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It was the Spring of 2011. The City Council race was starting to take shape. One particular candidate popped up out of nowhere and many in Lowell’s political “bubble” took note. That candidate was John MacDonald.
Soon, there was a buzz around MacDonald’s campaign. Which was odd, as he was even less known, at the time, than candidates that we saw in 2009, e.g. Ben Opara or Ryan Berard. I scratched my head, thinking little of MacDonald’s chances. But, his name caused sparks in the bubble and the buzz grew louder. His momentum did not escape the notice of seasoned political operatives and “players” that work the fundraising underground that functions in the nooks and crannies, just out of eyeshot. Politics, yes even local politics, is an enterprise. While your friend/relative/neighbor is glad handing the voter base, being everyone’s best pal, shit is going on to ensure they win. Sometimes the candidate themselves doesn’t even know it. And if they do, they most likely can get away with claiming they don’t.
Besides the constant question of “Who?” around John MacDonald’s name, where two facts: 1) MacDonald was backed by developer & pizza mogul, Sal Lapoli. 2) MacDonald was a registered Republican.
Note: Though not very progressive, Lowell’s Democrats rally under the party flag. They are loyal to the party, if not because of ideals, but because the party has operated as a job placement clearinghouse for its most loyal supporters and their bloodlines.
John MacDonald is a Republican. Thus, not part of the political workings within the city. Though fractured and clannish, the Democrats in Lowell are inbred to the point that there is plenty of crossover. The prosperity afforded by their stranglehold of the local cash cow, aka City Hall, is so absolute, that most prominent Republican’s sell out, so that they can get a piece of the action. Sal Lapoli, being the monetary heavyweight that he is, liberated John MacDonald from the usual trappings of Lowell politics. Nervous, the center of the bubble started to hedge it bets. Two ploys were engaged: 1) Bring MacDonald closer (So, as to get proximity to Lapoli) 2) Stop MacDonald in his tracks. Deny him a seat on the Council.
I heard message #2, loud and clear.
Though it may seem counter intuitive, as I began to cobble together arguments against MacDonald, I would check in and kibbitz with the finest “classical Liberal” I know, Cliff Krieger. In one such discussion; and I should be clear, Cliff was not on “my team” but our friendship transcends certain frivolities of politics and Cliff has stoically kept my conscience grounded, but in one discussion Cliff revealed a sentiment he had heard. While visiting City Hall, Cliff engaged in conversation with a person of opposite political persuasion. (Note: I do not know who that person was) While chatting, John MacDonald’s name came up. By this time, more was known about MacDonald and the odds of his election were looking brighter. What Cliff relayed to me, based on his chat in City Hall, was that Democrats needed to “strangle him in the crib.” Meaning, they viewed John MacDonald as a person with ambitions and means to move through the City Council to higher office, threatening the status quo, the comfy, cozy “arrangement” that the local power brokers had.
Though not so starkly articulated, the drum beat was clear to me. I set myself to aiding the task.
Regardless of whether you respect me less, or more, based on what I have disclosed above; you should come away with two notions: 1) A person outside the comfy, cozy “arrangement” is suspected to be an existential threat. 2) Surrogates are deployed to eradicate that threat.
If you haven’t guessed by now, please accept this awkward bit of news. Those around you; your friends, relatives, neighbors, business associates & acquaintances, are those surrogates. Most of them, to be fair, act out of loyalty. They parrot what they hear, not stopping to consider the depth of what they say. The impact it may have, good or bad. A good political operative is a conductor, freaking “Arthur Fiedler” of the local calliope. The various “instruments” simply play along.
Ya! Ya! Sure. Sure. …. So what? Why am I saying this? Because the calliope is playing another death dirge. And the chorus is, “Strangle him in the crib.”
For whom does the calliope toll?
(Clip is from a Dec.15, 2011 episode of City Life)
Admit it! You can feel in your gut, I’m right.
This isn’t Republican “pay back,” btw. It’s Lowell’s politcal machine. It’s bigger than party. It’s money.
PS. In my efforts to squelch MacDonald, I never lied or fabricated a thing, e.g. the sock puppets were real. I played the cards dealt me like chess pieces. Akin to what Romney is experiencing in his “Etch A Sketch” trial by fire. Not all operatives are so constrained. Murphy certainly has less scrupulous hacks arrayed against him.
Update: Rita knows that it is hard to be Mayor. “When I was the new Mayor, they gave me a chance. I think it’s only fair to give him a chance, too.” - Jan. 31st
Talk about a New York minute. So much for that “special bond.”
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