Marching Orders


I love a parade.

Alley Opp the ClownI’m especially fond of the Wakefield, MA Independence Day Parade, having attended most of them since the Eisenhower Administration.

Over the years, I became less interested in the clowns and more interested in the politicians. In other words, my tastes haven’t changed very much. The 2012 Wakefield Independence Day Parade featured pols aplenty. That’s no surprise, given that it’s an election year.

It’s good for people along the parade route to get a chance to see their representatives and would-be representatives in the flesh. It’s not every day that you get to see a US Senator up close, wave to a Harvard professor or have an embattled congressman shake your hand as if he knew who you were.

It’s been argued that politicians don’t belong in the July 4th Parade. While I can appreciate the sentiment that keeping them out would elevate the proceedings, Independence Day celebrates our freedom to elect our own representatives to govern us. It would be counter to the spirit of the day to bar our representatives and would-be representatives from marching.

But there’s a difference between marching and campaigning.

In its Instructions for Elected Officials and Candidates for Public Office, the Wakefield Independence Day Committee’s parade web site sets out guidelines for politicians who wish to march in the parade.

Clearly the guidelines were written to avoid sounding heavy-handed. The intention is not to discourage pols from participating, but to gently get across the idea that a certain decorum is expected.

“This parade is one of patriotism and celebration of the independence of our country,” the Committee reminds politicians.

“If you would like to ride in your car, please DO NOT AFFIX MORE THAN TWO IDENTIFICATION SIGNS to the sides of the automobile,” the guidelines state. An identifying banner is OK, but elected officials and candidates for public office are instructed not to display signs soliciting votes. They are asked not to use a sound system, and not to have a small contingent of pole sign carriers. They are also asked not to use balloons or hand out any type of material.

In other words, the parade is not a campaign rally. Most politicians understand and respect that. Unfortunately, there were one or two notable exceptions in this year’s parade.

US Senator Scott BrownAbiding by spirit of the rules was Sen. Scott Brown who walked the parade route solo. Other politicians also marched alone or accompanied by one or two supporters, like congressional candidate Richard Tisei, State Rep. Donald Wong and Middlesex County Sherriff Peter Koutoujian.

Either Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren didn’t get the memo that all the other candidates got, or her supporters decided it didn’t apply to them. She was accompanied by an army boisterous supporters clad in Warren campaign T-shirts proclaiming their support for Warren and exhorting the crowd to join in.

Congressman John TierneyCompared to Warren’s roving rally, controversial Congressman John Tierney’s entourage was relatively subdued. (Probably no surprise under the circumstances.) But even he had a contingent of supporters in tow who were not afraid to wear their support for the congressman on their sleeves.

Look, Wakefield has the biggest Independence Day Parade in the state. Everybody knows why the pols come here.

We want to keep the politicians marching. But would it be too much to ask that they keep the politicking to a minimum?

[This column originally appeared in the July 26, 2012 Wakefield Daily Item.]

2 Responses to “Marching Orders”

  1. 1 AnneS

    So very true…

  2. Elizabeth Warren’s prescence in the Wakefield parade was a good example of the adage that the people can’t be fooled. At the corner of North Ave. and Church St. comments such as “why is she here?” and “What is she doing?” could be heard as she passed. Wakefieldians are tolerant of thier own in the parade, all others are taking a risk. In this case it was obvious she was chasing Scott that day, duly noted by the crowd. Politically she gained nothing, just a blip on the screen. So hopefully she learned from muscle soreness and dehydration but I doubt it. Word to the wise: The people won’t be fooled, and they won’t look forward to seeing you back next year.

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