CHARLIE BAKER’S WISE COURSE

baker

^ using the authority of his office, masterfully, to steer a course reformist at home and strong against the radicalism that threatens us from Washington

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NOTE : story has been updated as of 02/18/17 at 10.30 AM

The ship of state can be steered carelessly onto the rocks, or it can find the clear, deep channel.

What I just wrote is something of a cliche, but the wise-helmsman image well characterizes Charlie Baker’s course during the two years he has been Governor. He has found a deep channel that suits his weather, and he has followed it no matter what storms threatened his steering.

By now, we know his course : have nothing whatsoever to do the national Republican drama; commit to consensus governance of our state (allied with Speaker DeLeo whenever possible, and usually it is not just possible but probable); be “Mr. Fix It” for a state whose many agencies badly needed restructuring, and still do.

This was the obvious course, but it’s one thing to choose it, quite another to practice it successfully. This, Governor Baker has done.

Never has his rigor looked more impressive than since the Trump candidacy became serious. The more agitated that Massachusetts voters have become in response to the radicalism of Mr Trump, the clearer Governor Baker’s opposition to it. Shirley Leung of the Boston Globe wrote recently that Mr. Trump’s assaults upon communities dear to Massachusetts activists have narrowed Governor Baker’s “middle ground” to the vanishing point. I disagree with her assessment. I think Governor Baker’s authority has grown in scope and certainty.

No, he has not led marches, nor has he vented his voice in the oratorical flourish Senator Warren loves (and which has become her signature). He doesn’t have to. He is the Governor of one of the 50 states; he can act as well as speak. And he does speak too. His “state of the state speech”: concluded with a thorough-going repudiation of the demagogic, dilettantish methods of Mr. Trump; he has offered Senator Warren support in her efforts; has denounced Mr. Trump’s travel ban order; and has called for a full investigation of Mr. Trump’s Russian ties.

He has made his stand via the same kind of “Governor’s statement:” that he uses to announce a state policy, announce a nomination, argue a budget, unveil an environmental or municipal services grant. There isn’t much drama in Baker’s statements in opposition to a Trump policy, but there is all the authority that issuing them in the form of a normal, executive office announcement can give them.

It is as Governor of the state that Baker opposes a Trump policy.

The activists want baker to voice his opposition loudly, in the manner of Warren; but he is NOT Senator Warren, and any attempt by him to imitate her would weaken his impact, not strengthen it.

I was not sure at all that activists would grasp this point, or accord Baker the respect of delivering his oppositions to Mr. trump in his own way. During the anti-travel ban protests the protesters calling for Baker to speak out were in no mood to listen to a Governor’s statement. I think now that that impatience has given way to appreciation that Baker’s tactics fit the occasion.

During a time in which the radicalism of Mr. Trump, and the even more reckless radicalism of his noisiest supporters,m has inflamed almost everybody alike — voters and non voters, citizens and immigrants —¬† Governor Baker has succeeded in exemplifying the exact opposite approach to governing; and that he has done so as a Republican only strengthens the integrity of his course.

Baker’s course seems all the smarter as we watch Mr. Trump’s job approval numbers decline to the mid-30s. Whatever the inclination of Trump’s small number of Massachusetts supporters — he received barely 33 percent of our vote — may have been, hardly any of them are voicing it now, or are opposing Governor Baker for his stand. Baker recently saw his choice for Massachusetts GOP chair win re-election by 47 to 30, a much wider margin than was accorded his choice for Republican national Committeewoman last April.

The Governor is stronger today, among Republicans, than at any time since his election.

Not many of us in Massachusetts are Republicans, but almost all of us appreciate, at some level, that our democracy requires two responsible political parties. We also understand, I think, that there is no one else but Baker who is, in Massachusetts, in a position to set a responsible example for the Republican party; and that he has done so, and is entitled to reap the rewards of what he has done and is still doing on this course, every day, as he plays “Mr. Fix It” in the State House and Mr. Integrity in the national debate. In no way is this¬† a narrowed ground, as Shirley Leung seems to think. Just the opposite. It’s the view of an overwhelming majority.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere