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Wendy, as I say, disputes that the sign campaign beat her. She noted that Licciardello had outspent her two-to-one, and had used some effective poll-monitoring and telephone techniques. In my view, the signs echoed the national “booga-booga” trope invoked with nearly every mention of names like Nixon, Gingrich, and DeLay. It nearly always seems to work.
There were other issues, of course, primarily money, going back beyond this year’s proposed tax override to one three years ago that Wendy had helped campaign to defeat. Nonetheless, the next morning, there grinned Tom Licciardello from the front page of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, with his ten thousand dollar teeth and flossy white senatorial hair, the very image of a Massachusetts process liberal. And the headline read, “Wakeman Out.”
I asked Wendy about the emotions she felt when she gave her concession talk in her tight-ceilinged little kitchen.
They were mixed, she said. It was tough, but “I certainly knew that Licciardello was probably in a position to win. I was surprised, I was disappointed. At the same time there was a certain relief at being rid of the constant battle.”
There are good things in store, too. Husband Brad’s job has developed into a globetrotter, and Wendy and home-schooled daughter Millicent can go along. They were off for Amsterdam the day after our interview.
IT WAS STILL COLD AND WET in New England as Bud and I drove home that election night.
“So what’s going to be different in North Andover?” Bud asked.
“Probably not a lot,” I said. “The voters turned down the tax override, so the money isn’t there to spend. More people will get to talk about more environmental stuff at selectman meetings. We may end up with a strip club. Licciardello and the rest of the board are still going to have to negotiate lots of things.”
“So it won’t be too bad?”
“Oh, no, not at all.”
And it won’t be. Democracy worked, one more time, down at the level where it has always worked best in America. Different from national elections, we did not know how it was going to come out. No polls or pundits told us, and, even moments before the vote count, the most experienced local pols could only tell us, “I don’t know.” And that’s a good thing, too.
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The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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