Thanks to all who have weighed in on this issue at this website or by e-mail. All together, I’ve received roughly 100 comments on the issue (about half on the site and half by e-mail).
You have greatly contributed to my understanding. Click here for a post that I made to the Belmont Citizen Herald.
The full text of the BCH post appears below:
As the Commonwealth mourns the loss of its senior statesman, the conversation that he initiated about the procedure for his succession must pause respectfully, but it will necessarily soon resume.
No other issue has drawn more comments on my Web site, willbrownsberger.com. The very diverse comments have helped clarify for me what the competing considerations are.
Sen. Ted Kennedy proposed that the governor appoint a caretaker while a special election is held to see who will complete his term. He explicitly suggested that the caretaker commit not to be a candidate for the seat. The senator did not propose that the people be deprived of a choice, only that there be a caretaker in place while the people are making their choice.
In 2004, the Legislature denied Gov. Mitt Romney the ability to make an appointment in case Sen. John Kerry became President. A great many, across the political spectrum, are uncomfortable with the idea that we would change the rules for political reasons. For many, the proposal seems basically unethical, like moving the goal posts in football.
On the other hand, the system that the senator proposed is basically reasonable. Some have argued that the political move was made in 2004 and the fact that a political move was made then should not prevent us from adopting a reasonable approach now.
Still others have taken the view, in effect, that “all is fair in love and war” and there are matters of great importance before the Senate — health care reform and fossil fuel controls. Given the transcendent significance of these issues for our future and the close balance in the Senate, they argue, we should not deprive the President of a vote for progress. Clearly, the caretaker will not have time to do anything but cast a few votes — he or she won’t really have time to pick up steam as an advocate for Massachusetts.
People have raised some important questions, notably:
Is it really true that the future of health care reform and the climate legislation will turn on one vote that must be cast while the seat is vacant?
Can we really assure that the caretaker will not become a candidate with an unfair head start — either in the present or a future election? If not, will unhealthy politics be too likely to infect the gubernatorial appointment process.
The choice is upon us urgently now with the senator’s passing. While I am still listening to the conversation and considering the issue, I do feel that at the state level and nationally, there is no higher priority than restoring trust in government — lost trust reduces our ability to meet our great challenges, which certainly do include health care cost control and ending dependence on fossil fuels. Neither of those issues will be solved by one piece of legislation — they both will require sustained leadership over the next few decades and we should be very reluctant to do anything that will further undermine our ability to lead.