That’s me, standing out at Five Corners last Saturday.

I’m sorry to report that Sam Sutter lost his Democratic primary race to represent the new Massachusetts 9th District in Congress. The upside is that Bristol County gets to keep its hardworking and effective district attorney.

I blogged last month about why I was supporting Sam. All of what I wrote then is still true.

In case anyone didn’t notice, the Democratic National Convention was going on in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the Massachusetts primary campaign headed into the homestretch. I don’t have a TV and so didn’t watch it unfold, but I have been catching up with the speeches. They’re rousing and inspiring, the way speeches should be. Comparing the faces in the crowd with the faces at last week’s Republican National Convention, I can’t help thinking: These are my people.

Watching those faces as former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords took the stage to lead last night’s assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance — well, I had tears streaming down my own face. Giffords was nearly killed in a January 2011 assassination attempt. She’s had a hard, hard struggle back to life. Last night, crossing that huge stage in front of thousands of people, she was assisted by her friend, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. What I saw in those faces was love and encouragement and identification. They were with her all the way.

Giffords’s life was changed forever, and nearly ended, by one crazy fanatic with a gun. The U.S. has been changed radically by a cabal of white guys with a lot of money. And for all of us the long, hard road to recovery has to be a collective effort. None of us got to where we are alone, and we can’t get out of the mess we’re in alone. (Note to John Donne: What you said about no man being an island? You were right.)

That was the message of speech after speech, and you have to know I’m 100% behind it because that was the message that made me an Elizabeth Warren supporter last fall. And yet, and yet —

Where my town votes: the Emergency Services building on State Road, West Tisbury.

“As above, so below”? Because I’ve been involved in the primary campaign, and because I’ve been involved in the struggle against the roundabout for the last umpteen months, I’m not getting too swept away by partisan rhetoric. I nearly always vote for Democratic candidates, but I don’t vote for anyone just because s/he’s a Democrat. Sam Sutter’s opponent, Bill Keating, looked mediocre to me before the primary. He still looks mediocre. The state party functionaries backed him. That makes them look mediocre. How to reconcile this with all the inspiring speeches I’ve heard this week?

I don’t think much of the state senator and representative representing Martha’s Vineyard on Beacon Hill either. They’re both Democrats. No one ran against either one of them in the primary.

West Tisbury poll workers

I was wholeheartedly for Sam Sutter. I’m wholeheartedly for Elizabeth Warren and President Obama. No, I don’t think they’re perfect. As Holly Near put it in her concert here in July, I don’t expect to find a candidate I can agree with 100%; I’m looking for one I’m willing to struggle with. But I am for them.

What I’m finding is that the experience of voting for someone I’m genuinely for has spoiled me. It’s raised my expectations. It’s made me even more reluctant to vote for mediocrities and hacks.

In a saner political world, there would be a choice other than Democrat, third party, write-in, and “none of the above.” Massachusetts is pretty much a one-party state. One-party states aren’t good for the state and they aren’t good for the party, which in this case is the Democrats. Hacks and mediocrities proliferate in one-party states. The electorate gets taken for granted.

Why not vote Republican? In a saner political world, that would be an option. The Massachusetts I grew up in was a saner political world: the state’s GOP ranks included Ed Brooke, Frank Sargent, John Volpe, Elliot Richardson . . . Even now, if I lived in the Mass. 6th Congressional District, I would probably vote for Richard Tisei, who is gay, pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage — and Republican.

But the national Republican Party these days is a genuinely scary outfit. (Tisei is probably giving Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, John Boehner, et al. apoplexy: another reason to vote for him.) In local races, it might be possible to “vote for the individual,” but in statewide and/or high-profile races? No, it’s not. Individuals who get elected to a legislative body can buck their party only so far. Even more important, they’re beholden to their financial backers if they ever plan to run for reelection.

As above, so below? The last few decades have proven conclusively that wealth doesn’t trickle down, at least not very far. Having listened to the speeches at the Democratic National Convention, I hope inspiration and determination do a little better.

Poll workers keep an eye on The Box (right), into which all our ballots go. We vote on paper ballots in my town. No chads, hanging or otherwise.



About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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4 Responses to Primary

  1. Hal Davis says:

    “That’s me, standing out at Five Corners last Saturday.” I dunno. That sign. That hat. How could he lose?

    Hacks and mediocrities proliferate in all parties. Remember Sturgeon’s Law.

    Glass-Steagall and Workfare will forever stain Clinton’s legacy. But he worked out pretty well as a president.


    • I don’t get it either. OTOH, people in Bristol County (who went for Sam by a 10,000-vote margin) are glad that he’s still their DA. OYAH (On Yet Another Hand), he did better in West Tisbury than in any other Vineyard town. This is because people in my town have big mouths and told all our friends about him. 🙂

      Clinton looks very good in retrospect. I think what I’ve got against Clinton isn’t really about Clinton: it’s really about all the “Blue Dog” Democrats who didn’t push back hard enough against the “Contract on America” crowd before they got really crazy.


  2. Sara Crafts says:

    Susanna, only very seldom do I feel sorry for you not having a readily accessible TV. Retrospectively I do today … should have invited you and Travvy (imagine Kabotah’s* horror!) to c’mon down and spend the night on Wednesday when Bill Clinton gave what might have been an iconic speech, despite the excesses of the media praise following it. One at a time, he brought up the Republican platform/objections to Obama, and eviscerated them. Damn term limits, anyway … without them Bill’d probably still be the president and the wars and the deficit and the unemployment and the general malaise/terror/sorrow/insanity that affects us all might never have been (or might have been a lot less). The Republicans stuck in term limits after FDR … even though there are already “term limits.” It’s called voting …
    *Resident cat


    • Not to worry — thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I’m working my way through the speeches. Am saving the Obamas for last, but have so far listened to Clinton, Patrick, and Sandra Fluke, and watched Gabby Giffords leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Clinton was great, not least for his ability to edit on the fly, but I did keep thinking, “Uh, Bill? What about Glass-Steagall?” (Which I persist in thinking of as “Glass Seagull.”) Patrick was very good too, but that little voice was saying, “Short on funds for infrastructure improvement? I know where you can save $1.5 million.”


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