During the past month, Governor Baker has moved more boldly than ever to implement his vision of state reform. Not everybody approves. I’m not sure that I approve, either, of all his current decisions: but no one can now doubt that he means to alter significantly the principles operating state administration. So far, his boldness has not cost him any popularity at all ; in a recent Western Massachusetts University poll, his favorable-unfavorable numbers were found to be 68/14 — by far the highest of any Massachusetts elected official.

The big drama arises from baker’s decision to have the MBTA hire private contractors to operate its money counting room and some of its vehicle maintenance. As these shifts put many Carmen’s Union jobs at risk, it’;s no surprise that the union and its supporters in the legislature have mounted large protests and rallies outside the State House. This week, Boston Mayor Walsh joined one such rally. Posted in social media, and broadcast on television, the rallies look big and loud; and doubtless many people watching at home wonder why has Baker taken on such committed opposition.

My own view of the decision — justified by the MBTA Board of Directors as a money-saving measure — is that basic operations should be left as is. I doubt that contractors; employees will be any more honest at the money counting than the Carmen; nor do I find it wise to ship maintenance work to contractors rather than modernize the T’s won repair shops and warehouses. Nor do I like the idea of costing well=-paid local workers their jobs. The T has many other places it can go to save money : selling off or leasing T-owned land; leasing advertising space on T billboards and the sides of buses; raising fares (which it did do this year). Firing well-paid workers should not be among them. Well-paid workers spend generously into the local economy. Why hurt them ?

Baker’s moves, and Walsh’s opposition to them, smell to me like re-election campaigning. Walsh wants full Labor support as he seeks a second term as Mayor this coming year. Baker wants the full support of voters who dislike the high pay and benefits accorded to unions paid by taxpayer dollars. It is certainly hard that re-election priorities imperil the prospects of workers, but that’s how campaigns take shape. Baker has already angered the irreconcilables in his party by opposing Trump entirely, early and all the way. Curbing the Carmen’s dominance of MBTA operations is a red meat way  for him to win these voters back and prevent their leaders from supporting a primary opponent : because if there’s one issue that binds almost all Republicans together, it’s tax dollar rigor.

Nor is Baker’s privatization likely to upset many non-Republican voters. As transportation management in Massachusetts moves from special interest protection laws to free market innovation — think regulated taxis giving way to Uber and Lyft — so breaking one union’s control of the T’s budget and work rules looks like encouraging innovation. It may well be that. Public worker unions have hardly endeared the voters to their case of late. Though the charter school cap lift initiative looks likely to fail, that failure has little to do with the teachers unions opposing it and more to say about voters not favoring, or caring about, a cause that helps only the poorest 25 percent of the state’s kids.

Baker must feel that his privatization moves at the T have given him room to take an equally bold stand on another issue : transgender civil rights. He waited a long time before committing to the civil rights law known commonly as the ” #TransBill,” but he did sign it, and he has now moved early and clearly to declare that he will vote to defend it against the ballot initiative brought by those who would repeal the “TransBill.”

I applaud Baker’s bold stand here. He and Attorney General Maura Healey together assures that our state will  not abandon any of its residents on civil rights matters. But it’s also good politics for Baker. Most Republicans who oppose the “:TransBill” are his personal opponents within the party. He isn’t going to win them anyway, so why not boldly support a law favored by about 62 percent of our voters ? Support for transgender civil rights is strongest in the cities and in the major suburbs of Boston — a vote that Baker  cannot afford not to win.

Yet his move is not merely political calculation. Baker understands that everyone’s life is her own and is not the business of anyone else; and he respects that integrity. I have seen it personally. My only critique is that support for everyone’s right to be who they are should never be “bold.” It should be a given. ?Unfortunately, in today’s America, lots of voters think that it IS their business to dictate to other people, and to kidnap the law to work their will upon us. I am thrilled that Governor Baker opposes such dictates. For whatever reason. Its’ good politics, and it’s the right thing to do.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphdere





Last night’s Presidential debate, and the randy Donald Trump tape leading up to it, have elicited much comment about “alpha males.” By which is meant, I guess, men aggressively hitting on women: which when I was growing up was the assumed model of what “guys” were like. There were certainly plenty of guys who were not aggressive alphas. At the boys’ prep school and college that I went to, there were many shy guys — some of them “nerds,” some quite dainty — and there were several other brands of boy: fat and unathletic, artistic “beatniks,” aristocratic snobs — you name it.Still, the role model — the image that everyone pointed to when the word “Princeton” was mentioned was the ‘Jock” : the ultimate alpha male. The rest of us were left playing catch-up.

Today, that’s not so. The rise of gay male visibility has given us an entirely different role model, the “metrosexual” : a male who may well be “straight” — indeed, usually is so — but borrows mannerisms and tastes from  his gay male contemporaries. We used to call such guys “effete,” but today that [pejorative doesn’t hold. The “metrosexual” — not the “jock” — holds pride of place in today’s urban beehive.

Still, there are plenty of “jocks” — “alpha males” — and they have great cachet, much of it attached to the nation’s professional sports culture, sports bars, sport clothing, sport behavior and pastimes. Thus it was that Trump described THE TAPE as “locker room talk” rather than “trendy bistro conversation” or some such. Instantly we all knew what he meant despite “grabbing them by the pussy” not being a frequent phrase even in locker rooms. Two days ago one of Trump’s sons said that such talk was what ‘alpha Males” do. The term actually derives not from sports talk but from dominance games played by primates. It refers to the behaviors by which one4 male of a herd assumes dominance over the other males in the herd as well as its females and thus wins the right to breed. (Analogously, female horses selected by alpha steed are called “brood mares.”)

That Trump’s son should describe his Dad’s talk as that of an “alpha male” is quite instructive, isn’t it ? Is it a matter of pride for a wealthy, famous man living in our civilized nation to see himself as a breed animal ? Evidently so.

Clearly the description is liked by many millions of his followers too.

Yet today there are other models of maleness and more gender roles too. Living in an economy of options and a society of innovation — a world in which invention is prized and experiment is masterful — many. of us are thinking about sex and gender, thinking deeply about them in ways no generation has done before. What does it mean to be male ? Is “male” a fact or simply a social convention ? How can a person be able to perform sexually in a manner associated with “maleness” yet feel herself entirely female ? Answering these questions, all is conceivable, and much is provable on the ground, as it were, where personal behaviors take shape in the moment responding to interactions in the moment. And in these decisions we find that the “alpha male” idea isn’t dominant at all. many “males” deciding to pursue gender feelings don t even think of the “alpha male” concept :” it simply isn’t them is as far from their imperatives as a free lunch is from a wanderer in the desert.

I suspect that almost every boy growing up confronts the question “who am I” experimentally. Try out various who’s on the path to one “who am I” that fits. Some boys never settle the issue. There are no givens in life, in which identity is a mystery and feelings are difficult to interpret. But some of us know who we are. We simply know it, the n spend time — lots of time, perhaps — grasping it and accepting it. This is likely true of “alpha males” too. I know of many transgender women who once behaved in an “alpha male’ manner only to confront that that behavior was not who they knew themselves to be. It isn’t easy to be comfortable in one’s own skin, because no matter how strong a society’s gender norms, the individual person lives first of all inside herself: social norms stand at a distance, usually in the shape of other people who perforce do not occupy one’s own space.

Experiment means uncertainty, and uncertainty is assumed to be uncomfortable. I differ. For many people living in the diversity of a city, uncertainty is opportunity, is an invitation. And so the children of toady experiment with their selves. In the course of which some find that social norms of gender and dress aren’t a priori but a choice, as are all societal conventions. And if the society has chosen one set of conventions, rather than another equally compelling, why cannot I choose a different convention ? Here I am not speaking of transgender chiefly. Transgender people accept the societal norm; they simply embrace the side of it opposite to social expectation. Powerful an exception to the norms transgender is; but many men (and women) today who are NOT transgender are experimenting with the accoutrements of gender norms and adopting gender presentations for their own sake, not because they know they are not the gender that biology and/or society insist them to be. I enjoy seeing people do this sort of experimentation. The looks they adorn themselves with are fascinating, and liberating to my own normed assumptions: why can’t a guy, who knows himself to be a guy and who is NOT transgender, present in female norm ? (And vice versa as well.)

After all, in clothing there are messages about gender and norms, tailored in, as it were, that can be put on and taken off, just as can the norms themselves.

As an option rather than a must, the messages of clothing can be fun to send. Choosing the clothing associated with an opposite gender norm is liberation, empowering; it opens all kinds of search doors.

When gender non-normatives become an option, not an imperative, embracing them demonstrates to all of us that who we are — and can be — may never be boxed, that the choice is of the core of our lives; and that “alpha male,” too, is not a fate but a choice; a choice that comports just as great risks for the alpha as for those upon whom he aggresses.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



The name of Curt Schilling is upon us in a context it shouldn’t land. The man who 12 years ago won the hearts of all Red Sox fans as he pitched through terrible pain to take our team to the World Series pennant now wants to be our United States Senator. Laudable ?  Not so much.. He has spoken in the vein of Trump, angry and bigoted, defending Trump’s worst misogyny, ignorant of social norms, dismissive of everyone who doesn’t taste his gripes.

This is not new to Schilling. In past elections he has mouthed his gripes in terms offensively devoid of remedy. True, a citizen has every right to speak like an asshole. A candidate for our state’s highest national office ought to rise higher; to take his or her mission seriously; to elevate all the people. Schilling may not in fact run against Elizabeth Warren; but if he does so in the Trumpian vein that we have heard so far — he can never have this paper’s support; and I can assure our readers that we will oppose him at every opportunity, if he runs and does not elevate his discourse.

The possible candidacy of an angry Schilling demonstrates the bearish Republican future that we have discussed at Here and Sphere many times. It has been obvious for some time now that even in Massachusetts, where comity and consensus have ruled since at least 1990, the coming of Trump assures that Massachusetts’s Republican activists henceforth feature radical rejectionists — people who eschew winning elections because all they seek is revenge for being shown up by the majority of us. The virulence of these rejectionists — a difficulty since 2004 at least — has increased manifold this year, with two consequences : the reasonable activists are giving up, or even leaving the party altogether, whereas the rejectionists, emboldened by Trump becoming the GOP nominee, are moving aggressively; in response to which the common sense faction of our GOP is exiting in larger and larger numbers.

Granted, that all is not lost. The youngest of our state’s GOp activists — under 30 — have a very different mkindew5r from Trumpian. They’re optimistic, they embrace our common political norms, they do not see enemies everywhere, they aren’t addicts of talk show hosts — because few, if any, listen to radio or watch TV — and they live with lifestyle diversity and multi=-culture. Many of the most eloquent are non-white, or LGBT, or both.

But their day is maybe a decade or more in the future. Meanwhile, we face a Schilling moment and probably others like it.

That this development gives rise to a Curt Schilling candidacy is, yes, deplorable. But its most serious effect is that it endangers the agenda and re-election of Governor Baker. In a poll taken  many months ago,m baker’s favorable-unfavorable standing was worse among members of his own party than with any other Massachusetts voting group. Today, Baker is openly reviled by a faction still fringe, but likely to grow. His politics is the opposite of Trumpian. He seeks consensus, he campaigns to and respects everybody, he supports inclusion. He is always a gentleman, never gross, never sounds like gutter. Just on style alone, Baker is a living, governing rebuke to the Trumpian way.

Baker’s rescue, and his re-election, will likely arise from our state not being Trumpian at all. The last poll I saw had Trump getting 26 percent of the vote. Baker is our state’s most popular politician, and though he has likely lost many union votes with his privatization moves at the MBTA, and opposes even the minimum agenda of immigrant activists,  on almost all other issues he speaks for a sizeable majority. The difficulty is the Republican party, which he leads. It’s only 11 percent of our vote, but a vital eleven. Baker cannot afford to win only half of that vote (51 percent did not vote for Trump in the March 2nd primary, 49 percent did.)

Worse for Baker still is that the media will report any loss of GOP dominance baker experiences, and we won;t be wrong to report it. Control of our GOP is Baker’s hole card in dealing with the legislature. If he doesn’t bring the entire GOP deck to the bargaining table, he looks weak, and a Governor cannot negotiate with a legislature three-quarters Democratic if he looks weak.

Baker will also be put on the spot if a Schilling candidacy does occur. He will be asked over and over again if he supports his “ticket mate.” With Trump, Baker made it crystal clear very early that he will not vote for Trump : and he told us exactly why. If a Schilling candidacy does occur, will Baker be as clear ? CAN he be ? Whichever course he takes, he risks his standing.

But perhaps I over-react here. The smallness of our state GOP allows Baker to reject a Schilling candidacy. Maybe he loses 4 of the 11 percent of voters who are Republican; but by dong so, he solidifies, for the vast majority of our voters, his reputation for principled moderation, inclusion, and reform and his rejection of rejectionism.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



The thing most puzzling to me about this Presidential election is the prevalence of hate for Hillary Clinton. Its virulence, too. Whence does it arise ? Of course partisan overreach stokes much, but said overreach couldn’t find ground were there not voters — a great many — to fuel it.

I read the hate on social media especially. And there, after reading literally thousands of posts and comments, I find the answer : women.

Women do by far the majority of Hillary hate on social media. How can this be ? And again : the single most frequent reason raised by Hillary-hating women is the behavior of her husband. Because he violated his marriage vows — often — and, so the comments read, she fought fiercely to discredit the women that Bill Clinton seems to have dallied with, Hillary is blamed. Why is this a thing ? Isn’t it right that Hillary fought for her marriage any way she could ? Is that not praise worthy ? I say it is very praiseworthy.

It is said of her that by fighting for her marriage rather than divorcing or separating from Bill Clinton, Hillary ‘enabled” him. I find it scary that people feel entitled to judge the dynamics of someone else’s marriage. No one should ever do that. Nobody who isn’t in a particular marriage can know the workings of it, and even if they did know, it’s not their place to judge or butt in.

Why do Hillary hating women do this ? One suspects that many, many women are in sexual relationships in which the man betrays or belittles, and, looking for Hillary Clinton as a role model for push back — for freedom from a cad — because of her power and riches, they find instead an “enabler.” Far better that women should not look for role models, instead to be their own role model : but that is easier to say than be.

Then come the standard talking points : Benghazi, the e mails, the power politics wreaked upon Bernie Sanders. But I find all of these a convenient excuse, rather than the cause, for the basic generator of Hillary hate : women who feel disappointed — betrayed ? — by Hillary as an avatar of women’s love rights.

How easy it is, for women feeling betrayed by their wished for avatar to latch onto Trump as a convenient Hillary spanking. How better to beshrew Hillary than to salute a man who gropes women at will, has had three wives, treats women’s bodies like a fruit basket, and brags about it all ? One sees Hillary hating women for Trump glorying in baiting her duck : look, see ? My abuser of women is more brazen than yours ! And after all, your betrayer DID the wild thing, mine only talks about it !

And let us not forget the lessons of literature. It was not a feverish revel of men that, in Euripides’s play The Bacchae, tore a male interrupter in pieces. Truly, as the saying goes, “the female of the species is deadlier than the male. Why is this observation true ? My view is that as women’s lives have been squeezed small by the dominance actions of men, so women’s frustrations simmer very hotly, very very, and when they boil over, there’s no turning back, no cooling off.

And yet the election of Hillary Clinton as our next President will empower women. It will galvanize girls coming of age. It will change the dynamics, so that the dominances men have enjoyed will be seen for the manipulations they are. The women who hate Hillary may never reconcile with her triumph; even the masterful Queen Elizabeth could not assuage Mary Queen of Scots or her party; yet Hillary, like Elizabeth, has already her vast following of women who see her rise as far more important than her betrayal as a wife, for them she is THE role model, and that, I think, is major progress. And Hillary as President will be, for girls now born and those who will be born, even more the measure of women’s significance. The future of women will not be like the past, and the hate that buffets Hillary Clinton today will grow ever more beside the point.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ Governor Baker presides : he is also trying to build a stronger Massachusetts GOP. But he faces obstacles big and numerous enough to defeat all his dreams thereof

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Political parties only matter if people take them as mattering. In Massachusetts, there’s few who do that. Which is a huge problem for activists who want to boost the Republican party in our state.

The one venue in which party does matter — a lot — in our elections is for Governor. In every election since 1990 except two, a plurality (or majority) of our voters has chosen the candidate whose name appears on the ballot’s Republican line. Why do our voters make this one exception to an otherwise single-party (and thus no party) vote ? My view, which I have written about often, is that voters want a Governor who is not a Democrat, in order to bring an independent power position into play, so that the state can reach policy consensus. Of the five Republican Governors who have held office since 1990, none personifies consensus more convincingly than Charlie Baker, which is surely why his favorability numbers hover at 70 percent.

Yet even spectacular in popularity, Baker has been unable to strengthen his party much. There are many reasons for this, and I will discuss them. First, let’s agree that electing a referee Governor is hardly a mandate to be politically partisan. Baker builds a Republican party at his peril. Yet it was the same for all his four predecessors, which is why few of them tried to do it, and the one who tried — Mitt Romney — failed badly.

Most Massachusetts voters belong to neither party : 53 percent overall, much higher percentages in the towns beyond Greater Boston — some have 80 percent of all voters not party enrolled. When these voters vote, the last thing they look at is which party line accompanies a candidate’s name. (For national office, that may not be true; the Republican national party has a terrible reputation here). Yet even those who might be inclined to vote for the Republican often do not do so, because (1) the Republican candidate is almost always lesser known (2) is almost always running against an incumbent and (3) often espouses policy positions rejected by the majority of voters.

As for party enrolled, only eleven (11) percent of Massachusetts voters are Republican, whereas 36 percent are Democrats. The disproportion is far greater among activists. My guess, gleaned from decades of intense campaign involvement, is that Democratic activists outnumber Republican ones at least ten to one; and those numbers are worsening, as the age demographic among Massachusetts Republicans is mortal. Most people you;’ll see at a Republican local event are over 60, even over 70. Candidates do not appear from nowhere; almost, all are of the activist group. Just on the numbers, Republicans are three times more likely than the Democrats to not have a candidate in a particular race. Then you add the demographics. Very few candidates for local office or the legislature make their first run at age 60, much less 70. Almost all are in their 20s. Of these, the Republicans have very very few.

Young ambitious people thinking of running for office know the numbers. Unless they are ideologically inclined to the Republican party — more on this point later — they almost always decide to run as a Democrat, because it is simply much easier to win that way. Who would choose to put her name on a ballot line that eleven (11) percent identify with, when instead she can seek a nomination that 36 percent go to ? The answer is as bad as the question is sad. Almost all who choose to run as Republican do so for ideological reasons. But the GOP is ideologically way, way out of step with the views of Massachusetts voters on almost every issue. And if a candidate with majority views does decide to run as a Republican ? She’ll almost certainly face passionate opposition in the Republican primary from those who hold the opposite, “true” Republican view. Why would any ambitious young activist ant to put himself into that squeeze ?

Now we come to Governor Baker. This is the math, and the dynamics, that he must confront. I have no idea what course he COULD take to build the Republican party — other than to continue doing the mostly exemplary work that he is doing — but such courses as he seems to have taken aren’t helpful. Last fall he commenced a campaign to unseat anti-Baker, radical right wingers from the Republican state committee. He fielded or endorsed approximately 57 candidates for the 80 state committee seats to  be elected at the March 2nd Presidential primary. Unhappily, a great many of his candidates were either Baker hires working at the State House or were existing state committee members hired for State House work. Is it any surprise that the opposition raised the spectre of patronage politics ? Raised it successfully enough to almost defeat the Governor’s campaign ? Nor did many of Baker’s candidates have deep roots in their district — some had only recently moved in; and many did not work the campaign the way you have to. State committee members are elected by State Senate District. To win  a state committee race you really have to treat it as a race for the State Senate itself. Yes, THAT intense. That means you have to want the job, you have to start running for it early, you have to raise at least $ 50,000, and you have to campaign full time everywhere; and you really ought to have roots in the district. Most of those Baker endorsees won who have roots and campaigned as you have to. Those who did not, or could not, lost.

Baker’s operatives would surely say to me, “but Mike, patronage people were all we had. There are so few cadres in our party.”

True enough. And that is the basic problem, the fundamental difficulty in all plans to build a Republican party in Massachusetts. If you don’t have candidates who want to win, and who can win, and who are prepared to do what it takes to win, you cannot even have a party, much less build it. And though patronage cadres are extremely valuable for campaign work, they’re usually lousy candidates. Voters understandably want representatives responsible to them, not to a patron. So, how does Baker find these ? Can he find them ? I am not optimistic.

And what if Baker, or a successor, were to succeed in building something stronger ? Immediately the election of Republican Governors would be put at risk, because our Republican Governors are elected by the activism of city and suburban Democrats, who can do this because the election of a GOP Governor does not in any way threaten Democratic dominance of state politics. That would not be true if our Republican party where large enough to threaten. If a Governor could build the Republican party to 25 percent or more of the vote, a thing most unlikely, Governor elections would look very different on the ground, but the Republican would surely lose, the election now being about partisanship rather than refereeing. And again : a local GOP cannot be built to the 25 percent of voters level without taking in the national GOP’s supporters. Which would make the GOP’s local difficulties worse, not better.

I do not know what Baker can achieve that will help rather than imperil his future. It would be nice to have at least enough activist Republicans, however, that his patronage, or his state committee members, aren’t amateurish, or bought and paid for, or both.

If you, dear reader, can think of a way to circumvent even one of these obstacles to growing the Massachusetts Republican party, I’d love to hear it. Until then, I accept living in political conundrum.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ Governor Baker has been put in the middle between Parker O’Grady (left) and State Senator Don Humason (right), whom O’Grady is challenging. (Photo from

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We’ve waited to opine about this matter until the accusations and reports had time to check and occasion to be checked upon. I refer to the news that an employee of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s “EEA” Division — Energy and Environmental Affairs — was harassed by her mangers over her connection to a Democratic candidate for State Senate; that she is the fiancee of said candidate and was told to have her affianced cease his candidacy against the incumbent Republican State Senator, or else. It appears that there’s truth to these reports; that Governor Baker was not told; and that his own office has begun its own investigation as to what happened and who did it.

Said Baker,
“No one in our administration should ever, ever threaten anybody to engage in civic endeavors as a private citizen. Period. And I take that type of allegation really seriously. And like I said, let’s see what comes out of the investigation. It’s going to have a lot of input from our legal office and based on what comes out of that, we’ll make an appropriate call.”



That’s the state of things as I write. I have nothing to add to the facts, but I have plenty to say about them and about how they were handled.

First: the Governor was not informed. Look, guys : if you’re going to staff a State agency with patronage appointments — political people hired because of their commitment to the Baker team — that’s fine; patronage is necessary, or else politics will be left only to the ideologues. But if an agency is run by patronage employees,m expect politics to be played within it. Monitor the same. If politics arises, let the Governor know immediately.

The decision to staff an agency with political people has to be the Governor’s. It cannot be anyone else’s. Patronage is a controversial practice. The public is skeptical of it, and newspaper columnists feed that bias. So if you’re going to do it, you ought to SAY SO, and to monitor your decision carefully, so that said patronage hires don’t end up embarrassing you.

Second: The Governor’s immediate staff must include at least one, better yet more than one, political person who is on his core staff for just that purpose. Baker campaigned as Mr. Fix It, and he has been that; but if, as is evident now, he has also set up a political shop, the public is going to judge that aspect of him too, and he needs be as careful of it as he is of reforming the MBTA and the DCF. The phrase “Baker was evidently not told” should NEVER happen in an administration with a political component. The Governor should always be told; better yet, he should find out for himself. He shouldn’t wait “to be told.”

Third : patronage employees need to be told that they are just that : patronage employees, there for a political purpose, but until called upon, there to do the actual job they are put in. If the Governor wants a political staff — and that’s quite OK — he should hire one. If he wants said staff to do a regular state job as reward for doing politics, he should make it clear to said hires that they cannot mix the two commitments; that politics must be kept out of the state agency work.

Most elected officials know this. Most patronage hires know it too. But in the Massachusetts Republican party, experience of elected government is rare; few cadres have it; and thus they — and their elected boss — aren’r experienced in how to do it. This problem is not unique to Baker and Republicans. Mayor Walsh has sometimes found it difficult to keep political agendas out of city administration. Yet Baker faces a factor that Walsh does not : as a Republican, Baker stands on only 1 percent of  Massachusetts voters. There is no margin  for mistake.

Fourth : threats by a political employee cannot continue. Anyone at the EEA who made any sort of retaliation threat against Ms. Cynthia Lewis or anyone else needs to be warned, in writing, that any further recurrence will result in termination. The same message must be delivered to those in a position to inform the Governor. It’s axiomatic in patronage circumstances : any political appointee who embarrasses the boss is gone, no exceptions.

Finally : this editorial supports the use of patronage. If political parties forswear patronage, all those people who join campaigns in hopes of a job are told they’re not wanted. In which case only the ideologues remain. Today’s political parties suffer from too much ideology, too little continuity. Patronage gives politics stability and a connection to people other than think radicals and one-issue zealots. It is a conservative force. It should be used; but it cannot be used cavalierly, because the public dislikes it. Only if patronage employees contribute to good administration will they be tolerated by the voters.

This baker knows well. Time for him to establish ground rules for the politicals who he has put at the EEA — no exceptions.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ he fumbled and punted, she scored several touchdowns : it was Clinton all the way last night,. But is that all ? Not so fast.

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Some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters were worried about how she would fare last night at the first debate, which is usually the crucial one. They need not have worried. She met the occasion and made it hers.

In retrospect, that was probably inevitable. No one who watched Clinton stand up to, and overpower the entire line up of inquisitors at her 11 hour Benghazi investigation hearing should have had any doubt that she could truck her way through 90 minutes of increasingly unfocused Donald Trump, blasting him several times that few who watched will forget.

What effect will her 90 minute demonstration of command of the issues and reliability have on the actual election ? Were the vote taken today it would affect the result a lot. Trump’s voters don’t care what he says , or how he says it, but undecideds do care. This year there’s an unusually large number of undecided voters; I cannot believe that they found reason last night to break for Donald Trump. One national poll asked “who won ?” and had the result at 62 to 27; another said 51 to 40. The 62 to 27 poll, by CNN, probably represents only the debate itself; but the 51 to 40 poll feels a lot like an actual vote preference. Trump has almost always polled at least 39 percent of the vote. Of late, he’s settled into a 44 percent base. A 51 to 40 poll says that last night cut that raised vote back, reducing him almost to his bottom. The debate really was that damaging to him.

Every segment of the debate, Trump was worse than in the previous. His ending was as discombobulated as it gets: he was mouthing gibberish. Along the way downhill he coughed up some truly cringe-worthy talks : his “birther” answer was  disgusting; his attack on Rosie O’Donnell petty; his statement that paying no taxes was “smart: was the opposite of presidential. He entirely blew the “First Strike” nuclear use question, and his statement that NATO members “should pay us for defending them” was batty. He rambled and ad-libbed the Iraq questions — and lied about his views, over and over again. Little wonder that Clinton began her summation speech by reassuring our allies that we will keep our treaty commitments.

One of Trump’s worst moments was his charging Clinton with not having the stamina for the job. This was an entirely willful accusation on his part; the moderator didn’t ask him about her stamina. Clinton blew him out with her answer : “after you’ve traveled to 122  countries…and endured eleven hours of Benghazi hearings, then you can talk to me about stamina.”

Actually, it was Trump who lacked stamina to go even 90 minutes focused, much less 11 hours.

Trump’s cavalier misogyny glared at the close, as did his word salads, and as it is last impressions that s tick the surest, he ended at his worst; and as last night’s debate was likely the first time most voters have seen him at length, these voters cannot have been edified by what they saw.

It’s hard to tell what the consequence, a week or five weeks from now, will be of last night’s show; but for now, Clinton’s performance has to boost her vote. It will enthuse her supporters (and they needed that), and it will move many undecided voters to at least lean her way. It may even trim Trump’s vote share a bit. Yet the election is NOT taking place now. Clinton remains a solid, perhaps too solid candidate of scant embrace : one thinks of Theodora, or the first Queen Elizabeth, even Maggie Thatcher : women leaders who have found their surest strength in rigid imperiousness and impenetrable command,. It has worked, and it probably will work here, now, in America, with its imperial central government. But I wouldn’t declare victory just yet. The male leadership model runs deep in our political conversation, and an egregiously flawed Trump unafraid to let all his flaws hang out has an air of authenticity hard to deny.

Difficult, too, to conceive two more dissimilar candidates to be commander in chief. In that abyss of difference lies the great, the vast election unknown.

Still : for now, Hillary Clinton rides high. Her supporters should be enormously happy this morning.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere