Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who was first elected to Congress in 1980 to the seat being vacated by Rep. Robert Drinan, has decided not to seek re-election in 2012. He is scheduled to announce his decision at 1 pm today. A key factor is the recent redrawing of his congressional district to remove the working-class stronghold of New Bedford while adding the Scott Brown stronghold of Walpole. Another factor is the likelihood that the GOP will retain control of Congress in 2012, coupled with the fact that members of the minority have much less ability to influence policy. A third factor is his personal life, which any dedicated activist sacrifices while in the arena.
The Boston Globe reports:
John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said in a statement: “In a state that has sent many great leaders to Washington, Barney Frank will take his place in history as a shining son of Massachusetts.”
Former party head Philip W. Johnston told the Globe: “He was brilliant, funny, acerbic, strategic, and unashamedly liberal. And they’re in short supply these days.”
Frank, 71, was raised in New Jersey but schooled at Harvard University and Harvard Law School, endowing him with a street-fighter’s mouth and an academic’s wit.
Speaking of being in the arena, Barney of course has his detractors, and right-wing provocateur Chris Barron of GOProud does not disappoint; but Joe Jervis shows that this reflects more on Mr. Barron. Barney is the first to acknowledge that he hasn't been perfect. But he has been an effective partisan fighter at a time when that was sorely needed. The comment above about him having "a street-fighter’s mouth and an academic’s wit" is apt. Barney, who was the first member of Congress to voluntarily acknowledge being gay, never fit the stereotype of gay people as effete. And his quick wit struck fear across the aisle. Contrary to Chris Barron, he will indeed be missed by a great many of us. Best wishes to him on his future endeavors, which evidently will include teaching.
Update: I am listening to Barney now on C-SPAN3, and he just said that in his retirement "I will neither be a lobbyist nor a historian," a dig at Newt Gingrich. He also said that despite his law degree he will not practice law, though he might work pro bono in a gay rights case on occasion.