Those of us who have taken history classes probably remember reading about the old political bosses. In New York City, one could hardly even think about obtaining power without going through Boss Tweed; likewise, Richard J. Daley exerted similar power over the politics of 1950s Chicago. Although the old-school bosses are no longer around and the tactics have changed somewhat, the concept of the establishment trying to exert power over political outcomes is still alive and well. And in many cases, the establishment wings of both parties can be virtually indistinguishable from each other.
There is one tool, however, that we have in the modern age to combat the often self-interested establishment. Because of the ease of communication and the rise of the Internet, grassroots politics have become a force to be reckoned with.
We have seen grassroots movements grow rapidly over the last few years. Two of the most notable are the Tea Party Movement and the Liberty Movement. No matter what affiliation one may have with a particular movement, there is a clear divide between candidates who engage with their constituents and are interested in reform, and status quo politicians who are supported by moneyed interests. It is a battle that often is not partisan, but occurs within parties to determine whether they will be accountable to the people or to special interests. On one side is a vast network of political alliances and favors, of cronyism and nepotism; on the other, an army of committed activists, with new tools such as Facebook making organization infinitely more efficient.
In Massachusetts, the 2010 elections brought a wave of new representatives to the State Legislature, a group that included such grassroots candidates as Jim Lyons and Ryan Fattman, among others. Many of these lawmakers split from the establishment on important issues; one example was the vote on health care price controls, where 7 members of the House stood their ground in opposition. They showed that their allegiance was to principle instead of politics, representing their constituents instead of maintaining the status quo.
There is a trend both in Massachusetts and across the country towards a more grassroots brand of politics. It will face persistent opposition, but in the end it is votes that win elections, not dollars. A more in-touch, engaged government can only be a good thing for the citizens of this state.