miércoles, 30 de mayo de 2012

Massachusetts, una fábrica de candidatos presidenciales

Con la nominación de Romney, hay que recordar que, desde 1960, Massachusetts ha dado cuatro nominados presidenciales por los dos grandes partidos, más que ningún otro estado. En ese mismo periodo, al menos media docena de políticos de Massachusetts han montado campañas presidenciales serias. Y el estado ha dado cuatro Presidentes en total (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge y JFK).

The Daily Beast analizaba hace unos días el por qué de ese protagonismo de Massachusetts:

Virginia was once known as “the mother of presidents” because four of our first five presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe) hailed from the Old Dominion. Virginia’s dominance actually made sense since that state was by far the largest of the original thirteen, in terms of both land area and population.

More recently, the same logic might suggest that California or Texas would be the prime source of presidential nominees since these are the two top states in population, and ranked numbers two (Texas) and three (California) in land area. The Lone Star and Golden States have played significant roles in recent presidential politics, with Texas generating three nominees (Lyndon Johnson and the two George Bushes) and California producing two (Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.)
But it’s actually Massachusetts, of all unlikely places, that’s the odd winner of the nomination sweepstakes, with four—count ‘em, four!—major party nominees since 1952. This unlikely presidential breeding ground gave the nation John Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and now Mitt Romney. The Bay State also produced other formidable contenders who fell short of winning the nomination, including Ted Kennedy in 1980, Paul Tsongas in 1992, and Henry Cabot Lodge, a vice presidential nominee in 1960 and briefly a presidential contender four years later. Meanwhile, two other prominent presidential aspirants were born in Massachusetts (Robert Kennedy and George H. W. Bush) though they both ultimately represented other, larger states (New York and Texas) when they ran for elective office.
(...) For both parties, nominating a candidate from Massachusetts offers no practical advantages, especially since much of the rest of the country seems to dislike or resent snooty Bostonians. During the primary campaign, virtually all of Romney’s Republican opponents regularly derided him as a “Massachusetts Moderate” or even “Massachusetts Mitt,” as if the mere invocation of this effete bastion of supercilious liberalism would discredit their rival in other corners of the continent.
For three reasons, however, Massachusetts has produced a steady stream of presidential candidates and will almost surely continue to do so.
First, the state has nurtured a long tradition of treating its top politicos like rock stars – or, perhaps more appropriately, like the sports stars cherished by rabid fans of the Red Sox,  Celtics, and Patriots. In the Revolutionary era, “Sons of Liberty” leader Sam Adams led the original Tea Party, a piece of street theater featuring vandalism and Native American disguises. John Hancock, the egotistical and fabulously wealthy merchant who signed his name larger than the rest of his colleagues on the Declaration of Independence, fancied himself the true leader of the new nation and smoldered when George Washington eclipsed his glory. Sam’s cousin John Adams may have been a controversial figure in the rest of the colonies (and, ultimately, a one-term president) but he remained a sage and dynasty founder at home. His son, John Quincy Adams, also lost a re-election bid after a single turbulent term as president, but came home a hero and got himself elected to the House of Representatives for eighteen more years of service.
In the same era, Massachusetts voters literally worshipped the beloved Senator they proudly called “the Godlike Daniel,” forming an admiring cult around the incomparable orator Daniel Webster. He served as Secretary of State twice, and made frequent lunges at the presidency without ever securing a nomination from his Whig Party. Republican Calvin Coolidge enjoyed more national success as an ardently admired governor and one of the most popular chief executives of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the charming rogue James Michel Curley served in Congress and the governor’s mansion, before winning four terms as Mayor of Boston—one of which he served largely from his prison cell. His flamboyant personality inspired the 1956 bestseller The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor, as well as the nostalgic John Ford-Spencer Tracy movie based on the book.
(...) In addition to the local obsession with colorful and contentious politics, the educational resources of Massachusetts certainly play a role in producing the string of presidential candidates. It’s no accident that three of the four recent Massachusetts nominees (Kennedy, Dukakis, and Romney) all held degrees from Harvard, the nation’s oldest, most prestigious university. John Kerry, on the other hand, had to content himself with graduating from Yale in Connecticut before he returned home to pursue politics and attend law school at Boston College.
The presence of an unrivaled number of elite colleges (Harvard, MIT, Amherst, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Williams, Smith, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, Emerson, Tufts, and many more) leads a disproportionate number of the nation’s most ambitious and driven students to make their way to Massachusetts; some of them who arrive from other states (like Michigan-born Romney and Vermont-born Coolidge, who graduated from Amherst) inevitably decide to stay there.
(...) The final feature of Massachusetts culture that inspires presidential runs involves the state’s historic sense of destiny and self-importance. On the very occasion of the founding of Boston, Puritan leader John Winthrop delivered his famous sermon comparing the new settlement to the Biblical “City on a Hill,” inspiring the whole world with its excellence and righteousness. Boston also quickly seized the designation “Cradle of Liberty,” though Philadelphia, a much larger town, served as the colonial capital and Virginia produced more significant leaders and crucial battles in the War for Independence. In 1858, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. dubbed Boston “the Hub of the Universe” based on its role as a center of intellectual and political ferment—a particularly obnoxious title given the town’s status as only the fifth most populous city in the nation. (New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and even Brooklyn – then separate from Manhattan—boasted more residents, but Brooklyn never claimed to be the Hub of the Universe).
The educational excellence of Massachusetts colleges of course fed this preening self-regard, producing precisely the sort of utopian grandiosity that breeds presidential candidates. When John Kennedy sought the White House in 1960, he not only proclaimed that America stood on the edge of a “New Frontier” but deployed a campaign slogan declaring “A Time for Greatness.” Michael Dukakis made his race 28 years later, boasting of his gubernatorial achievements as leader of “the Massachusetts Miracle.” The leaders of most other states—especially other states with limited population and economic clout—would feel far more reluctance to trumpet their own records as frankly “miraculous.”

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