In the hapless 2008 comedy Swing Vote, Kevin Costner plays Bud Johnson, a politically clueless New Mexican whose ballot-in-need-of-recasting could determine the presidential election. Jump ahead to last month’s special election between Edward Markey (D) and Gabriel Gomez (R) for former senator John Kerry’s seat in the United States senate, a race quite like Swing Vote‘s fictionalized one in that nobody really cared about it. Instead of Costner’s Bud, I played myself: a politically informed non-resident of Massachusetts who could only sit, watch, and laugh.Anyone unfamiliar with the special election (i.e. most of Boston) would’ve thought Warren was campaigning again.And laugh I did. Both the Markey and Gomez campaigns were fueled by the fiery grassroots activism that propelled Elizabeth Warren (D) to the senate in the November 2012 election against the incumbent Scott Brown (R). The remnants of Warren’s amazing efforts are nationally known, but the local signs are even more prominent eight months on. Everywhere you turn, you can find stickers, banners, and decals from the Warren campaign. A few leftovers from the Brown campaign have stuck around, too, but their frequency pales in comparison. The momentum generated by that election obviously inspired the Markey and Gomez campaigns, but with much less fanfare–or care. Even during the final push before the June 25 election, anyone unfamiliar with the special election (i.e. most of Boston) would’ve thought Warren was campaigning again. She realized that she hadn’t researched either candidate and jokingly contemplated “voting for the cute one.”If campaign troubles weren’t enough, the special election was also made remarkable by its low voter turnout. Boston.com reports that 38 percent of eligible local voters went out to the polls, whereas 27 percent of the state’s eligible voters participated in the election. (The listed numbers for total registered voters are even more depressing, so I’ll skip repeating them.) Much of the media reporting on the election in the weeks prior had already accurately assessed these qualities, so the final counts came as no surprise. However, the surest sign of the campaigns’ (and the election’s) triviality came the day of when a friend and I found ourselves stuck in rush hour traffic on the turnpike. Randomly recollecting the day’s election, she realized that she hadn’t researched either candidate and jokingly contemplated “voting for the cute one.” It’s easy to sit back comfortably and mindlessly criticize something when said critic(s) isn’t tied to or involved with the subject of scrutiny.Even so, this was an important election for the commonwealth. A once-occupied senate seat was empty and needed to be filled. Basic democratic process stuff. Whether or not it matters in the long run remains to be seen. Local and national pundits have already expressed opinions as varied as laudatory orations for Markey’s proclaimed desire to “seek consensus wherever possible” to apathetic lamentations on the death of democracy. Much of what I’ve written above tends toward the latter, yet I recognize the (surface) viability of the process and the need for elections. Besides, it’s easy to sit back comfortably and mindlessly criticize something when said critic(s) isn’t tied to or involved with the subject of scrutiny. I didn’t vote–I just knew more about it than most voters.
But now that the smoke’s cleared, I have the race for Markey’s former seat in the United States House of Representatives to look forward to. Five candidates affiliated with the Democratic Party have already announced their intentions to run in an election that will probably occur in December. Maybe I’ll have my residency by then.
What are your thoughts Boston? Did you vote? Let us know in the comments below.