Massachusetts 9th District
The Irish remain the dominant political tribe in Boston, and in Massachusetts, though even in South Boston, long the center of Irish Boston, vestiges of the old neighborhoods are starting to gentrify. Southie’s influence endures in the memory of two Irish Democrats who represented the area for all but two years from the Great Depression to the start of the 21st century. The first was John McCormack, an old-style backroom deal-maker who served as House speaker during the 1960s; the second was Joe Moakley, a close pal of Thomas (Tip) O’Neill’s, who chaired the influential Rules Committee before Democrats lost the House majority in 1994.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 9th Congressional District, historically anchored in Boston, has followed the move of the Irish to the suburbs. Today, fewer than one-third of its residents are in Boston, mostly in the still-Irish areas of South Boston, Hyde Park (shared with the 8th District), and West Roxbury. Completion of the transformational Big Dig highway construction project, with a new tunnel under Boston Harbor, has spurred economic development along the waterfront, including office buildings, hotels, condominiums, the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, and a huge convention center. The development has reduced some of the parochialism in South Boston but has increased complaints of gentrification and of pricing the working class out of old neighborhoods.
Now that the ugly Central Artery, the north-south expressway that for five decades divided the city, has been moved underground, traffic flows far more efficiently (though progress came at a price: huge cost overruns drove the Big Dig bill to $15 billion, and the collapse of ceiling tile in a tunnel in July 2006 killed a woman). The 9th District also takes in much of Beacon Hill, including the gold-domed State House facing Boston Common. From there, the 9th heads west to the comfortable suburbs of Needham and Medfield, and southeast to Braintree, ancestral home of the presidential Adamses, and Brockton, the old shoe manufacturing town. Ethnically, this remains a heavily Irish congressional district, with Southie as home to an annual St. Patrick’s Day parade preceded by a political breakfast and roast that is a must-attend for state politicians. Only the neighboring 10th District has more residents of Irish ancestry—further evidence of the Irish move out of Boston to the far suburbs.