Massachusetts Liberals

MASSACHUSETTS LIBERALS….Matt Yglesias wonders why being a “Massachusetts liberal” is any worse than being a “Texas conservative.” After all, Texas is more conservative than Massachusetts is liberal, and judging from the Texas Republican state platform their wingnut contingent is way scarier.

This is a good point, but then Matt goes on to say this:

The commentariat, however, sees things differently based, or so it would appear, entirely on the fact that Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 election. Obviously, though, you can’t base your theories on a data set of one.

But here’s the thing: replace “Massachusetts liberal” with “northern liberal” and you’ve got a much more robust set of data. Hubert Humphrey (Minnesota) lost in 1968, McGovern (South Dakota) in 1972, Mondale (Minnesota) in 1984, and Dukakis (Massachusetts) in 1988. In the other years since 1960 no northerner has even been able to win the Democratic nomination, let alone the presidency. Texas, on the other hand, has produced two winners for the Republicans during that same period.

So while Texas may indeed be farther outside the mainstream than those northern states, the fact is that it just doesn’t seem to be the same kind of electoral albatross. That doesn’t mean John Kerry is going to lose this year, but it does mean that concern over his chances based on regional baggage is perfectly reasonable. In fact, I’d say it’s an unpleasant reality that any good campaign needs to face up to squarely instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.