^ receiving the blessing : Congressman Mike Capuano says that Marty Walsh is OK
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It is said, by Marty Walsh’s campaign, that it has “momentum.” Well ? What campaign doesn’t ? Every campaign worth a shiny ha’penny moves ahead with its things to do and tries to move more mightily. What “Team Walsh” — this year’s cant for “volunteers” — really means is that are catching up. As evidence they cite the bushel of endorsements they’ve received from current or past elected officials. (By my count, it’s now Connolly 9, Walsh 16.) But winning the endorsement skirmish comes at a price., In the 1959 Mayor election, John E. Powers had all the endorsements, John Collins none.
At a time when many people are fed up with elected officials’ inability to keep promises, and when many more no longer believe what an elected official says, having endorsement by elected officials as your big magillah may not be the win-win the endorsee thinks it is. Already Connolly is doing the John Collins move : pointing out in his speeches that, as he said this morning at a rally, “so many politicians have endorsed Marty Walsh I almost expect Barack Obama to endorse him !” (He laughed. So did the entire room.) “All I’ve got,” he continued, are the people !” Saying it as he nodded to the 170 or so leaders and people gathered to support him.
There does seem to be a gathering strength to Walsh’s campaign. I sense it. He is drawing larger gatherings than Connolly (although today’s rally at Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall drew plenty) and has more of them. Connolly continues to do house parties — tons of them — but at house parties he reaches 20, 30, maybe 4r0 people. Walsh at his rallies reaches 100, 200, even 300. This is what you’d expect, of a candidate scantly known to most voters but now endorsed by “big names.” Tons of voters must be asking “who is this Walsh ? I never heard of him before. But Big Pol # 6 is supporting him ? Guess I ought to go see what he’s all about.”
This is good politics. Marty Walsh has huge clout with the unions local and national, but his name recognition doesn’t match up to the clout. So, use the huge clout to draw the voters’ attention to (1) who you are and (2) that you have huge clout. It’s a simple tactic, and it is working. Walsh is by now a known name probably throughout Boston. It also impresses voters that the Endorsing Big Pols are, in some cases, working their supporters on his behalf and even are working themselves. This gives credence to the message that Walsh Has Clout.
Clout matters. Voters like to kn ow that their mayor is a Big Gun, a Giant who can make the State House salaam and the Feds say “Yessir !” Don;t we all want that Strong a Mayor rather than a merely local biggie. So the Walsh message does resound.
Of course the Big Pols pushing his clout have a purpose to their passion. I have written about their purpose often during this campaign — no need to revisit it right now. Today I’m merely recognizing that it is there and that voters are weighing seriously a man they hardly knew or didn’t know at all even two months ago.
John Connolly’s task is harder. As he is already fairly well known, having been elected to the Council citywide three times, he does not evoke voter curiosity as to who he is. The voters already know who he is. What Connolly has to do is say, “you know me, you know what I’m about, now I’m asking you to support what I’m about.” The phrase “what I am about” implies a MOVEMENT, not just “momentum.” But it is not easy to move people. If it were, there would be hundreds of Jesus’s and Mohammeds; but there were only two. Movements rarely arise. Even at the lower intensity of political movement they come only now and then. Gene McCarthy for President was such a movement. Reagan in 2000. Obama in 2008.
All these were geared to huge national purposes. City politics does not rise to that level. John Connolly seeks to lead a school transformation movement (and, since the Primary, has connected it to several mother reforms and transformations). Yet at today’s rally, Connolly’s endorsers talked of his “independence’ and that he would give the community of color “not just an ear but a seat at the table” and “not just a seat at the table but a partnering.” To me it sounds like nuance.
Can Connolly’s school transformation and nuanced view of access to power beat Marty Walsh’ s “this who I am, and I have clout” ? We will see. Myself, I say this : IF it weren’t for the contradictions in his campaign, and the smallness of the single interest that it represents, Walsh would be the winner on November 5th. If.
Of course, if if’s were horses, beggars would be riders.
—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere