Meet the new Boston, same as the old Boston? When Mayor Menino was re-elected to an unprecedented fifth term, some observers claimed that “Old Boston” triumphed while “New Boston” — the large, reform-minded voting block of immigrants, minorities and young professional newcomers — would have to wait its turn.
According to this conventional wisdom, Old Boston flourishes in the deal-making backrooms in which mainly males (white, straight and with deep local roots) control the political machine and advance otherwise parochial, clannish concerns.
But do this year’s election results really merit such old-fashioned tautologies? Or is it time to retire the concept of old versus new Boston in favor of a revised appraisal? Avi Green, executive director of MassVote, certainly believes so.
“I prefer to think in terms of good and bad Boston,” explained Green. “Good Boston, in our far past, were those fighting to end slavery. Today it’s folks from all different backgrounds — black, white, Latino, Asian, straight and gay — who come together to solve common problems.”
Bad Boston, on the other hand, represents racial division and nefarious corruption.
This year, commentators spilled gallons of ink talking about how Menino somehow represented old Boston. Yet according to exit polls, the mayor did best among immigrants, minorities and captured the endorsements of the progressive paragons, MassEquality and SEIU. And his opponent, a South Boston native, joined forces with a Korean immigrant to court upscale voters.
Clearly, this isn’t your grandfather’s Boston — and probably not even your father’s.
But no matter your feelings on the outcome, this election proved it’s now completely unacceptable to run for office as a candidate of bad Boston. Candidacies based on racial fear and hostility — ones that fueled the rise of folks like anti-busing agitator Louisa Day Hicks a few decades back — are impossible now. Today’s Boston resembles good Boston more then ever.
And, quite frankly, that’s the best kind of Boston there can be.
– Mark Puleo is co-editor of the Brazilian Journal.
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