splashing around with this distracted bunch is like a disorderly scramble to beat the early-bird cutoff time at Denny’s in Boca Raton.

FRANK PORTER

Freelance writer

INVESTING IN STEM

Nearly every year we hear about a looming problem that threatens to undermine Boston’s economic success: a “brain drain” from our college-rich region of graduates moving back home or on to other destinations.

Most troubling is the exodus of talent in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Losing a large number of these graduates threatens Boston’s innovation economy, and we should do all we can to make the Commonwealth more attractive to keep them here.

Fortunately, public higher education in the Commonwealth is responding to the need for STEM-educated college graduates, and to the demand from students seeking careers in these fields.

J. KEITH MOTLEY

UMass Boston Chancellor

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