Menino, For The Bad Times

Tom Menino's victory speech in the packed Fairmont Copley ballroom was as much cautionary as celebratory. The papers may write about a historic fifth term, he said; but "when we've put our residents in jobs, shops in vacant spaces, students through college, and this city past a fiscal downturn, then let's talk about history."

In very tough economic times, voters often vote for change in leadership -- and they did elsewhere on Tuesday. They ousted several incumbent mayors here in Massachusetts, and in several open elections, they picked the newest, freshest option: a black man in Newton, a Hispanic in Lawrence, a 29-year-old in Fall River.

But in Boston, they chose instead to stick with the steady hand; the known entity; the status quo, if you will. That's a testament to Menino. One thing you can say about him is that he has kept the ship afloat, avoiding calamity and chaos. People are comforted at the thought of him at the wheel as we pass through rocky shoals.

Of course that not the only, or even the primary reason Menino won by a large margin. He is, first and foremost, one of the greatest politicians of our time. He is a master at arranging the chess pieces to ensure himself electoral victory, and he disproved resoundingly the suggestion that those skills had lagged or grown outdated in the 16 years since they were last put to the test.

Menino has now been given a mandate; the voters have called out to him, "Menino, take the wheel." The powerful pols, business owners, and community leaders came to the Fairmont to pay homage to him and his absolute, unquestioned control of his city.

The task for him now -- and I think he knows this -- is to convert all of that into support, or at least acceptance, of some very difficult things that need doing. "We are going to need all our strength -- all 600,000 of us, whatever our votes -- pulling together," he said Tuesday night. That may be tougher than getting 57 percent of the vote.

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