It’s been over a week now since Boston Mayor Thomas Menino decided that anyone who holds religious or cultural beliefs contrary to the left-wing political establishment can’t serve chicken sandwiches or employ people in the city he serves. The question of Menino (and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel) and his “No supporters of traditional marriage need apply” rhetoric against Chick-Fil-A and the Cathy Family’s wild-eyed belief that marriage is between a man and a woman has been examined from a lot of angles. But one angle is missing and it’s this—what exactly was Tom Menino trying to prove anyway?
I suppose you could say that Menino really believes what he said, and those outside of Boston would see this is just another Massachusetts lefty shooting off at the lip. But whatever the mayor believes, he has no track record of getting swept into the various social causes that define the Extreme Left in this country. He certainly has no track record of the flagrant hate he unleashed in his letter to the Cathy Family. Menino’s reputation was that of a bread-and-butter mayor, who focused on improving the city, and because of it enjoyed broad-based popularity. The most he got criticized on was flubbing the name of a couple Boston Celtics’ stars during the NBA playoffs earlier this spring. In short, whatever his views on cultural issues, Menino’s reputation was a Democrat of the old school—one who cared more about the economic well-being of his middle-to-working class constituents, and less about the trendy causes of the left of which gay “marriage” is most definitely one. What purpose was served to throwing this reputation down the drain in a single letter?
The best guess is that Menino might be eyeing a run for statewide office. Governor Deval Patrick is popular and there’s no term limit, but Patrick, who served in the Clinton Administration might have an eye on the national stage. The passing of Ted Kennedy opened up one of the state’s Senate seats, and even if Menino opted not to contest this year’s race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, the mayor might feel differently. The other senator, John Kerry, might not be vulnerable to defeat, but having come so close to the presidency eight years ago, he might be vulnerable to boredom in the Senate. All of the above is speculation on my part, but it underscores the point that there are three opportunities for statewide races that could feasibly be open for any prominent Democrat to take a run at.
Menino’s been mayor of Boston for a long time and might be suffering boredom of his own. He’s held this office since 1993 and has seen it all, from overseeing completion of the “Big Dig”, a huge construction project aimed at loosening up the city’s congested traffic, to overseeing the Red Sox finally winning the World Series in 2004 (well, I guess he doesn’t actually get credit for that). The Big Dig was finished at the end of 2007. What more is there to be achieved?
It’s also worth noting that the mayor has been challenged on his left flank, including in the last electoral go-around against Michael Flaherty (no relation to this writer). If Menino isn’t looking to upgrade his position, he might be protecting his current one. It’s not that I think the average Bostonian is going to rush out and vote against him if he doesn’t rip off angry letters on behalf of gay “marriage”, but if the voters get bored with him they might respond to a well-funded candidate who challenged him. And the left wing—particularly those that define their politics by their sexual orientation—is nothing if not lavishly bankrolled.
Mayor Menino might really believe what he spewed out in his letter to the Cathy Family. Or maybe he’s talked himself into believing it. But it’s out of character for him, and it’s reasonable to assume that politics, rather than principle are the motivating force.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com.