Politics as Unusual: In this blue city, conservative votes can still count big

August 13, 2013
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Unlike what we saw in Missouri this week, there’s no rodeo in Boston where a clown could please a crowd by sporting a caricature mask of President Barack Obama. Nor do we have gas stations with rebel flags flying in full view, or a Fox News fan store at our airport like they do in the South. Nevertheless, the Hub still claims a hearty handful of residents who subscribe to insanely far-right and jingoistic teachings. You might have even seen one burying their empty noggin in a Glenn Beck book on the MBTA. They’re full of fear and they’re here—so get used to it.

Conservatives might impact the mayoral race more than our generally liberal electorate may realize. The math on what happens from here is still fuzzy. Even experts who know ward maps inside-out are having trouble parsing preliminary premonitions. It’s still premature to gauge things like which school crusader might score an overwhelming education vote, or if some particular group of BPS parents—charter school advocates, for example—will comprise a uniform voting block. One factor that is certain, however, is that thousands of righties will be at the polls, and that long shot David James Wyatt—a pro-life African-American with $17 in his campaign account and the only Republican in the race—will not win their overwhelming support.

Though no one knows for sure, word on the campaign trail is that the two finalists who push through the September prelim will need at least 25,000 votes apiece. That’s only about half the number of Bostonians who pulled for Mitt Romney in 2012—nearly 20 percent of the entire presidential tally—and a few thousand more votes than there are registered Republicans in Boston. Liberal Xanadu or not, our metropolis boasts everyone from fiscally selfish GOP moderates to full-blown Tea Party xenophobes; in last year’s primary, even Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann won a whopping 25 votes citywide.

Before addressing who might dominate the conservative demographic, let’s pinpoint the least progressive corners of Boston. If we’re talking hardcore Republicans—those who came out for the 2012 GOP primary—there are about 2,000 voters between Wards 3 and 5, which more or less cover downtown from the North End to Beacon Hill and Back Bay. Move over to Hyde Park and West Roxbury—Wards 18 and 20—and you’re in a relative Republican hamlet, where nearly 2,700 people took the time to throw a vote away on losers ranging from Romney to Rick Santorum.

While thinking voters are juggling a number of strong progressive mayoral candidates, bigots, birthers and even Bachmann fanatics will lend their muscle to whoever they see as the proverbial best of the worst. Having written countless screeds about the dangers of electing Dan Conley, it saddens me to concede that everything that I deplore about the district attorney—his pandering, generic tough-on-crime commercials, his failure to hold cops who kill minorities accountable, etc.—will probably help him shore up much of this conservative base.

Such revelations aren’t lost on Conley, who just last week opened a South Boston campaign office smack in the middle of Ward 6, where Romney took nearly 40 percent of the general vote against Obama. The DA is also now an anti-tax crusader, and recently urged the legislature to repeal a 6.25 percent sales tax on computer and technology services. You can’t blame the guy for courting Caucasians; after an embarrassing performance at a forum in Roxbury last week, in which he lost his temper and called two prominent black activists “knuckleheads,” Conley would need a posthumous endorsement from Malcolm X to win significant support from communities of color.

Of course, there are also tens of thousands of potential conservative votes between the South End, Dorchester and Allston-Brighton. Those could go to anyone, from Wyatt to Mike Ross, the latter an apparent favorite among society types and young entrepreneurs. As for GOP strongholds like West Roxbury and Hyde Park, Conley may live in the former and hail from the other, but District Councilor Rob Consalvo appears to have Hyde Park in the bag, while City Councilor-At-Large John Connolly has proven extremely strong both there and in his own West Roxbury neighborhood over the past two election cycles. The same goes for Councilor-At-Large Felix G. Arroyo, though despite his impressive draw in the southernmost throws, it’s unlikely that he got much love from the area’s doctrinaire Irish Catholics, who this time have Conley, Connolly and state Rep. Marty Walsh to choose from.

A million other factors will play into who attracts the most conservatives—the Boston Herald endorsement, for one, will carry an enormous weight. In the meantime, it’s important to note that while the likes of John Barros and Bill Walczak yammer on about progressive policy proposals and split the Green-Rainbow vote, there’s a massive block of intolerant Fox News voters right here in the Hub who, unfortunately, will help decide which hopeful gets to run this bluest of American metropolises.

Chris Faraone is a former Boston Phoenix reporter and author of “99 Nights with the 99 Percent” and the upcoming “I Killed Breitbart.” He lives in Jamaica Plain.

  • Liz OConnor

    John Barros should get the votes of the thinking business community, many of whom number among those Romney voters.

    To quote Larry Harmon,

    “John Barros, a former member of the city’s mayorally appointed school board, could turn out to be the business community’s sleeper candidate. Former Bank of America Chairman Chad Gifford and former Abt Associates President Wendell Knox are actively supporting Barros, a Roxbury native who speaks the languages of the neighborhoods and the downtown business world. Barros has served as head of the nonprofit Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and as a data analyst for Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.”

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