Two Liberals Battle in the Fourth District
As much as anyone in Congress. Father Robert F. Drinan has become a symbol of those rare successes of the new politics.
Two years ago. Drinan, a talkative abase dean of the Boston College Law School challenged 12-year member Rep. Philip J. Philbin for the Democratic nomination in what was then Massachusetts's Third Congressional District Running on the wave of 1970's Kent State Cambodia uprisings. Drinan's issue was the war, and beyond that support for the administration. Philbin the second ranking Democrat on Mendel Rivers's House Armed Services Committee was a long-time hawk and administration supporter, Drinan wasn't.
Helped by unprecedented amounts of money, mostly from Newton liberals, a brilliant, computerized campaign organization, thousands of young volunteers, and rain on Primary day Drinan produced one of the most starting upsets in Massachusetts political history, defeating Philbin in a close race. He then went on to defeat Republican moderate John McGlennon, and a Philbin write-in campaign, in a three-way race for the Congressional seat.
Now Drinan is facing a challenge from liberal Republican State Representative Martin Linsky (R. Brookline) whose basic claim is that while Drinan talks a lot about liberal issues, he is an ineffective Congressman. "It's not enough to long for a just and humane society." Linsky campaign literature proclaims, "you've got to persuade the Ways and Means Committee."
Also in the race in the all-new Fourth Congressional District is Newton conservative John T. Collins, a political new comer who argues. "Those two are like 'tweedledee' and 'tweedledum.' I can't believe more than half the people in the District are that liberal."
They just might be. Indeed on paper, the Fourth looks like one of the most liberal Congressional Districts in the United States. Forty-two per cent of the vote is concentrated in the two wealthy heavily-Jewish very liberal Boston suburbs of Newton and Brookline. The nearly outllet-shaped district stretches west from there, through rural towns like Bolton and Maynard, as far as the blue collar French-Canadian factory towns of Fitchburg and Gardner.
Linsky is hammering hard at Drinan arguing that while the Congressman is a radical far removed from reality, he is a practical liberal and more effective legislator. His campaign literature stresses his accomplishments as a Brookline State Representative, his youthful vigor Linsky is in his early 30s), and proclaims that "Marty Linsky and Robert Drinan disagree on nearly every major issue that our next Congressman will face."
"Look at economics," says Steve Crosby. Linsky's campaign manager, "Drinan wants to throw everything into the public sector. Marty has more confidence in the private sector. He wants to regulate it and make it better, but basically he looks to the private sector for help with the economy.
"Take taxes too," Crosby continues. "A Drinan bill in Congress would close all tax 'loopholes' by January, 1974, including charity accelerated depreciation, capital gains and others. Marty realizes some of these loopholes are bad, but he says you need a reasoned process to examine them one-by-one and see which ones still have some purpose."
"The perfect analogy for Marty is Ed Brooke. He's liberal, he's against the war, but he still supports the President. He just keeps his independence and disagrees on some issues."
One issue Linsky has been touching gingerly is the Jewish issue. As a Jew running in this "bagel belt" district, he has been discreetly avoiding making his religion an issue, for fear of making what might seem to be blatant appeals for Jewish support.
Drinan, on the other hand, has been hitting "Jewish issues" hard. His campaign literature includes statements of support from Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.) detailing Drinan's commitment to Israel; copies of an article Drinan wrote in the Jewish Advocate last July professing the Congressman's belief in the importance of U.S. help for the Israeli cause, and a New York Times, article from last March which tells of Drinan urging President Nixon to plead for the release of Soviet Jews on his trip to Moscow. Indeed, last Thursday night Ribicoff appeared with Drinan at Brookline High School to "report on Israeli-American relations."
Drinan's tactics appear to be effective. A recent Boston Globe poll showed Linsky leading among Jewish voters in the District by a mere 44 per cent to 40 per cent while Linsky's own private polls show him trailing Drinan among Jews by a 5-4 margin.
Drinan has also been hitting hard at the issue of effectiveness. "Robert Drinan doesn't just have strong convictions," his ads say. "He gets things done."
Drinan's campaign is stressing not so much his stands on major issues as his record of performance as a member of Congress. He is emphasizing his service to his district, his work to bring housing projects, post offices and summer jobs into places like Framingham. Leominster and Fitchburg. His literature advertises his 100 per cent ratings from Americans for Democratic Action, the United Auto Workers, the United Steel Workers and others, and his 97 per cent attendance record.
Apparently ignoring warnings that McGovern is in trouble in Massachusetts, even in the liberal Fourth Congressional District, Drinan is making a great deal out of his early and vocal support for the South Dakotan's Presidential campaign. Campaign literatures showing the two together, and discussing Drinan's role as head of the McGovern slate of delegates in the Massachusetts's primary and later as Chairperson of the solidly pro McGovern delegation at the convention is omnipresent throughout Drinan's headquarters.
The national ticket poses a much more ticklish problem for Linsky. Before Labor Day, the conventional wisdom was that President Nixon would lose this state and that local Republican candidates should avoid any ties with the President. However, recent polls indicate that Nixon might even carry Massachusetts, and has encouraged state-wide Republicans not to totally ignore the national ticket. Linsky's answer to this is to profess' lukewarm support for the administration, while more loudly proclaiming his opposition to the war in Vietnam.
And then there's Jack Collins. "I'm the only guy offering the voters of the 4th District a choice," Collins says. He supports the President straight down the line on the war, on busing, on law and order, and on the "Big A's": amnesty and abortion. He describes his opponents views on economics. "It's simple. The way to stimulate the economy and employment is to stimulate the private sector. If we get rid of the tax burden on individual citizens and businesses, they'll have more money to spend. This will increase the demand for production and thus create jobs. It's freshman economics right out of Samuelson and now even Samuelson won't admit that that's the answer."
Collins is a spoiler candidate. The Globe poll gave him 10 per cent of the vote, to 13 per cent for Drinan and 33 for Linsky. The Linsky people claim that every vote for Collins is taken from those who would ordinarily be supporting Linsky, Collins disagrees.
"I'm taking votes from everybody. The conservative Democratic Philbin supporters in the western end of the district are still bitter about the 1970 campaign and still can't stand Drinan. They might not be able to bring themselves to vote for a Republican, but they might support me instead."
Money is flowing freely in the campaign. While not running the Iavish, direct mail-oriented campaign he did two years ago. Drinan still expects to spend over $200,000. Linsky campaign workers say they will spend $150,000 to $200,000. Recently, campaign treasurers for all three candidates met secretly to try to work out a limit for campaign spending but so far no agreement has been reached.
As in other Massachusetts races, the outcome of this campaign may hinge on the Nixon-McGovern campaign. A strong showing in the District by either Presidential candidate could carry his party's Congressional candidate to victory.