On November 8th, Massachusetts voters will find four referenda questions on their election ballot. Each has import, but Question Two has the profoundest significance.

Question Two asks voters to approve or disapprove a proposed law by which the current limitation on allowed number of “charter” schools will be set aside, according to a formula. Thus I quote the entire Question as it will be annotated on your ballot :

“Question 2 would give the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education the authority to approve 12 new charter schools or to expand existing charter schools as a result of increased enrollment each year beginning on January 1, 2017. Priority would be given to those charter school applicants who seek to open a charter school in public school districts that are in the bottom 25 percent in the two years before application. Further, the Board would establish standards by which annual performance reviews would be judged.”

We support this initiative because ( 1 )  if taxpayers are to be asked to pay for the education of our state’s children, said children should receive the best dollar of value for every dollar taxed. No education process is perfect, but government should seek the best feasible method and ( 2 ) because education is crucial for the child: for her acquiring knowledge and skills wherewith to succeed in life both socially and in employment; and to settle for less than the best we can establish is a fraud upon the child,m her parents, and the taxpayer.

There should never be any limitation on what kind of school, or what number, that we ask taxpayers to pay for so long as the objective is to maximize every child’s learning opportunities. Supporters of the current method — the common school — look to Horace Mann’s purpose, as he expressed it 170-odd years ago, to assure that every child in a community received the same education in the same classroom, so as to promote community solidarity and equality of opportunity. These were radical goals at the time and well justified. They’re essential today as well. But today other imperatives make a less uniform classroom even more essential. Not every child is going to enter the same type of career, or work with the same skills set, or live by the same intellectual keys. Innovation thrives by diversity of outlook, of assumption, of habits; and innovation is the pathway to a future in which the only thing common to all will be the uncommonness of everybody to everybody else.

The great danger of a diversity approach to education is that it will promote class differences and institutionalize them. This is a very real difficulty. But our society is capable of recognizing the danger and avoiding it. All that’s needed is to recognize that different careers are equally worthy. How to do that ? Simple : pay a worthy wage to each such different career. There’s no inherent reason why a bartender should earn less than a code writer, a home health aide less than a nurse, a CIA language translator less than an FBI detective. Granted that not all paychecks are ever likely to be identical; but there is nothing inevitable about their being 100 times different from each other. If we pay differing careers a worthy paycheck, one earner will not feel inferior to another, or be made to feel so, or to socialize separately, as often happens these days.

Which being said, the diversity method of education will require a transformation of social assumption. I think we can handle it. Our nation has never been driven by adherence to old ways.

To go back to the Question itself : opponents claim that charter school;s “drain money from the standard school.” Nothing could be more false. If a system has, say, 60,000 students, and now 10,000 of them choose a charter school, that’s 10,000 less students the standard school system has to employ staff for, 10,000 less students it has to maintain school facilities for. 10,000 students choosing a charter school should thus have a zero dollar effect upon the District’s school budget.

In that vein, the “compensation” that MGL c. 70 provides to school District budgets is a fraud upon the taxpayer., What si there to compensate ? The students who choose a charter school; and thus depart the standard District SAVE the District money rather than COST it. The only reason we have c. 70 “compensation”: is because school employee unions refuse to allow the District to lay off staff or downsize school capacity. (Example : in Boston, we maintain plant for 91,000 students, but only 57,000 attend. There should be substantial closings of excess plant; about $ 50 million of the District’s $ 1.03 BILLION could be saved and thus applied to needed classrooms, starved now for supplies funds because staffing and overcapacity soak up those funds. In addition, why does the District pay 4 13 million this year to 100 teachers who do not work because no principal will have them ?)

The refusal of Districts to downsize staff and plant and thus to apply millions of taxpayer dollars to accounts that service nothing is a fraud upon the taxpayer and must be stopped. If Question 2 passes, and children now choose something more challenging than the standard offering, good for them, and good for the taxpayer who has every right to want accountability and success, not stubborn insistence on vested gridlock.

Vote YES on Question 2.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




We were often told, back when I was a student, that artistic genius anticipates life. Many times in my long life since, I have had occasion to understand the truth of what my teachers revealed to me.

So it is that I reference Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers,” in the climactic scene of which we see the battle of Helm’s Deep. Wherein Theoden, seeing the army of Orcs massed at his castle wall, says to Aragorn, “such hate !” And then ‘and so it begins.”

Today, in our terrifying election, we see Helm’s Deep take place in our lives. We see “such hate,” and we have seen it begin.

But let us not mistake what we see. Those of us who are known as “white” because we have skin with less melanic chemicals than the skin of other people tend to think that our Helm’s Deep is all about us. It isn’t. In the contest between the Orc and Theodin that is now reflected in our election, most Americans aren’t conflicted at all. People of color stand with Theodin; almost all LGBT people stand with him; and most women join him tool. The conflict is one among “white” straight men only.

The conflict did not begin yesterday. It came to life on the day that Barack Obama was elected in 2008. It spawned in the brains of people who could not accept — felt threatened — that a Black man was now our leader. It began with the poison of racism, and it has always had racism at its core and still feeds on racist weed today.

For the insecure, weak and morally vitiated who felt themselves existentially threatened by Barack Obama as President, rescue came in 2011 when Trump, who sensed the racist current as yet unspoken, but strong running, brought forth his “birther” attack. From that day to right now, the racism he so precociously grasped has underpinned the entire energy of his campaign. Racism is the forge in which he, like Saruman in the movie, welded his army of Orcs.

Racism has proven a very prolific weed; and Trump has known how to grow it. Out of racism — a virulent, lethal racism — has grown the misogyny that underpins Hillary hate; the anti Semitism of the alt-right; and the homophobia on the alt right as well. Just as the Orcs of Helm’s Deep are depicted as hate-grunt, so the Trump campaign has wielded hate almost exclusively. There isn’t a single positive feature in his campaign of insult, belittlement, irresponsibility, fraud, and childishness, and this by design : because he knows that only all the varieties of hate that he can conjure into play can keep his campaign of death alive. But if that has been his game — and clearly it has — that it caught a wave lies at the door of those who have bought into it. You have full freedom to reject racism and all its progeny.

Why this hate among people deemed “white” ?

I doubt that many “white” people even realize that this crisis of hate arises from their being white; or that the Trump crisis is present only among “white” people. I am thinking that most ‘white” people, the men especially, but also some women, take for granted that power in our society is theirs alone. Just as it took long for the NFL to allow Black quarterbacks, or for the sports world generally to promote people of color; just as many law enforcement officers fear people of color rather than embrace them; just as — as President Obama has said — people of color hear the car doors locking as they walk by; just as people of color have warn their children about the dangers of :”driving while Black,” or even of sitting in a parked car, reading a book while Black; just as no Black person I know of has ever been compensated financially for the lynch murder of her ancestor 100 years ago; just as Black men are arrested multiple times more frequently than ‘white” men, for crimes petty if at all; just as women have to endure the sort of gloated groping that Trump boasted of in that 2005 tape; just as women have to hear people trying to tell them what to do with their bodies; just as women have no leadership role modes and, trying to elect one, find their candidate pelted with lies and garbage, by men mostly, but also by women envious of another — just as I list all of these and have in mind a thousand other denigrations, prejudices, falsehoods and envies — including vicious attacks on immigrants who may look “different” or speak a language other than English — that have arisen from obscure crevices into the gunked river of this election, slimed and cyanided, so the crisis of soul squeezes those take their safety and respect for granted because in America being “white” (and not LGBT) gives you that.

I say “crisis” because that’s what is going on. That is what Trump has made of this election. When he uses teams of lawyers to stiff people and fight them to exhaustion when they sue, the (white) people who tongue his heels see themselves doing likewise. When he says it’s smart not to pay taxes, his belly masturbators wish they could say the same. When he attacks journalists whose sin is to report facts, his mushroom fungi feel vindicated for believing what they want to believe.

In the bully poison of his laboratory of evils, his mouth slaves salivate over who thery can drown next in filth syrup.

He gives his stipple people the power of devils, of thunder gods, the delicious depravity of a destructo party that doesn’t end when the gong strikes midnight.

And what are his stipples afraid of, that needs be destroyed ? Simply this :that the future will not be theirs; that it will be different looking, different talking, different in gender roles, different associations, different economy, different liberties. That it will be unrecognizable, no north or west, no compass at all by which to get one’s bearings while those in it need no compass because the bearings are known and are made by them.

That is what they fear, Trump’s “white” people, and they are right: it’s a battle of life and death, and Trump has called them to iot because he knows that they know it and because he too faces life or death.

But in the movie, the good guys win the battle of Helm’s Deep. And so it will be in our election, and for “white” people; and for the future that our nation is inexorably embracing.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Evan McMullin : potential leader of a new party to replace the wrecked GOP

—- —- —-

Who could have seen in advance that this election would destroy the Republican Party ? My party — 4th generation of my family — and that of Lincoln, the party born to assure civil rights to all people, even to die in that cause.

Who could have seen that my party would nominate for President a man vile in everything, destructive of both party and society, contemptuous and fraudulent, of disgusting sex inclinations, willing to sell his country to the Russians ?

Who could have foreseen that, he being nominated, the party leadership would almost all acquiesce and burp out excuses for his depravities ?

Perhaps you forsaw it. Many kudos to you in that case, I admit that I did not forsee it. I missed it entirely. I had assumed that, even as my party painted itself into an obstructionist corner and spouted absurd agendas that everyone could see were nothing but panders to dinosaur financiers, there remained sufficient commitment to governance that in the end, the party would see the nation forward.

Well, I was wrong. The voters saw what I did not, that my party’s talking points were nothing but prostitution and horse effluent, that none of it would happen except that dinosaur financiers would have their pockets lined by legislators who fund-raise all the time at posh penthouse soirees and “conservative” conferences where political burlesque flirts and fibs.

The voters then nominated a man so vile that he could never be elected, to throw eight months of “GFY”: at the party, my party, and pelt its leadership with political feces. And the leadership, mostly, had no way of cleaning up. This was the sort of nuclear option that we now see exploding. Scuttling your own ship.

So what comes next ? Because the Democratic party does not hold a monopoly of political truth, nor can it; there are no final decisions in the life of a democracy, only temporary resolutions; and none of these solve more than a few most urgent challenges. I wish I had the answer. I don’t; but I do have AN answer :

( 1 ) the party to replace the Republican must be all inclusive. People of all skin colors, from all nations, of whatever LGBT lifestyle and practicing whichever faith, or none : all must take an equal seat at the table and be called upon to lead.

( 2 ) the new party must ensure full empowerment of women, respect for women in all things and in all places and situations, and defense of women’s right to control their own bodies.

( 3 ) the replacement party must call for innovation in government. As our society and economy change from mass production to small mobile units, so our Federal government ought to decentralize many of its functions, better executed locally than from Washington because after all, people live locally

( 4 ) the new party must accept the global economy and profit from it, not fight it, because in the open information age of global trade and idea exchange, everyone lives in an economic everywhere as well as in a certain locality., Many of us, in fact, move many times in our lives, from place to place and even from continent to continent. The new political party must embrace and rationalize this condition of life and work.

( 5 ) the new party cannot seek to impose a platform on voters but must give voice to what a majority of voters want, answering the voters in a more convincing fashion than our opposition. Trying to impose a platform is the Leninist way — incompatible with democracy.

( 6 ) the new party must always go high. And if you ask me, it should make sure that John Kasich joins it.

( 7 ) It should also invite current independent candidate Evan  McMullin to lead its beginning, just as, in 1856, John C. Fremont, as the GOP’s first leader, preceded Abraham Lincoln as a Republican nominee for President.

The Republican faction most free of this election’s depravity is the group we call “movement conservatives.” At the forefront, leaders like Senators Ben Sasse (NE), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Mike Lee (UT) but also many of the Republican party’s most principled editorialists : Erick Erickson, George Will, Bill Kristol, David French, Jonah Goldberg, Ana Navarro, Louise Mensch, even Glenn Beck. And why not ? Structural reform is “Movement conservatives” top priority. They speak differently but greatly resemble the Republican reformers we used to call “process liberals” back in the day. As structural reform is perhaps the core Republican mission, it bodes well that its strongest defenders stand well positioned to lead a replacement party.

Joining them will be a smaller but not insignificant faction, the “socially liberal, economically conservative” group that includes Charlie Baker, Larry Hogan (of Maryland), Bryan Sandoval (of Nevada), Senator Rob Portman (of Ohio), and several Congressmen as well as a sizeable cadre of top activists. There is no place for this group; in the train wreck, but there will be a vital place for them in  the open-door replacement party.

Likewise, the Republican party’s national security community will move almost universally from the train wreck to a viable replacement party.

In addition to these three factions, the replacement party will be a strong vehicle for the many Republicans, of less ideological mind, who simply reject the fascism unleashed by the current nominee and who haven’t the time to combat it inside their own house.

I really think that this move must be made. It is a waste of time to combat the trolls, racists, anti-Semites, gutter mouths, and spite spitters, whose goal is to drive everyone but them away. They are few enough, and vile enough, that isolating them is far more lethal to their cause than allowing them to appear coexistent with those of us who would only be taunted by any kind of political association, even one of mortal infighting. Pariahs need be sent to pariah hell.

I welcome your thoughts. Can we establish a better new party ? Will we end the reign of depraved hate by isolating it and sending it politically to Coventry ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere






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 steering 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 stand at 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 protest rallies outside the State House. This week, Boston Mayor Walsh joined one such. 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 not be outsourced. 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 outside firms rather than modernize the T’s own repair shops and warehouses. I don’t like the idea of well-paid local workers losing their jobs. The T has many other places it can look 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 via taxpayer dollars. It is certainly hard that re-election priorities imperil the prospects of workers, but that’s how campaigns take shape. I get that. I also get that Baker has angered the irreconcileables in his party by rejecting Trump, early and all the way. Curbing the Carmen’s dominance of MBTA operations is a red-meat way  for him to stroke these voters and to 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 — breaking one union’s control of the T’s budget and work rules looks like 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 standing together assures that our state will  not abandon any of its residents on civil rights matters. It’s also good politics. 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.

In any case, this column’s focus is on how Baker has shifted the locus of state administration. The Baker mission is to wring a dollar of value from every dollar of taxpayer money. We all want efficient and reliable state services. Every state agency must now answer for its accounts. Serve the public, not the servers. That’s the message that Baker is sending to every state employee and to those who those employees answer to. It’s good, and it’s about time.

—- 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