^ Speaker DeLeo : the personification of a Democratic “big tent” party. Some do not like that.



Debate is under way now concerning what Massachusetts’s Democratic party should be. One faction says that the party platform defines the party. If you’re a Democrat, you must support it. The other faction — much the larger — says, no, the party platform is only a proposal, and actual candidates are not bound by anything in it, the objective being to represent the candidate’s voters, not a document drafted by a committee.
You can tell by what I just wrote that I favor the second position: that a political party cannot allow itself to be bordered by a committee’s platform.
Candidates must of course stand for something. The voters need to know that if they elect X, they will be supporting this or that. It’s part of the compact that candidates make with voters. Still, that compact runs between candidate and voters, and every district is different in our diverse, complex society; and all of that diversity and complexity has a right to be heard when the legislature meets.
A party platform should be heard, too; but why should it claim more respect than the voices of the state’s voters ?
We are hearing calls for party platform dominance because Democrats see that the Republican party’s ideological rigidity has won recent elections nationally. The easy lesson to take is that what worked for Republicans can work for Democrats too.
Unfortunately for the advocates of platform dictation, most voters are not ideologues, and it is a mistake to assume that those who have voted for a rigid Republican campaign do so because of the ideology. Much more likely is that most voters who have voted Republican do so merely to express rejection of the status quo.
In Massachusetts, none of this has legs. We elect almost exclusively Democrats, of many ideological varieties, or no ideology at all, because we still vote the old fashioned way ; for the candidate we know best, or who commands the most campaign respect, or who seems the most likely to master the many issues that voters care about. In short, character and competence rule our elections, and they do so in a very non-partisan way. Those Democrats who want a party platform party forget that the majority of Massachusetts voters belong to no party and don’t much want to.
The many Democrats who prefer the “big tent” principle understand that ideological parties are small parties — the more ideological, the smaller. This was the dynamic of Leninism. Lenin purposely imposed ever more ideological rigidity upon his followers because his goal was ferocious insurgency; and ferocity was not an absurd tactic for opposing a regime as incompetent, unjust, and bankrupt as Czar Nicholas’s rule. Nothing like that exists in Massachusetts, however; you may disagree with the priorities expressed by the Democratic legislative leadership, but they are not incompetent, or unjust, or bankrupt. Indeed, they seem qui9te prudent and likely represent majority sentiment among all the voters. Legislators are not fools. They want to be re-elected, and the votes they cast for bills that usually are enacted almost unanimously are not cast recklessly.
Nor is it a horrible sin for Speaker DeLeo to suggest that he prefers seeing Governor Baker, a Republican, re-elected rather than an alternative. The Speaker and the Governor have partnered the enactment of many bread and butter reforms, most of the enabling legislation being adopted unanimously or almost so. In what way is this bad ?

The platform advocates think it’s very bad. Read their view here :

The Speaker understands that, as the most powerful legislator in the state, he must answer to all the voters. (The same is true of Governor Baker.) As far as I’m concerned, a political party is far more useful, and successful, answering t,o all than to the limited perspectives of platform writers.

May the “big tent” always be big and proud of it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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