Why America won’t elect a New Englander President anymore


AMERICA HAS ALWAYS fancied its Southern white boys as president.

When the Reagan left us George H. W. Bush to run things on Pennsylvania Avenue, the G.O.P. made sure to sanitize his Milton, Massachusetts-Andover-Yale pedigree – (thoroughly New England!) – and leverage the pork rinds and inner redneck deep within the malleable VP.

It made as much sense in 1988 as it does now: he had to distance himself from that other New Englander running against him: Michael Dukakis.

This move paid off and John Kennedy sits alone as the only bona fide New Englander to have been elected president after World War II.

Scarcely forty years before Kennedy: Calvin Coolidge.

For Southerners, stats have been much more favorable:

Bill Clinton – Arkansas; Jimmy Carter – Georgia; Lyndon B. Johnson – Texas; General Dwight D. Eisenhower – Texas; and (of course), George W. Bush – Texas.

It sounds like our next president may be coming from Texas – or somewhere near there…

And judging by the way General Wesley Clark is talking – close your eyes and listen to the man: he even sounds like Dubya (only from Little Rock) – Clark may be the man to do it. If the pollsters are right, he may be well-equipped to send this son of a carpetbagger right back to Midland, Texas.

Just last week, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll asked both registered voters and adults nationally: if retired General Wesley Clark were the Democratic Party’s candidate and George W. Bush were the Republican Party’s candidate, who would you be more likely to vote for? Clark emerged as the only Democrat that polled ahead of the president both nationally and among registered voters. 48%-46% nationally. 49%-46% among registered voters.

Dean trails by 4 points nationally, while our other New England patriots, Kerry and Lieberman, trail Bush by a much slimmer margin.

What’s the rest of the nation got against New England?

* * *

For starters, New Englanders are rich.

When compared to rest of the nation, New Englanders live quite well. According to the United States Census Bureau, the wealthiest Americans live in enormously wealthy suburban areas in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Along with their money, they seem to love their abortions, their womens’ rights, their gay rights, their guns, their ganja and – on a good day – their civil rights.

(So long as they don’t have to live next door to a black person, or send their kids to school with one.)

And what is true of most New Englanders is especially true of Senator John Kerry. There couldn’t be a candidate who was more New England than this distinguished gentleman. A Vietnam veteran. Visibly committed to the environment and education, boasting a 100 percent rating from the NAACP – John Kerry is the presidential candidate we should have sent to the battlefield in 2000.

But alas, John Kerry is a rich Bostonian; and though Americans may want to be rich as well, they certainly don’t want their politicians to be that way. With nearly 100 millionaires in Congress, Kerry checks in richer than them all: $620 million dollars, at the top of the list of the ’50 Richest Members of Congress.’

OK, so it’s his wife’s money – but there is ton of it, making him the fattest cat in Congress. One Massachusetts politico declined to challenge the incumbent in the mid-1990s, saying, “I can think of 675 million good reasons not to run against John Kerry.”

For Joe Lieberman there are plenty more reasons why not to run: Didn’t he have his chance, and squander it – only to turn around and badmouth Al Gore? America hates sore losers – uncharismatic ones especially.

And while Vermont Governor Dean remains competitive, General Clark’s down-home style will have undeniable appeal to middle America – especially with the Clinton machine involved – and given the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidential run, Dean may have to settle for the VP nod.

If the experiences of fellow Vermonters Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur are to be considered, there is hope for Dean: Neither was initially elected president. They both assumed office upon the untimely deaths of presidents Harding and Garfield.

A heart attack and an assassination.

Dean should be so unlucky…

Garry Grundy’s column appears biweekly.

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