Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Myth of a Conservative Central Mass.

Having grown up and first become politically aware in the Fitchburg area, I can't count the number of times I've heard people describe central Massachusetts as "conservative."

Liberals have complained about it, just as conservatives have lauded it. Both I think recognized that central Massachusetts is a bit more conservative than the Boston area or western Mass.

Hopefully they also realized that being more conservative than those two very liberal areas isn't saying much. It's not like central Mass. is on par with central Alabama or anything.

Still, a superficial look at the local media might lead the casual observer to believe that the Fitchburg area is actually conservative.

There's a crappy conservative newspaper, we've had some far-right radio hosts on local stations, and the cranky conservative contingent is quite good at leaving their wingnutty comments all over the local internet. The local blog authors are still mostly moderate or liberal-leaning, but the commenters can be batshit crazy.

What this all brings me to is this article in the Worcester Telegram. It's about the presidential race and the money going into it from central Mass. Seems Obama is by a large margin the favorite of this supposedly "conservative" section of the state.

For instance:
Through September, 364 residents of Worcester, Fitchburg, Leominster, Auburn, Shrewsbury and Westboro made 1,173 contributions of $200 or more to Mr. Obama’s campaign totaling $192,749. That amount is almost three times the $72,809 that 101 McCain supporters in those communities gave in 193 contributions of $200 or more in that same time period, according to campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission.

In Southbridge, alone among the seven communities, Mr. McCain out-raised Mr. Obama, collecting $7,650 from three donors to Mr. Obama’s $1,259 from five donors.

Throughout the state, Mr. Obama received $12.1 million in campaign contributions through August, more than triple Mr. McCain’s $3.6 million in contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Web site.
Yep, Obama more popular than McCain. Shocking news, right? Apparently only Southbridge even gives a shit about McCain, and that mostly looks like three rich Republicans and not some sort of groundswell of support.

When it comes to Fitchburg, we find an even bigger difference.
Keith Stone, a 46-year-old Fitchburg resident, who retired last year, contributed 14 times to Mr. Obama’s campaign, giving a total of $640.

Mr. Stone said Mr. Obama should be president because he will change current political policies.

“To have John McCain admit on TV that he voted 90 percent of the time with the president showed that voting for him is like asking for another four years of the same policies,” Mr. Stone said.

Mr. Stone said residents of Fitchburg, whose mayor may turn off certain streetlights to help manage the city budget, cannot afford four more years like recent ones. He and 18 other Fitchburg residents contributed $9,691 through Sept. 30 to Mr. Obama through 120 contributions, more than 12 times the amount given to Mr. McCain in the same period in that city.
Twelve times! Holy crap!

Really, this shouldn't be surprising. Fitchburg elected Deval Patrick with an even bigger percentage than he got in the general election. It elected Lisa Wong in a landslide. It is basically a pretty liberal town, at least as far as its voting record goes.

So why does it come across as conservative? Obviously, the newspaper doesn't help. But it goes beyond that. There's an old guard of conservative douchebags in Fitchburg. They're all over the media, they spend a lot of time writing letters to the editor and making inane comments on the internet.

They're the people who appear whenever a change (sometimes painful, usually necessary) needs to be made, kicking and screaming and demanding that things would be so much better if only we had an old white guy in charge. They're the ones who think "lifelong Fitchburg resident" is a qualification for public office, not a detriment.

If you get in an argument with this old guard, you will lose. Not because you're wrong. You're not. You'll lose because they can afford to spend ten hours a day writing bullshit about the town, and you don't have the time to debunk each of their idiotic points in turn. They can't win with logic, so they go with bulk.

But you know what? It doesn't matter.

In the end, most people in this area are on your side. Sure, there are plenty of conservative cranks ready to make a lot of noise. But nobody really listens to them. They're enjoying their own little echo chamber where they can talk about how Obama is a secret scary Muslim and Lisa Wong is all about self-promotion, not public service. They're just a little cult of ideology. And have about the same basis in reality as your average cult.

In the meantime, you and I should celebrate. We're actually not the minority. We may be the loud ones. The ones who make blogs and get in arguments and run campaigns and generally work to make things better. But we're just the representatives of the majority of people in this area, who basically support the same ideas.

Conservatism is a dying ideology. That's as true in central Massachusetts as it is in the rest of the state. At this point, that may even be the rest of the country.

Things are changing for the better. Enjoy. And keep up the good work.