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Puncturing The Echo Chamber

Kennedy's seat has been returned to the people.

10:25 AM, Jan 21, 2010 • By ROSS TERRILL
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The Globe assumed throughout the Democratic primary race that its winner would be the next senator. Will they now express "accountability" (a favorite Globe term in assailing Bush) for the proprietorship they claimed for a senate seat that belongs to the voters? The Australian writer Paul Sheehan's remark is pertinent: "The modern media condescend to democracy because they compete with democracy."

When the Globe beats the drum for diversity, its only measure is race. Both Massachusetts senators for decades have been Democrats. Well, aren't they the bright guys? An all Democrat delegation to the House in Washington has existed for years. The Globe never sniffed a diversity problem in that. Harvard Magazine last year published a chart showing Harvard graduates in the new Congress; 93 percent were Democrats.

Washington, for all its faults, is not an echo chamber but an arena of political debate, in Congress, think tanks, and publications. Esteemed Boston institutions such as Harvard and the Globe, however, are not arenas of political debate. (Except at Harvard among undergraduates. When the faculty forced Lawrence Summers out as president in 2006, undergraduates polled three to one in favor of him staying. "Five more years," they cried in the Harvard Yard as Summers announced his resignation). 

Whatever the national implications of Brown's victory, it was supremely a Massachusetts earthquake. The left's sense of entitlement was ripe for a fall. A simple voice rocked the packed trenches of political correctness. Brown offered common sense about government spending and national security. "In dealing with terrorists," he said in his victory speech, "our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them." 

A straightforward belief in democracy, historically a strong point of the left, is now their albatross, since they rock to the tune of unaccountable elites. It might be tasteless to use the term "death throes" about the Boston Globe, but it does seem the newspaper missed foreseeing the death throes of automatic liberalism as the controlling force in Massachusetts' congressional races. Governor Deval Patrick and the Boston Globe took the "Kennedy seat" out of the hands of the electorate four months ago. A grass roots surge put it back in the hands of the people of Massachusetts.

Ross Terrill, associate in research at Harvard's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, is the author of "The New Chinese Empire" and other books.

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