Walking the Beat

Sen. John Kerry’s performance in this weekend’s primaries has his Republican opponents sharpening their swords. It has been widely reported that they’re looking forward with glee to the chance to label Kerry with those dread words, “Massachusetts liberal.”

Voters fortunate enough to catch a fine analysis of Massachusetts, its voters and its politics by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s national political correspondent, Dick Polman, published Sunday, learned that it may not be that easy to demonize a whole state.

Polman has done his homework and concluded that Massachusetts’s image as a “lefty Brigadoon” is a “tad exaggerated.” Among his findings:

— The state that elected Michael Dukakis also voted twice for Ronald Reagan.

— Three of the four Massachusetts judges who recently cleared the way for the nation’s first same-sex marriages were named to the bench by Republicans.

— Four years ago, Massachusetts voters approved a measure to slash state income taxes, and two years later nearly erased the tax entirely.

Polman gives the lie to an easy political label, and he does it with thorough, shoe-leather research. And that’s what a political writer should be doing.


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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.