On the day the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press released poll results saying Americans are losing faith in their political institutions, especially the Democratic Party, Massachusetts voters gave dramatic confirmation of that finding. John Silber, the president of Boston University and newcomer to politics, won the Democratic nomination for governor in a stunning upset over Francis X. Bellotti, who has been a party stalwart and high level government official since the early 1960s.
Employing the traditional definition, Mr. Silber is a Democrat in name only. He would be considered a maverick in any state -- but especially in Massachusetts, where Democratic liberalism has been triumphant for two decades. He voted for George Bush and Ronald Reagan. In his campaign he uttered a number of so-called "Silber Shockers," alienating important elements of the old Democratic coalition. He said the elderly ought to accept fate and die rather than burden the state with the costs of heroic medicine. He insulted feminists, blacks and ethnics. He derided welfare. He heaped scorn on the Democratic establishment, especially Mr. Bellotti and Gov. Michael Dukakis.
The Times Mirror poll found that in the past three years Americans identifying themselves as Democrats fell 4 percent to 33, while those identifying themselves as Republicans rose 3 percent to 28. If that keeps up, there could be more Republicans than Democrats in 1992. When was that last true? According to the Gallup Poll, 1946.