A mercy killing of one of the most overrated aspects of politics seems an especially appealing idea amid the tsunami of endorsements flooding the closing days of the Massachusetts primary. Rhyme and reason have been AWOL. Longtime allies have taken opposite sides. And there isn’t much cause to think most of them will make a damn bit of difference next Tuesday.
Say you’re a huge fan of three of Boston’s biggest political stars and champions of criminal justice reform, Mayor Michelle Wu, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and State Sen. Lydia Edwards, and looking for guidance on how to vote in the race for Suffolk County DA.
Edwards is with incumbent DA Kevin Hayden, an experienced black prosecutor who might be an inch or so to the right of former DA Rachael Rollins. Wu and Pressley are with City Councillor Ricardo Arroyo, a less-experienced choice who has struggled to cast Hayden as the second coming of Newman Flanagan.
Or at least, they were with Arroyo as this column went to bed, with the film-noir details of allegations he was once investigated for rape still unfolding, charges that have already cost him the endorsements of City Council President Ed Flynn and former Congressman Joe Kennedy III.
At least the DA’s race has direct relevance to city politics, more than can be said of the endorsement bleepshow surrounding the statewide race for Attorney General.
Wu and former acting Mayor Kim Janey are apparently still chafed over shots they took from former City Councillor Andrea Campbell during last year’s mayoral race, and payback is available in the form of class-action lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan. Senator Elizabeth Warren, an old buddy of Liss-Riordan’s, is also on board, but this puts her at odds with the soon-to-be anointed governor, Maura Healey, who has taken the unusual step of wading into a contested primary to endorse her preferred successor, Campbell. (Not to mention Pressley, who has also backed Campbell.)
If there’s evidence that any of these endorsements are backed by significant money or GOTV resources, it isn’t readily apparent. And ideological consistency is missing. Liss-Riordan may be an appealing candidate, but so much so that Wu, Janey and Warren are willing to deflect the best shot ever at a female AG of color? It looks a lot like the way the good old boys endorsed in the bad old days, driven more by cronyism and score-settling than anything more altruistic.
In low-profile primary contests populated by mostly-unknown candidates, endorsements can conceivably make the difference in a close race, especially labor backing that comes with phone banking and word-of-mouth. But the Globe’s nod didn’t help Campbell survive the mayoral preliminary. Party endorsements are all but meaningless; with the exception of Healey and unopposed Treasurer Deb Goldberg, it’s entirely possible all of the Democratic convention’s picks will lose next week.
And the impact of perhaps the most famous example of a “pivotal” presidential-level endorsement, Ted Kennedy’s 2008 backing of Barack Obama, is overrated. Obama had already won South Carolina by close to 30 points; ask Joe Biden’s 2020 opponents how much that matters.
Yes, the Trump cult is having its way in Republican primaries – so far. But most modern-day voters prefer to think for themselves, and aren’t eagerly awaiting the high sign from other pols. Especially when their motivations are suspect and their messaging is incoherent.