A LESSON IN LISTENING AND COMMUNITY

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Yesterday, at a 250-person rally at fairmount Grille in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, Governor Baker gave his closing message stump speech. It was a lesson in the power of listening — in his case, to the voters. All the voters. It was also a lesson in community — its role in crafting a successful politics for our state.

This is what Baker said, at length and with much passion (I am paraphrasing at times) :

“We’ve gone to the every one of our 351 cities and towns and to the various communities — of color, Latino, LGBT, women — and we’ve listened. We’ve listened to what these communities want, and everyone in my office has done outreach to every community in the state. It’s hard work, but we hear what they want and it’s been up to us to give it.

“Haven’t we all had enough of the division ? Of each side trying to out-crazy the other ? that’s not how we roll. We’re a uniter, not a divider. A good idea is a good idea no matter which side it is said by.”

The 250 people listening to him exemplified his outreach and his unification. I saw Haitians, Latinos, African Americans, Caribbeans, LGBT, and more women than men. (Not since Ed Brooke’s time have I seen as many people of color at a Massachusetts Republican rally as at yesterday’s.) Tom Menino, Jr, son of Boston’s late Mayor, co-hosted the rally with his wife Lisa Menino. State Representative Angelo Scaccia Spoke; so did Hyde Park’s City Councillor, Tim McCarthy. Suffolk Sheriff Steve Tompkins attended. All are Democrats.

So were most of the campaign activists — many of them veterans of city and Congress campaigns — gathered in such large numbers that some had to look down upon the rally from upstairs.

Five Democratic State legislators, in addition, to Scaccia, have endorsed Baker, and at least 50 more support him even though they can’t say it publicly. But their supporters get the unspoken message: essentially, Baker is the Democratic establishment candidate for Governor. There’s a political pull to this — Baker’s opponent has married the “progressives’ who, at every point they can, are contesting establishment Democratic legislators in the party primary — but pull or no pull, Baker won this level of support by listening and more listening and by going out constantly to the 351 cities and towns and winning the trust of municipal officials — central to the support that Democratic legislators — who number 80 percent of the legislature’s total –rely on for re-election.

Even more than his — and the legislature’s — record of reforms, Baker’s outreach and his listening represent his core message.

If Baker has made community central to his message of action, what he has done is to commit his mission to the most passionate popular movement going on right now, in response to the self-containment and division imposed on us by Mr. Trump and his politics of revanche and isolation. Everywhere I see communities being created, by activists and by just folks, as people step out from behind their iPhones and engage in real life, in numbers, to reach communal peace and to innovate solutions to riddles of climate, transportation, education and inclusion. Baker hasn’t won over every community arising, but if the polls are right that he has 65 to 67 percent of the vote, he’s definitely won the trust of most. This may be why 22 Massachusetts mayors have formally endorsed him and why most of the rest support him without saying so.

That Baker spoke so pointedly and with passion may surprise those who see him as the epitome of no-drama and caution. These he is : but no one should ever assume that because he is slow to engage, he lacks ideals fervently believed. He leads by example, teaches by doing — and by what he does not do and does not say — and makes his point — anti Trump — by being, in every sort of the way, the opposite of what Mr. Trump is and presents.

The city Democrats who gathered for Baker and cheered his words and saluted huis introducers spoke very directly about why they were there : “it’s not about what party you belong to, its about getting things done,” said District Councillor Tim McCarthy. Tom Menino, Jr. said the same thing.

I have never, since he died in 2014, seen a member of the late Mayor’s family spearhead a political event, much less one for a Republican. Yet there they were, Tom Junior and his wife Lisa, co-hosting, in a neighborhood of Boston where, in 2014, Baker had no organization at all. Today he has there a large one, of all sorts of people, including every Hyde Park political leader. Listening isn’t a bad tactic for winning the trust of a community strategy.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere