Ed and Cooter: Just a couple of “Good Ole Boys.”

When your opponent’s only hope involves distracting voters from real issues, it’s best not to give him ammunition. That’s what has led Ed Markey to “disinvite” his old friend and House colleague, Ben Jones, from a fundraiser where Jones was the scheduled entertainer.

Apparently, the former “Dukes of Hazzard” star used the Confederate flag, which was a prominent image in the TV show that made him famous, in at least one of his campaigns for Congress. Would it be reasonable for voters to conclude that Ed Markey endorses, supports, or even condones anything represented by that flag if he allowed his old friend to sing at one of his fundraisers? Of course not, but from Markey’s perspective, why throw a life preserver (or more accurately, a death delayer) to your drowning opponent?

So, I guess Markey has played this one by the book and is being true to his word that he’s “taking nothing for granted.” The likely reality, however, is that he has unnecessarily thrown an old friend, whose own voting record in Congress easily acquits him of any of the charges that might relate to the Confederate flag, under the bus.

From a purely tactical standpoint, Markey’s play here is “just smart baseball,” but I can’t help but lament the missed opportunity that situations like this one produce. Markey’s huge advantages in this race are such that he could have played this a bit differently. Instead of the “safest” play, Markey could have acknowledged the possibility of the Confederate flag distraction and instead used it to his advantage.

If Markey addressed the “issue” before Jones’ appearance and made clear that his invitation was about friendship, not politics. He could have used the incident to highlight the dangers of the “politics of personal destruction,” which coincidently would surely be made worse by “unlimited outside money” being poured into elections. He could have thus neutralized it as a campaign weapon for Gomez and used it as a segway to condemning the pernicious influence of unregulated money in politics, while gaining a bit of increased credibility with folks who decry the tendency of pols to check the polls before getting out of bed in the morning.

It is important to acknowledge here that I am assuming something without complete information, namely that this potential distraction is as harmless as it appears to those of us in the cheap seats. Markey’s campaign advisors see it in much greater detail and as just one piece in a larger puzzle. Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder….if candidates as sure to win as Markey can’t rise above the nonsense, who can?

P.S. My college roommate worked for Cooter in Congress. He always kept his office well stocked with peanuts and Coca-cola, and he walked around in his socks. :-)

About Jerold Duquette

Jerold Duquette is an associate professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of Regulating the National Pastime: Baseball and Antitrust and has published articles and book chapters on campaign finance reform, political parties, Massachusetts politics and political culture, public opinion, and political socialization. Professor Duquette lives in Longmeadow, MA with his wife and four children.
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