Massachusetts 7th District
The Yankee Protestants and Irish Catholics who settled Massachusetts arrived by boat, the Yankees to a cold stony land with a few Indians, the Irish to a crowded city with Yankees who seemed no more welcoming. The Yankees whose ancestors once farmed the soil had, by the early 20th century, founded suburbs filled with solid brick and white frame houses. As the years went on, their local public schools emptied as young people with children moved out, and attendance at Protestant churches fell. The Irish, for decades heavily concentrated in the crowded wards of Boston, started moving out into the suburbs after World War II. There were other ethnic groups here and there (Jews, Italians, French-Canadians), but the major conflict—fought out in neighborhood playgrounds, in school committee meetings, and not least in political campaigns—was between Protestant Yankee Republicans and Catholic Irish Democrats.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 7th Congressional District of Massachusetts is made up of Boston’s northern and western suburbs, where vestiges of this conflict can still be seen. Geographically, it forms an arc around Boston, starting with the clapboard beach towns of Winthrop and Revere just beyond Logan Airport, going north as far as working-class Woburn (where Charles Goodyear developed the art of vulcanizing rubber), and west as far as modest-income Natick and Framingham. Brazilians were a significant immigrant group here after the war, when Boston-based mining companies began extracting mica from an area near the Brazilian city of Governador Valadares. The 7th also includes the university towns of Medford, home of Tufts University, and Waltham, home of Brandeis University. It includes the patriot town of Lexington, where minutemen fired the shots heard ’round the world in 1775, and high-income Lincoln and Weston. Many of these towns were Yankee Republican through the 1950s, but by the late 1960s, they were solidly Democratic. In state politics, the suburbanites of the 7th District have been less liberal: This district was close in the gubernatorial election of 1998 and again in 2002, when Republican Mitt Romney won 51%-49%. But Democrat Deval Patrick carried every town and city in the district in 2006. Like the rest of Massachusetts, recent presidential elections here have not been competitive.