1 Baker and Coakley 1

status quo versus bold reform : that’s what it comes down to between these two

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In a campaign, as in war, it’s easier to play defense than offense. thus we find Charlie Baker marching boldly into the cities and offering forward-looking plans for empowering urban communities; while Martha Coakley represents those whose vested interests are, or think themselves, threatened by Baker’s bold.

“Keep things exactly as they are” is the Coakley theme. Malfunctions in state administration ? Whatever ARE you talking about ? Coakley notes no missteps in policy, smells nothing wrong with which interest groups get the prizes and which get the silent treatment. For the politically Panglossian Coakley, all is just ducky in the best of all possible worlds.

Such a passive, and palpably false, narrative works because it’s a political truth that (1) not everyone who stands to benefit from bold plans will vote for them and (2) everyone who is, or feels, threatened by them will vote against them.

I have yet to hear Coakley, after a year of candidate Forums, commit to anything not apple=-pie. She converses easily now, but her words of smile and affable there are, when you listen past the soft touch, feature no nouns, few verbs, less adjectives than a $ 100 trendy meal has food. In Coakley-speak there’s only a cilantro-dip crumble.

Meanwhile, Charlie Baker offers plans as pointed as pine needles, as hefty as a barroom steak. You know what he’s for, you can weigh what he will do, the where he wants to take the state slaps you five.

Much the same dynamic dominated last year’s Mayor race in Boston. Connolly did the bold; Marty walsh, the “everything is just fine. I oversimplify a bit. Walsh offered what Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham called “incremental change.” (And did so with multi-tentacled outreach and all the good guy persona that he has, and he has a lot). But Walsh’s incremental looked like all-is-just-fine compared to Connolly’s Teddy Rooseveltian charge up the hills of entrenched Boston interest groups.

Walsh edged Connolly by three points on election day. Can Coakley edge Baker ? Right now the polls say it’s 50-50. But they also claim that 12 to 15 percent of voters remain undecided. Baker needs only a slight break among these voters to take the corner office. To do so, he will have to convince the “undecideds” — and maybe persuade a few currently Coakley votes — that his bold plans will actually get implemented and, if implemented, will actually make things better. Because so many voters in today’s America distrust government altogether, that’s going to be a difficult sell.

Still, i have heard Baker speak, eloquently almost always, to groups that he chooses to campaign to. (Other groups, he avoids. i suppose that shunning is no worse, really, than Coakley’s way of attending lots of Forums but saying nothing at them. Baker avoids Forums whose attendees won’t likely approve of what he has to say to them. It’s probably best, thus, that he simply bot step on a stage and say them.) If presence and articulation can symbolize accomplishment, Baker’s an easy winner. But…

But Coakley’s campaign is doing everything it can to derogate Baker’s stellar resume — the Harvard Pilgrim turnaround, and the huge money that , under his administration, the Big Dig paid into the wallets of 1000s of Building trades unionists — and turn him into “the bad guy.” It’s a smart campaign plan on Coakley’s part. as the candidate of the status quo, all she has to do is tune into the voters skepticism about reform, their distrust that any reforms will work, much less bold ones.

If you don’t believe me, just look at what happened to high-minded, passionately good will Deval Patrick. If Patrick is anything, he’s a bold reformer. How’d that work out for him ? DCF, the health connector boondoggle, the Transpo bill confusion, the huge electric rate hike…

In a healthy political climate, the failures of the Patrick administration would call for baker’s bold reforms — across the board — to state administration. But we don’;t rigyt now enjpoy a healthy political climate. we suffer one in which special interests defend their interests willy-nilly, where insiders talk onloy to each other and defecate on taxpayer money, where lobbyists and advocates talk loudly to bulk up thrit donor lists. we inhbait a forest of selfish trees, through which pioneer baker is trying to cut a trail of betterment. I hope it works. It might.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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