calm streets

^ what Boston officials now call “courtesy streets” or :calm streets” — streets that disinvite being used, sort of like chairs in a museum with “don’t sit in this chair” signs around.

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No later than college years one learns how to behave in social settings and how to speak. There are things one does not say. To say them invites all kinds of unpleasantness; and pleasing is the premise of a social setting. Dissimulations that we adopt in society are no cause for alarm, so long as we never forget that they are, often, not what is silently said inside our heads but instead, a highly cosmetic “photoshop” of our actual thoughts. We who are invited back all do this.

We know most of the ordinaries : “How are you ?” “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “Can I get you anything ?” “You look beautiful !” “So glad to see you again !” In each there’s likely at least a thimble of truth, maybe an entire bottle of it, but I’m guessing that when you say these pleasantries you really don’t expect an answer. “How am I ? Today I feel sick.” “Can I get you anything ? “Thank you so much. (Actually I would love you to buy me a drink.) “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” (I really wish I were in Philadelphia.) “You look beautiful !” (Did a blind person apply your make up ?) Oh how one wants to say these ! But of course one does not.

The quasi vocabulary of as-if politeness serves us all, and almost all of us take advantage and understand the difference. Not so, when quasi language is used for public policy statements. I don’t know about you, but I quease when I hear a politician refer to a big spending bill as “investment.” When an investor invests, she is investing her own money in hopes of a profit. That is not what happens when taxpayer dollars are spent on a public policy initiative. I find the political meaning of “investment” not polite at all. It’s a borderline lie, at best an evasion. That I feel so does not mean I do not support the spending proposal. Often I encourage it. But in no case do I like being told that it’s “investment” because that is not true. Polite is fine in a social setting; matters of public policy require the truth. Have I overreached here ? Probably I have. Probably public policy requires its own version  of polite. Still, even the polite should not intentionally deceive, right ? Maybe.

And so we come to the term “traffic calming.” Until recently i had not seen this phrase in print nor heard it said. Now I see it plenty. What does it mean to “calm” traffic ? Is traffic an angry beast that rants and raves in need of calm ? As in that meme “Keep calm… and go shopping.” Or what have you. Keep calm. So here we are.

“Traffic calming” is city planners’ term for decreasing the volume of vehicle traffic — of care and trucks in particular. I can’t say that today’s traffic density doesn’t frustrate me. Boston’s main roads are clogged with overmuch traffic in the morning and again the evening. From 6.30 AM to 9 AM one cannot move on most of the major incoming arteries. From 3 pm to about 7.30 pm one can’t move on the outbounds. As these roads were built in the 1980s-1990s to handle traffic burdens figured in the 1960s and 1970s, it isn’t very surprising that 2018 traffic makes them almost unusable. Boston in the late 1960s and the 1970s was a city from which people were moving away, out to the suburbs and the by-pass roads where the malls were built and the picket fence houses were everyone’s ideal. Toady, just the opposite holds. Everybody wants to shop, trade, entertain, and live in the city. Thus the traffic. Neighborhoods of streets once quiet find themselves flooded with cars and trucks, noise and frustration. The remedy ? “Traffic calming.”

Boston City officials have decreed a “neighborhood slow streets” program. You can read all about it here: https://www.boston.gov/departments/transportation/neighborhood-slow-streets

The artwork in it has a kind of Norman Rockwell, squeaky clean, rural peace valley look to it. Haha and haha. Does anyone takes this sort of leafy eye perfume seriously ?

I’m not a fan of taking a four lane main street and decreasing it to two lanes, setting the other two aside for bicycles and feet. What planners call “traffic calming”: I call “traffic abolition.” Neighborhoods belong not only to those who live in them, but also to those who shop in them, visit people in theme, entertain in them, run businesses in them, hotel in them, tourist in them. Restricting traffic flow — and thereby shoving half of it onto the city’s other, already overcrowded roads — may make some residents rest easier, but it impedes commerce and adds to people’s commute times. Boston already has several “traffic calming” systems in place. The city’s public garages inflict a very costly use price; parking meters cost a ton and don’t allow for more than two hours stay. If you get towed, you’ll spend at least $ 200 plus the ticket’s $ 53 to $ 100 fine. All of these obstacles push thousands onto the MBTA, which also suffers from carrying 1960s-1970s traffic in year 2018. Planners definitely “calm” traffic in one place; but the more they “calm” traffic HERE, the more that it doubles down over THERE. So why don’t we, instead of “traffic calming,” cal,l it “pushing traffic from one place onto another place ?” Or, “my traffic calm is YOUR traffic tsunami” ?

Not very polite, if you ask me.

What it is, is policy bullshit.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




“This aggression will not stand.”

Of all the sentences that George H. W. Bush spoke, as President or otherwise, those five words can still be felt. I suspect they will be felt for a century to come. Maybe longer.

Saddam Hussein, then tyrant of Iraq, had sent his army into Kuwait, a small, neighboring nation, conquering the entire country. The world was angry; war was threatened.

President bush did not threaten. He simply stated : “this aggression will not stand .”

Over a six month period thereafter, a vast armed force, involving several nations, maybe 500,000 troops and their arsenal, all of it sought for and persuaded for by the President, gathered at the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Hussein was given a choice: withdraw, or be pushed out. Hussein defied the ultimatum and was pushed out and much more.

The world then knew that when the President of our nation said “this will not stand,” he meant exactly what he said.

The entire event was a huge confidence builder for a nation that had, since the disaster of Viet Nam, profoundly doubted itself. Doubted our resolve. Questioned our strength. Dared not test our ability to be the world’s “arsenal of democracy.” Yet here we did what we said we were going to do, and we as well as the rest of the world saw it happen as we made it happen, and we were right to do it and to led a large coalition of nations to do it alongside us.

Kuwait remains free, and so do Iraq’s Kurds; and if the full result was incomplete — because President H. W. Bush felt that to go the whole distance might overreach — it was good enough for its purposes.

Bush ’41 was not re-elected. He lacked political smarts; was unable to sell his big tax compromise after having promised his voters that compromise was off the table. A master of diplomacy, and no slouch at legislating civil rights — his Americans on Disability Act changed the entire world for millions of disabled Americans, and still does change their world — Bush ’41 was no master of the street. Foresight was not in his craft. He had scant grasp of the AIDS crisis — his son would master that — and was content to run a nasty 1988 election campaign directed in part by the very street-smart Lee Atwater. At home among world leaders and movers, he seemed awesomely unaware of what his fellow Americans were like, so that what he did achieve — there was plenty: include among his works the Clean Air Act — came about more because of his idealism and sense of duty than from any personal witness. Nonetheless, he accomplished; and we live with the benefits of what he –and his Congresses — accomplished, however they accomplished it.

He was a son of America’s traditional merchant aristocracy — short-handedly called “WASPS” — “white Anglo Saxon Protestants,” which was what the motivating majority of the class were, though by no means all : WASP leaders included many who were Catholic, or Jewish, or even Black: think Senator Ed Brooke, Brooke’s mentor Melnea Cass, Ambassador Ralph Bunche, Tuskeegee Institute’s Booker T. Washington, the union leader Bayard Rustin, author Langston Hughes ( himself the son in law of an Abolitionist leader, John Langston), and, above all, Frederick Douglass. The Bush family were WASP to the core : Andover Academy, Yale, law and banking, diplomacy, the world stage; and the social register. And public service : in Bush ’41’s case, Navy Pilot in World War II, Congress, the CIA, Ambassador to the UN, the Vice residency and the Presidency. The sense of duty; of serving because, so much being given to one as a member of an entrusted, leadership group, one had to merit that trust. All of that was Bush ’41, and he never looked back or doubted himself.

If, as his son Bush ’43 said today, “the best father a son or daughter ever had,” that too was the way it had to be for a man who just did it, because it was how one did. Being best came naturally to him; he didn’t have to think how to be best or worry about what-if’s. He was perhaps the luckiest of men as well; in Barbara Pierce he found a lifelong soul mate who was what he was — and as witty as beautiful, a woman who did not suffer fools at all and said so. But of course Bush ’41 was no fool,. not ever, except perhaps “a fool in love,” as the 1950s song had it, and that was a foolishness that he never had second thoughts about.

The nation is now saying a long good-bye that expresses the unconscious, long, heart-beatingly confident love that most of us have always had for a leader whom we may not always have agreed with, or understood, or applauded, but who would never by us be denied. Who among us could deny a man who did a parachute jump at age 90 ? Who with his prep school accent so incongruously loved baseball, country music, and barbecue ? Who summered in everyone’s ideal summer corner, Kennebunkport ? (Lobstah ! Chowdah ! An ocean cold enough to chew !)

Bush ’41 was an un-self-conscious child-man who hated broccoli and said so. Doubtless they won’t dare serve him broccoli in heaven; but they will allow him parachute jumps — upwards this time.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ Speaker DeLeo and Governor Baker do not look happy, as well they might, given the budget obstacles that loom in 2019

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The 2019 legislative session here in Massachusetts looks much less easy than was the 2018 version. This year, the legislature enacted all manner of detail reforms, on all kinds of topics from criminal justice to minimum wage, and from gun regulation to workforce housing and transportation funding. Much of the 2018 work was agreed to unanimously, or almost. I doubt anything like these successes will be done in 2019 without major effort.

First of all, the budget number itself is sure to cramp reform’s style. A recent article in Commonwealth Magazine, by Robert L. Reynolds and Christopher Anderson    — Reynolds is a major fundraiser for Governor Baker — asserts that the state’s financial stability ranks near the bottom of the 50. We face major unfunded state worker pension liabilities and a shortfall in retiree benefits; the “rainy day fund,” it is claimed, has nowhere near the billions of reserve dollars it needs if the state falls into recession; and, so the article cries, health care cost increases show no signs of leveling off. What will the legislature do about these ? Hard to say, given that “no new taxes” is Speaker DeLeo’s litmus test. Governor Baker’s, too.

With respect to health care costs, note that the transfer of opioid addiction responses from criminal justice to health care treatment has certainly raised them. I doubt that the costs of incarceration exceed, or equal, the cost of hospitalization and treatment that we now provide to addicts in recovery — provisions that will increase as the state completes addiction’s  transfer from criminal to health issue. Nor can we turn back. Treatment is the only useful response to addiction. We all recognize that. But the effect upon health care costs will NOT be to decrease this budget item.

Even without accounting for addiction treatment, health care costs in Massachusetts are rising much faster than state revenues. Universal health care, as “Medicare for All,” may be a goal of Federal legislators, but in Massachusetts it’s what we do — and have done since 2006. The state’s population is growing, too, quite rapidly; thus too our health care “universe.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration has cut back the contribution that Federal dollars had been making to Massachusetts’ health care funds. Little wonder that Governor baker, back in 2016, told me that health care cost increases worried him mightily on a long term basis.

They will increase, and the 2019 legislature will really have no choice but to account the increases. In 2018 it and Governor baker were able to allocate to businesses about $ 800 million of health care employee contributions as part of the “Grand Bargain” that included many employee pay and benefit increases (and one large give-back). Will Massachusetts businesses be equally ready to take on additional employee (and retiree) health care costs ? Maybe, if there’s yet another give-back. We’ll see.

Second, several measures of reform that could not get done in 2018 remain, even more urgently than during last year. Education funding probably comes first. The legislature failed to complete its chapter 70 funding formula reform — the bill died before a joint committee could finalize the bill — and Governor Baker has committed to prioritizing education money. As Carrie Healy reported last August, Baker said “there’s more work to do there.” Baker said if he is re-elected, he will file a budget next January that puts more money into the schools that were the subject of concern during the debate.

Baker’s commitment includes chapter 70 reform, and for good reason. The current formula does not prioritize school districts most in need. Boston schools always fall far short of what they assert is needed. That the Boston Schools budget tolerates millions of dollars of inefficiency and special interests is no excuse for the State not contributing properly. Will chapter 70 reform overcome the “equal protection” hurdle that now bars the allocation from favoring one sort of school district over another ? We’ll see.

There will be plenty of outcry for substantial new housing funding. Carrie Healy’s article mentions zoning reform, a huge issue in every community, given the passions that in every community, including Boston,  govern what sorts of housing can be built where. It’s one thing to allocate construction money and land acquisition funds; it’s quite another to win local approval of developments within present zoning law. In Boston, zoning variances are the rule these days, partly because Boston’s exceptional zoning regulations (Boston’s zoning follows a different path than the State’s chapter 90) make construction and renovation very difficult without a variance, and partly because almost every Boston proposal upsets extremely delicate balances of various land-use interests. That said, the State should and probably will increase its housing budget: because if the money is there, those involved will find a way to spend it; and the need for housing is there, given that metro Boston is likely to gain 500,000 new residents, if not more, by 2030.

Thirdly, what about if there’s a recession ? Right now, state revenue well exceeds expectations and thus supports a bullish budget. In recession, those revenues recede too. This is where the “rainy day fund” serves. Today it has something north of $ 1,600,000,000 dollars. Reynolds’s article says it should total closer to three billion. Windfall revenue receipts in FY 2018 added $ 2909,00,000 to the fund: The deposit will push the state’s rainy day fund balance above $1.6 billion, which Baker administration officials said represents an increase of about $500 million since the governor took office in 2015.

If Evan Horowitz’s October article in the Boston Globe is to be credited, the rainy day fund actually totals $ 1,800,000,000. Horowitz says that’ still not enough. If the 2109 budget comes in at about $ 42.5 billion, $ 1.8 billion represents barely two weeks funding. He recommends a fund large enough to fund six weeks of budget — some $ 5.4 billion. We’re nowhere near that. Reynolds and Anderson concur with Horowitz’s $ 5.4 billion figure. How do we get there ? Especially how do we get there in a budget session that demands more money than ever for health care expenses, education funding, and transportation’s “state of good repair” needs ?

There will be one new source of state revenue : marijuana sales in state-licensed marijuana stores. The 2019 prediction is $ 60,000,000 of revenue. sales boomed in this first week. Let’s say that actual marijuana revenue doubles that $ 60 million. It’s still way short of the $ 3.6 billion rainy day fund gap that Reynolds, Anderson, and Horowitz say is needed.

Next month Baker will deliver his “state of the state” speech. It will feature his budget objectives. Soon thereafter DeLeo will appoint a budget chief — his 20-18 chief, Jeffrey Sanchez, was defeated in a primary. T>he new budget chief will have to get accustomed to the task. We might not see the House’s proposed 2019 budget until June. Baker’s, we’ll see before that. They’ll then have only till the end of July to agree on numbers and pass the budget. I remain hopeful that it will address the challenges I have outlined. Hopeful, but not by any means certain. There will be no new taxes — that, all parties agree on. Thus the money just isn’t likely to be there.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Michelle Wu

^ City Councillor Michelle Wu : can she set Boston onto a course  not that of Mayor Walsh, and of which he may well disapprove ?

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We’re at the point right now, in Boston, of upending the City’s strong-Mayor system. The City Council, given scant power under the City charter, is moving to block the Mayor’s directives on many fronts. It may well succeed, because a large segment of actives support the Council’s agenda

Political mistakes on Mayor Walsh’s part have abetted this movement : it hardly boosted his clout that four of the five candidates he openly backed in September’s Democratic primary — Congressman  Capuano, State Representative Jeff Sanchez, 3rd Congress District hopeful Daniel Koh, District Attorney candidate Greg Henning — were defeated, and that his one “win, ” Dan Cullinane’s re-election as State Representative, was a fairly narrow one. These defeats add to an already weak record : defeats in State Representative and City Council races , the 2014 Governor contest, and the defeat of Warren Tolman by now Attorney General Maura Healey. Walsh is said to have an excellent relationship with Governor Baker; if so, Walsh staying neutral in Baker’s re-election campaign was probably a plus for both men.

The old Tammany Hall saw has it that in politics, “you don’t back no losers.” By this standard, Walsh looks politically bled. This is not a great position for him to be in at a time when city governance, generally, is trending away from City hall and out to the activists in the streets. On almost every issue, from schools administration to diversity in hiring, and from police issues to Air BnB regulation, traffic control, and real estate development, agendas forged by activists have already won the day in many instances and now challenge almost every major decision the Mayor is supposedly empowered to make. Consider the matter of Widett Circle and its environs: the Mayor wants to sell the major Widett parcel to developers for a soccer stadium — but the City Council, led by Michelle Wu, taking its cue from neighborhood activists who want “affordable” housing (whatever that means), insist that the parcel be set aside for housing purposes.

For me, this matter cuts both ways. I certainly side with the many activists who want the City’s housing to not price itself out of reach of most Bostonians, and who want development, where it is acceptable at all, conform to neighborhood characteristics rather than upend them. Yet is the City better off having its decisions made by the activism of a moment, than by a Mayor elected to make decisions for the longer term ?  I doubt it. Consider the analogous situation that rules today’s stock market: companies seek short -term advantage, at the expense of longer term investment goals, in order to satisfy shareholder activists who want instant quarterly results. I doubt that anyone but a speculator thinks that short-term fixations have made corporate governance better for anyone — employees, management, actual investors. So, why even have a strong Mayor with a four-year term if we the voters aren’t ready to give him discretion to decide major questions on his watch ?

The four-year term is not carved in stone. Boston mayors once upon a time served for one year; the Council, too. What might Boston government be like if that were the set up today ? It’s not hard to answer this question. If a Boston Mayor had to face the voters every year, he or she would surely avoid making controversial moves whose benefits might not be visible that quickly.

We see some of this already even with a four-year term. Walsh in his 2013 campaign set forth a city-wide school building reconstruction plan that would consolidate 126 under-utilized, budget-wasting, old school buildings into 90 much more efficiently used, newly constructed schools. Opposition to the plan from several activist groups led Walsh to backpedal this plan until now, five years after — five years of millions of dollars wasted on staffs not needed and utility costs not warranted; and even now the plan has aroused opposition forcing Walsh to forgo re-configuring the under-performing McCormack School.

Somehow Walsh must find a movement which will regain him his full four year power. I do not know what that will be. He has staked all on being the “building boom Mayor,” and as the acknowledged leader of the City’s powerful construction unions — and the Construction industrialists who hire them — being the “building boom Mayor” matched the City’s major fact : economic expansion, population growth, need for much more housing and commercial building. Yet the boom has become so big, and its consequences so expensive,. that almost the entire City is rebelling. If not development overreach, then traffic jams. If not these, then the price of everything.

Some Bostonians like the new use density; they want more of it, not less, and applaud micro-apartments, or backyard hives, rather than decry them. Perhaps these voters approve Walsh’s bottom line as Mr. Construction: but far more voters dislike what is happening, and that unrest has now become a serious threat to Walsh’s agenda, to his power and even to his re-election in 2021. The City Council — Councillor Wu, but not her only — is moving its own agenda for the Air BnB riddle, for development impacts, housing affordability, climate and sea rise resilience, utility lines and power stations, vehicle use, and land sales. If Walsh can’t quickly find a competing agenda that can mobilize a significant part of the City’s activists, he may well lose the political initiative to a Council whose members know how to use social media to solidify an energized and noisy following — one much more nimble than Walsh’s sometimes old-fashioned insiders.

I am uncomfortable with government by unelected activists. Much of what activists want contravenes the City’s long-term interests, in transportation, economic growth, taxation, and free trade. What are my options ? Perhaps this :

Walsh still has the unions. Can he make effective electoral use of their cadres ? So far, he has failed the test. If his failure continues, and his re-election begins to look dodgy, we may well see City charter change on the 2021 ballot, beginning with an elected school committee — this, a move certainly worthy given the recent history of grievous administrative mishandlings by the City department that accounts for one-third of the total money spent every year by Boston’s government.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ soon a Boston City Councillor : Althea Garrison, flag pin and all (WGBH photo)

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Because Ayanna Pressley is moving on to represent our state’s 7th Congress District, Boston’s City Council, in next year’s election, will be choosing a successor to the person who had, for three terms, been its top or second-place vote-getter. Not having Pressley on the Council ballot allows her three at-large colleagues each to aspire to “top the ticket.” At the same time it offers an open at-large seat to all and sundry aspirants. There appear to be plenty.

To call Pressley’s Council seat “open” perhaps disrespects the woman who will move to occupy it per the City Charter, which dictates that the fifth lace finisher in an at-large council election –we choose four — fills any vacancy. In the 2017 election the fifth finisher was Althea Garrison. She won 18,253 votes, way behind four place finisher Annissa Essaibi George — but a winner after all, thanks to Pressley and her voters. Can Garrison win election to a full term ?

This is a question that many observers mishandle, in my opinion. It is widely assumed that Garrison is only a gadfly, a perennial candidate — which she is– who is not to be taken seriously as a Councillor. I’m not so sure. I also dislike the background of much of the dismissing. No one will say it, but it’s hard not to sense that much of the dismissing arises from  Garrison’s status as a transgender person who does not talk about it or wear it as an identity slogan, and whose positions on many issues does not conform to what the conventional wisdom expects a transgender person to hold. Garrison is a conservative, as the term is now commonly used, and Black. That alone casts her outside the bounds of Boston’s political community.

Is she a Republican ? A Democrat ? An independent ? Over her at least 25 years of political visibility, she’s run as all three. To say the least, this is unusual; in Boston, it’s out of bounds. In Boston, one is expected to identity as a “Democrat,” which, once you do that, frees you to hold any sort of political views you feel best serves your interests. But Garrison has run as a Republican, more than once, and in 1992 she won, as a Republican, the contest for 5th Suffolk District’s State Representative seat. In 1994 she was easily defeated by the Democratic nominee — which does not surprise, as there is just about zero Republican presence in the “5th” — even this year, while winning 49.5 percent of Boston’s vote, on the way to a two to one state-wide win, Governor Baker secured barely 35 percent of the “5th”‘s votes.

Defeat in 1994 did not stop Garrison. Just the opposite. She has run for city office many times since then — I have lost track of the count. Curiously, she is not the only candidate in her part of Boston who does this : Roy Owens has, I believe, run for office even more often than Garrison, always with underwhelming results. Owens is also a “conservative.” He and Garrison are politically close. It makes sense that Owen has been mentioned as a possible staffer in Garrison’s forthcoming Council office.

Yet Garrison isn’t as predictable a conservative as Owens, partly because as a transgender person she supports the state’s 2016 transgender civil rights law. It isn’t easy to predict what position she takes on issues. As much as any Boston politician, if not more so, she thinks for herself. Unfortunately, that independence of mind also means she has few if any political friends.

Still, in one month she will take the oath as an t-large City Councillor. She’ll represent not only Ward 15, in which she won 492 votes, or Ward 12, where she finished third (!!) with 868 votes, or Ward 14, where she won 938, but also West Roxbury and Roslindale (1886 votes), East Boston (608 votes), and Brighton-Allston (1795 votes) and Beacon Hill, Back Bay and the South End (1645 votes), among others. In  2017 she had to compete with four incumbent Councillorts seeking re-election yet still found 18,253 voters supporting her. She may well  need to double that total in 2019 — maybe more, if turnout increases over the usual Council off-year. Can she ?

She’ll certainly finish in the top five in the upcoming primary. No matter who, of the many  names being mentioned, seeks the office, Garrison starts way ahead of any of them. Even if the City’s numerous collections of activists — not to mention City employees and their families — all pass Garrison by, there’s plenty of non-insider voters who might find a :thinks for herself” Councillor worth supporting, if only because there ought be at least one voice on the Council that doesn’t vote like all the others. (to cite just one example : the 2015 Council voted unanimously to make Boston a Sanctuary City. I’m pretty sure there’s a substantial number of voters who do support that move and would gladly vote for a Councillor who would vote No.)

Garrison can also count on some favor as a woman of color. With Pressley leaving, the 2019 Council will not have a city-wide member who is African-American (or Caribbean).

Frankly, Garrison’s fate is entirely in her hands. I’m not here to advise her, but if i were, I’d say “run against the Council majority.” The Council has taken many issues positions that lots of voters dislike — think the controversy about Air Bnb, or the moves to impose a higher “contribution” assessment on the City’s tax-exempt institutions. Even Garrison’s conservatism might be a fruitful avenue for attracting votes : shouldn’t the Council, — most of whose members are all seeking to appease, or lead, the “progressive’ vote that defeated Congressman Mike Capuano and State budget chief Jeffrey Sanchez and saw reformer Rachael Rollins defeat the presumed favorite in last year’s Suffolk District Attorney contest — have at least one at-large voice that speaks for those on the other side ? Mike Capuano won 22,914 votes in the primary even while losing, and about 49,400 Boston voters did not vote for Rollins. Might not Garrison find strength in said numbers ?

She’ll have to convince potential supporters that she means business, that she can do all of the job, that she will reach out, constantly, and make her Council staff do all the usual tasks. It won’t be as easy as simply getting a few signatures and having her name on the ballot. She’ll have to raise significant money — and know where to seek it — and work every neighborhood. It will be exhausting. Is she up to it ? Does she want to even do it ? Her “OCPF” file shows her having raised almost no money except from herself, for all of the past six years. It also shows over $ 98,000 in liabilities. This is not a good look for a serious candidate who will likely need to raise $ 200,000, not to mention enough money to pay off that huge $ 98,000 liability.

The money mountain in front of garrison is steep and high. The outreach and issues task is exhausting and requires enormous discipline. can Garrison do any of this ? She has the opportunity; but opportunity does not give away gifts to those who can’t struggle to success.

—-  Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



My friend Samantha Rogers, pictured above, a transgender woman from Detroit, Michigan, calls those who would deny the existence of transgender people “control freaks.” I think she’s nailed it. What sort of person but a control freak thinks he or she has a right to tell other people who they are ?

Look : neither you nor you nor you, you, and you has any right to tell anyone else who they are. Each of us is the master, or mistress, of our own lives. Only we live our lives. You, and you, and you you and you live YOUR life, not anyone else’s.

This should be the end of the discussion. Yet it isn’t, because for some people, the urge to control the lives of others is an obsession. Why so ? I’l tell you why :” the people who want to erase transgender people do so because they are afraid that their kids will come out as transgender if thy find out transgender exists.

They are afraid of that because they are sure they know who their children are. After all, our children are us, are they not? Our sperm and egg partner to bring our kids into existence. Somehow we feel that we own our sperm, own our eggs; and if we own them, we must, perforce, own what they create jointly.

Yet this assumption is false. We do NOT “own” our kids. Our kids are NOT just the junction of sperm and egg. Kids are far, far more than their biology, just as we are. Life has numerous platforms other than the physical. It has values, ideals, missions, tasks, obligations, joys, and yes, it has the question “who am I ?” To which no society ever has given a purely physical answer.

Thus gender, which is NOT the same thing as sex — sex being the tools by which through process a child is formed. Sex is endocrine. Gender is much less mechanized. It’s actually very difficult, maybe impossible, to know what gender is. It certainly isn’t the same as sexual attraction. To whom you are sexually attracted has almost nothing to do with the mechanical. Women are attracted to women as easily as to men, and vice versa. It is no different with transgender people. So what, then, IS gender ? A perception, perhaps. Being male, being female. Being both, or partly each but not equally, and not the same every day. The young call this “gender-fluid.”

Dive deeply into gender and you quickly realize that you’re in a sea with no shore. There is no safe harbor. We are, most of us, however, profoundly influenced by examples of gender norm. The feminine in its unmistakable form and look is all around us; so is the masculine. many of us crave to be one or the other, or to wake up and find out that we ARE one or the other, and can dress as  such, and present this US to the world, regardless of what anatomy we possess or which chromosomes. Some of us discover that we are, in fact, entirely female, or entirely male, despite how we were brought up. This discovery is not optional. When it comes, it commands. Because it is us who we are discovering; the discovery arises from within. It is not taught, or drunk like a potion, or injected like a vaccine.

When the discovery comes, it comes from the real self, and when you sense it, you know that that is true. All at once the tangible you that you feel at your fingertips and kneecaps seems a covering only, a kind of packaging, the real stuff being inside, unwrapping that packaging because it now owns you and IS you.

This is not a becoming. You realize now that you had always been who you now see that you are. Gender is not a becoming. Gender is an IS.

More than that, I cannot say. Gender is the heart of a mystery, just as life is a mystery, immune to explanation even though its package can always be explained.

The control freaks who deny the existence of transgender because they are afraid their kids will come out as transgender cannot accept mystery. Their kids are THEIR kids. Mystery is an enemy of that possession. Thus it cannot be allowed. Transgender — gender fluidity in general — can NOT be allowed to ANYONE because to allow that it is real is to permit it to their kids in the event.

And so we get to the heart of the matter with respect to the control freaks of family matters. It’s all about ownership. possession. The power to control their kids. And from control of their kids, control of YOU — and you, and you you and you — as well.

This will not stand.

A kid has a right to live her own life; to be his own true self; to embrace the sliding scales of gender; to “live an authentic life,” as many gender fluids call it. Damn. If one is not free to be who one is, what freedom can anyone ever have ?

—- Mike Freedberg / here and Sphere



^ Governor Baker in January 2018 created a Commission to study the state’s transportation needs going forward. As I see it, this must be his second term’s top priority.

—- — —

Having been re-elected by two to one — receiving over 1,700,000 votes — Governor Baker has all the four winds at his political back as he looks forward to a second term of four years in charge of our state. What should his priorities be ?

In his election night speech he signalled “more of the same, of what has already worked.” He repeated this theme in succeeding interviews. I’m not one to contradict him — disclosure : I worked in his campaign, every day — yet I’d like to offer an amended version of what he has said. Here is what I think his priorities should be :

( 1 ) bring the MBTA infrastructure — tracks, signals, rails — fully up to “state good repair.” Let this mission include completion of the Green Line Extension and the successful introduction of electric buses, smaller buses for less traveled routes, and all-night service.

( 2 ) continue to expand facilities for treating opioid addicts,m including hiring sufficient recovery coaches and graduating medical school students who’ve taken courses in addiction medicine. This mission is in good shape. The Governor has insisted on it since Day One and looks on track, with the legislature’s assistance, to master this crisis.

( 3 ) determine a master plan for channeling the burdens imposed on greater Boston by vast increases in vehicle traffic, and  begin to implement it : Baker has already set up such a commission (link here : https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-creates-commission-on-the-future-of-transportation-in-the-commonwealth)

The Commission he has ordered has no simple matter in its hands, but the traffic situation in and around Boston is getting worse every day. It cannot go on. Somehow his transportation group must find a path — working with Mayors of Boston and surrounding cities — to channel much vehicle traffic away from major arterial roads. This may mean putting some service routes underground, or doubling train runs on the Commuter Rail Lines, or building up ferry and seaplane service, or all three. Or it may mean favoring bike paths, walk routes, or helicopter service, or all three of these as well. Much public comment will be needed and much regional planning, and then legislative appropriations. Whatever it takes, new facts must be put on the ground. The Suffolk Downs development alone will add 20,000 new residents, resulting in that much vehicular increase; and Suffolk probably numbers less than one-sixth of the additional residents expected in Boston by 2030, much less an additional 150,000 in adjacent cities. Our transportation infrastructure — including roads and paths — was built for 1960-1970 traffic according to plans devised in the late 1950s. We have to do better and do it now.

( 4 ) make fuel delivery safer on all counts. Baker is already filing legislation to ensure safer gas pipeline management. The condition of gas pipelines remains a problem. State oversight of all gas pipelines must improve. I read that we have less gas inspectors than the present law requires. We must the required number and probably increase it as well. Those who want to see all fossil fuel usage phased out sooner rather than later will be hard to respond to if we can’t administer the gas delivery systems we now have. (That said, fossil fuel usage will be phased out, and the state should devise a feasible plan for doing so that does not ( a ) imperil the thousands of fuel delivery and maintenance jobs that people now hold and ( b ) does not impose tax burdens on limited income households, as present “carbon tax” proposals seem to do.

( 5 ) establish a Coastal Zone commission to devise a feasible response to sea level rise. The State has numerous agencies tasked at present to monitor or respond to sea rise and storm flooding events. Baker should consolidate some of these into one overall commission and charge it with creating a plan that will allow coastal communities — including seaside neighborhoods of Boston — to live with ocean levels several feet higher than normal today. Flooding of residential neighborhoods is already happening in storms. Soon even normal high tides will cause flooding. At least 250,000 people live in areas directly affected. Governor and legislature must enable and encourage all manner of community-created, innovative responses and then enable those which can best work. The time is now.

( 6 ) continue to build up school to job, economic and workforce housing centers in the State’s “gateway” cities outside the metro Boston zone. Boston has sucked up just about all the capital there is for commerce and industry in Massachusetts. I don’t see this changing any time soon. It’s simply much safer to invest in an existing trend than to try to begin one. (The people with skills and schooling to execute these investments are where they are. Moving them out to Springfield or Fall River isn’t likely.) Only the State can jump-start a new economic boom zone. Transit — high-speed rail — will help, but not by itself. There won’t be many riders on a bullet train if there’s no prosperity engine driving it. Baker has made a good start creating school-work-housing link-ups in Springfield-Holyoke-Chicopee: it must be built upon. Fifty years ago the State created a university system in and around Amherst, where none had existed. Today that system dominates the Connecticut valley from the Vermont Border to north of Holyoke — two thirds of the river valley. Baker’s second term must see an economic boom zone extend that education powerhouse into all of greater Springfield. The Governor is on this one. I think it will happen.

That said, Berkshire County and the gap towns between Worcester and the Connecticut valley continue to be weak economically and in other ways. Populations in these sections are aging; new people do not move in. It won’t be easy to  create an economic presence as strong as the industries that made the Berkshire valley cities prosperous from the 1860s to the 1970s — GE is NOT coming back to Pittsfield any time soon, nor the Sprague Company to North Adams. Can tourism and the arts suffice ? So far they haven’t. Berkshire has become, economically and culturally, an extension of Vermont, in which he same economic problems rule. During the 1970s-1990s, the region benefited from City people changing careers and moving to the mountains to live quiet lives and do crafts, or run tourist inns or ski vacation lodges: now that movement has stopped, and there’s not much going on in its place. Perhaps logging and farming are the only feasible answers, in addition to the tourism and arts festivals that already dominate many Berkshire towns and cities.

— — — —

There’s more for Governor Baker to do than the six priorities I have listed. Chiefest among the rest of his second term mission must be to continue his successful partnership with House Speaker DeLeo — because any legislation that the Speaker doesn’t support isn’t going very far — and to allow his priorities to be amended, where wise, by the suggestions that will surely come from the State Senate, whose 40 relate much more closely to the state’s “progressives” than do the 160 House members. That said, one thing the Governor can NOT do, and he knows it : he cannot take up proposals that would split the Democratic party. Chief among these, in 2018, was the so-called “Safe Communites Act” (SCA), which would mandate that the State’s police forces refuse co operation with ICE, the Federal agency that hunts won undocumented immigrants and sometimes legal immigrants as well. As much as I would like to see all immigrants living i n Massachusetts supported at every turn, no matter is more divisive, or more emotional, than immigration, and to take the “progressive’ side on the SCA would be to imperil every other Baker priority, not to mention invite primary competition to “regular” Democrats. 2018 saw Jeffrey Sanchzez, the legislature’s budget chief and the most influential Latino elected in Massachusetts, defeated in a primary by an opponent who made Sanchez’s realism about not pressing the SCA her defining issue. Though few Democratic legislators would face serious primary challenges despite, pressing such a divisive issue as the SCA would invite many such, and a few might well succeed. this would ensure that instead of consensus reform, Massachusetts politics would subject itself to the recriminations and partisan vengeances that have made national politics all but impossible.

To say it more succinctly : Baker and the legislature should continue to work on reforms that enjoy solid majority support. There is plenty of that, in my six priorities, that can be done and must be done.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



The next Congress must elect Nancy Pelosi its Speaker. There is no other rational choice, no other Congress-person who can lead the House through the challenges that confront it.

Some say that who will be the next Speaker is a matter only of the Democratic party : what direction should it take. I reject that view. The nation has only one Congress; every voter has an interest in who leads it. Right now, far more voters than just Democratic ones are looking to the 116th Congress to save the nation, basically. To accomplish this mission only the best leader will suffice. Nancy Pelosi is that leader.

She showed just how potent a legislator she is when, during her 2008 to 2010 term as Speaker, she oversaw passage of the ACA Health Care law. She has raised insane amounts of money in support of her party’s candidates. If Democrats now control the House, and thus have power to stop; the onslaught of radical Trump policies, they control in large part because Democratic House candidates had tons of money to spend on voter outreach.

Fighting Mr. Trump will never be easy. He knows no bounds, feels no restraints, from doing whatever he can handle at whoever stands in his way. But for the Federal Courts, he would already have wreaked sustained damage upon our democratic (small “D”) norms. In the field, he is as ruthless as Tamerlane, as reckless as Sardanapalus, as loud as  Mussolini, as ignorant as a Cave Troll. Other than with judgeship nominations, his entire presence is a negative — a smelly, vulgar, prurient interest negative. He is corrupt without shame, a toady to dictators, vengeful and petty, lazy, a liar and a saboteur. And for all of these, he is loved beyond measure by about 25 percent of us and tolerated by about another 15 percent. 40 percent is a damn good base whence to start a national election campaign.

Defeating Trump in 2020 will require more than only a Speaker Pelosi. Candidates matter. Who eventually becomes the Democratic nominee for president needs be as disciplined as a Marine, as discreet as a body man, as tough as cement and as visionary as Teddy Roosevelt. Pelosi measures up to all these criteria. She grew up in street politics when street was THE political arena; she has tied herself to every major political force. She commands her caucus no matter which of them objects. She knows what the American people want most. She can prioritize. She knows how to NOT take a bait; how NOT to lead down a wrong path.

The temptation is great to bring bills of impeachment of Mr. Trump; great to investigate him and his administration 24-7 and all the year long. The winds blow almost as strong, within the Democratic caucus, for bringing back actual socialism: the government owning businesses and running them too. The temptation roils nearly as hot for espousing radical plans for environmental reform that would include an almost total neutralization of fossil fuel industries. I’ve read these plans. They are enormously complex, wildly upending to millions of lives. They require new taxes and new bureaucracies enforcing novel rules of environmental practice. They require much debate and emendation. The next Congress — of which the Democrats will control only one part — is NOT the arena for forwarding them.

In my view, the next House must focus on defending basic rights and accepted judicial norms. Mr. Trump must e stopped from persecuting political enemies; from interfering with the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies — FBI, CIA, Department of Justice. The next Congress must protect the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. the next Congress must investigate Mr,. Trump’s cabinet for abuses of powers and perks; must life as difficult as feasible for White House staffers who would abuse, circumvent, or seek to get rid of, laws and regulations that ensure impartial administration. At the same time, the next House must prepare for its own re-election, defending against Mr. Trump’s candidates.

—- —- —-

We don’t often write about national politics — there’;s plenty of big media who do that all day long — but with this matter we feel compelled to speak and to argue, hopefully to persuade.

Nancy Pelosi has solid union backing, new support from her “progressive” members, and the support of her party’s donor base.

She is 78 years old ? She looks 20 years younger, p;roof that constant engagement is the healthiest revenge.

Some say that the Democrats need “new blood.” maybe they do; but this is not about just Democrats. The nation, actually, needs its old blood to step up , to rethink its distrust of the future. Roanld Reagan was in his 70s when he sounded all those notes of optimism about America that made him beloved. Who better to grab the ring of positivity — and to show us how — than those whose time is shorter than forever ?

The next Speaker must be able to meet the press without notes and speak with all the experience and authority she can muster from a full lifetime of political battles-royal. Is there any doubt that only Nancy Pelosi, of all the likely candidates for Speaker, is the obvious and necessary choice. Today, her only significant rival, veteran Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Cleveland, endorsed Pelosi.

We do the same.

—- Mike Freedberg / Hou78se Speqaker





^ Congress-woman Ayanna Pressley : signing onto a climate and energy proposal that way overshoots the mark, in my opinion. A little caution here seems warranted.

—- —- —-

You may be hearing, during the coming months, about a Federal climate and energy proposal, signed onto by our City’s new Congress-woman Ayanna Pressley, which some call “Green New Deal.” Included in this proposal are some features that I cannot sign onto. I’ll analyze the proposal now and make some suggestions of my own:

First : the proposal would create a Congressional Committee tasked specifically with enacting its precepts and then, presumably, overseeing them. This is a bad precedent. If we create a congressional Committee for every proposal, we’ll import into law the single-issue narrowness that already damages our electoral process.No thank you.

( second ) the proposal asks Congresspeople to pledge not to accept donations greater than $ 200 from fossil fuel people. To me this seems needlessly restrictive. Why should a Congressperson not accept donations from any constituency that has a legitimate interest in policy going forward ? The obvious import of this directive is that Congresspeople should cut fossil fuel interests entirely. I don’t see that as a need immediate or long-term.

( third ) some who sign onto this “deal” want to connect rising sea levels challenges with natural gas pipeline problems. The two have no connection, however. Gas leaks do not result from rising seas. If we are to reform our reliance upon natural gas, and maybe we should, it isn’t because there is climate change but because the natural gas infrastructure needs a ton of repair.

( fourth ) One “Green New Deal” activist whom I know wants a “carbon tax” imposed on all cars other than those belonging to “residents.” Such a proposal contravenes the equal protections clauses of our state Constitution and the Federal; and do we really want every municipality to create a parking permit bureau and hire the people to enforce it ? Am I really going to be taxed if I choose to visit my friend in Southie or Roslindale — or in Shrewsbury or Dracut — by driving rather than taking the bus or commuter rail ?

( fifth ) Some “Green New Deal” supporters want the state and Feds to prioritize high speed railways. I defer from this. Railways can help transport commuters, yes, but they also limit a person’s freedom. I spent five months without a car, and it was horribly frustrating having to wait for a bus to come, or to be limited to only the routes on offer; and if you have several destinations to go to, how do you bus from one to the other without wasting huge numbers of hours waiting for the train or omnibus ? Moreover, how to build a high-speed rail system without confronting these problems : acquiring a right of way; satisfying environmental regulations; funding the construction of weatherized stations ? Decades after first proposal, we still do not have a South Coast rail line, largely because of competing environmental jurisdictions whose regulations must be satisfied. This rail line probably should be built, but by no means should it be seen as a substitute for automobile roads. The freedom to move, individually — in this case, by a car — is as bedrock a liberty as any; it should not be compromised for any but emergency reasons.

One also sees, behind the front of this proposal, an unstated call for higher taxes. It’s not said, for obvious reasons, but it is there. How could it not be ?

( sixth ) The challenge of rising seas certainly impacts every coastal City right now. There is important innovative work being crafted, on a community basis, toward funneling excess seas, very much in line with what has been done for centuries in the Netherlands. Much of this local innovation looks to structural defense that depends upon community agreement. I see much more promise in these innovations than in radical infrastructure rules requiring enormous public expenditure, higher taxes, and serious limitations on individual liberty.

( seventh ) fossil fuels : certainly I can agree that oil and gasoline use should take a back seat to electric (cars and buses too) and that solar and hydro power should supplement our growing natural gas demand. We have seen, tragically, that our gas delivery infrastructure needs significant repair; the explosions in greater Lawrence and the numerous reports of gas leaks throughout metro Boston require immediate attention. But this work is the responsibility of the private companies that deliver and service natural gas; they are not funded by tax dollars or manged by a state agency (although they must proceed according to state and Federal regulations and oversight). Until the private firms are in place and fully funded to deliver reliable energy on a state-wide basis, natural gas will have to be our primary energy source.

There’s also the matter of jobs. The gas and oil industries, and their delivery and service adjuncts, employ millions of Americans and give rise to thousands of enterprises. Phasing them back — not to mention replacing them — means job loss for many. Until we can transition oil and gas workers into clean energy employment — which will be extraordinarily difficult — we cannot proceed to comprehensive energy reform.

( eighth ) I also question why energy policy should be primarily Federal. Every state has different energy mixes and needs. Let energy reform arise locally first.

Finally, as I see it, the proposal reads enormously hurried. Hurry breathes in every sentence of it. But haste does make waste. Energy reform and climate challenge are not the work of a moment or a year or a decade. Transition is involved, not abolition. Let’s hear what cooler heads have to say as we tackle the climate and energy colossus.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


(Cambridge, MA – 6/19/17) Gov. Charlie Baker and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren chat during the grand opening of Advanced Functional Fabrics of America headquarters, Monday, June 19, 2017. Staff photo by Angela Rowlings.

Massachusetts enjoys a political culture unique in America, one that poses idiosyncratic challenges to our state’s political parties : 56 percent of all our voters belong to no party, which makes the two major parties a hard role to play.

It is getting harder every year, as a greater percentage of voters opt out of party enrollment.

On November 6th probably one-third — maybe more — of all the 2,700,000 who voted chose both Senator Warren, a Democrat, and Governor Baker, a Republican. Baker won 67 percent of voters, Warren 60.3 percent. Other than Maryland, where Governor Hogan also won re-election with more than 60 percent of voters who at the same election re-elected Senator Cardin, I can’t think of a similar case.

Yet Maryland’s situation is actually not comparable. Maryland has more Republicans and fewer “NPA” voters than we do. Maryland voters made a choice. In Massachusetts this sort of outcome is almost a given.

So, what has been the reaction of Massachusetts partisan loyalists to the November 6th result ? Let’s take a look :

The followers of Scott Lively, who won 36 percent of the Republican Primary vote against Governor Baker, and who represent 28 percent of party activists, judging by Convention delegates, decry Baker’s election. They scourge him as a fake Republican, as a Democrat in “RINO” clothing, a “Tall Deval” Governor who “subverts” the party with patronage appointments, and who has betrayed “conservatism” and “Trump.” That Trump won only 32 percent of our voters in 2016 and is viewed favorably here by barely 29 percent, seems not to impress the Lively bunch. And if you believe that elections are about amassing a majority, and that it is incumbent upon a Governor to govern to the majority, so much for you.

If the Lively bunch numbers at most 36 percent of Massachusetts Republicans, do not think for a minute that their partisan view stops there. A significant portion of Governor Baker’s supporters view the “magop” the same way. They have made their peace with Governor Baker, because he wins, but their basic view is that the party should be more Trump, not less; more “down with the ship.”

But so much for the partisans of a party which in Massachusetts numbers barely ten percent of our voters and twenty percent of electeds. What about our partisan Democrats? After all, about one-third of all our voters and eighty percent of our electeds have a “D” beside their name on the voter list. Here’s one report that I just saw :

A facebook friend posted happenings at the post-election Democratic State Committee meeting. The big discussion was, what to do about elected Democrats who publicly endorsed Governor Baker ? Many want them disciplined : if a state committee member, ousted from the State Committee; if an elected official, censured. The idea being that if you accept a party office you are bound to always support the party. It’s fifty-fifty whether the accused will be ousted or not.

For me, this is an absurdity. The last thing you want to do, if your candidate wins only 33 percent of the vote while his opponent takes 67, is to drive members of the party away — elections are won by addition, not subtraction. Those who would discipline Baker’s Democratic endorsers say that a Democrat’s first loyalty should be to the principles of the party. But is that right ? Isn’t an electeds first loyalty to the voters ? All the voters ?

The Democratic state committee trial is hardly unique to that party. After Governor Bill Weld in 2014 endorsed Michael S. Day, then a first-time candidate for State Representative (he won), resolutions were presented to the Republican State Committee to censure Weld. He shrugged it off, as was proper: but the attempt had been made, and it signals how partisan Republican activists feel. Party first, party always, or else.

This isn’t only a Massachusetts problem, as we all know too well. Still, in Massachusetts it flies against all common sense, given the rejection of party by an increasing majority of our voters.

Party-first does not have to be. One cans till be a party activist and stand apart from the closed shop. When I was a ward committee chairman in one of our parties, my view was that our task was to bring the best candidates we could to the voters by getting them nominated and their names printed on the ballot. And if our candidate was clearly inferior ? In my view it was incumbent on me to support the better candidate and use that as a lesson to the party activists to do better next time, or, in case where the opposing party had advanced a clearly superior candidate, to support the better : because ultimately it’s the public interest that should prevail, not a party’s.

Those who in Massachusetts take the “party principles first” position ensure that more and more voters will opt out of party enrollment. We’re already at the point at which unenrolled candidates are likely in many districts to defeat both party candidates. In the towns, “NPA” voters number upwards of 70 percent, even 80 percent. These numbers increase every year.

It was depressing to listen to newly-nominated Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, on the day after her victory in the primary, talking about Democrats this, Democrats that.  Is she elected to represent just Democrats ? Or all her voters ? one hopes the latter: but there she was, sounding like a candidate for Democratic National Committee-Woman, not for Congress. In Washington, talk about party may matter, for Congress has become almost completely Parliamented (our Constitution notwithstanding). Here in Boston, however,k such talk sounds weirdly unreal.

Governor Baker won his 67 percent — moire than 1,700,000 votes — not only because of a job well done. The most frequent comment I hear about him is that “he works across the aisle.” That — working across partisan aisles — is what almost all of our voters want, and it is why they gave him a bigger vote even than Senator Warren received.

The message could not have been clearer.

Our partisans need to rethink the locked-door approach. Either our parties expand, and welcome those of it who critique, or they risk becoming circled wagons, cameos of a curious Leninism in which loyalty to the party shines an ever dimmer light on ever more faded mirrors.

So far, that prospect doesn’t trouble our partisans. The smaller the party, and the less connected to the outside, the easier it is for controllers to control it. No political battles feel fiercer than battles for state committee and ward committee control. The party eventually cannibalizes itself — and enjoys the meal.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere