Friday, September 09, 2005

Who Are They Going to Vote For?

In an editorial praising Attorney General Tom Reilly for his decision to certify the anti-marriage initiative, the Boston Herald makes this comment:

This wasn't all that tough a call for Reilly politically. He might cede some gay marriage supporters to the underfunded Deval Patrick, but given the likely choice between Reilly and the GOP nominee for governor – whomever that might be – who are those people going to back?
Of course, the Herald oversimplifies the choice. No matter what happens between now and November, 2006, it will never come down to a decision simply between the Republican and Democrat. As we saw nationally in 2000, the Green party candidate can siphon support from the left and if neither candidate is particularly inspiring, folks on the left may simply stay home. In a close election, that might be enough to swing it to the Republican. As I understand Massachusetts politics, Democrats do best when there's an alliance between the progressives and the insiders. In 1998, Scott Harshbarger had the progressives, but the insiders didn't back him. Four years later, Shannon O'Brien had the insiders, but the progressives fled to Jill Stein or sat out. If Reilly wins the primary and can't convince liberals that he's worth voting for, they'll stay home and at least take solace in the fact that no Republican can get anything accomplished without the consent of the Democratic legislature.

What's clear to me now, however, is that it really didn't matter which way Tom Reilly ruled this week. If he had ruled the opposite, anti-marriage forces would have appealed the decision, and I understand that it's the policy of the Commonwealth to allow signatures to be collected while the prospective initiative is under appeal. Since both sides were determined to appeal, the final decision never rested with Reilly at all, but with the SJC instead. If you think about it, Reilly's decision actually helped pro-marriage forces since it killed the potential 2006 initiative (or so we assume). If he had gone the other way, those against both equal marriage rights and civil unions may have planned to switch their votes at the Constitutional Convention this coming week. In any event, the actual decision, makes a compelling case that this is the correct legal outcome, and if it's upheld on appeal it will be clear that Reilly, whether you agree with the decision or not, did what he was Constitutionally obligated to do.