2016 PRESIDENT : NOT A SENATOR AGAIN, PLEASE

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^ Lions of the senate ; the Presidency, not so much. At least not now.

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UPDATE : last night Senator Warren announced as follows : “I pledge to serve my full Senate term.” Her term ends in 2018. And so ends speculation about her plans to seek the Presidency. I applaud her decision.

— MF

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Three letters appear in today’s Boston Globe, all of them telling those who would Pres-boom our state’s Senator Elizabeth Warren, to cool out. I agree with the letters and their reasons. as the letters point out : (1 ) Warren in 2016 will still be working her first term and ( 2 ) her uncompromising stance makes her a kind of reverse-coin Ted Cruz. Advocacy for advocacy’s sake  becomes anti-advocacy; and in any case, while a Charles Sumner can advance a cause, the actual Charles Sumner would have made a horrible President.

This is not to say that I don’t applaud much of what Senator Warren advocates. I do applaud it. The financial regulation bill she has co-sponsored with John McCain is needed, and her call for he expansion of social security voices the needs and hopes of many, many Americans for whom Social Security is the difference between making it and not. Yet the progress that she calls for is going to be hard enough to enact into law, and as Ted Kennedy’s decades of work make clear, the Senate is the Forum in which to do it, and that only by long service. The Presidency is not the place to vanguard things.

That Warren is being touted for President seems a reaction, on the Left, to the radicalization on the right that has all but swallowed the GOP. As I wrote during the Mayor’s race, watching the Connolly versus Walsh battle come close to splitting the Massachusetts Democratic party, “you can’t radicalize an electorate in one direction only.” Radicalization on the Left is growing, fueled by an inflammatory Right. This we understand — and decry. It must stop short of engulfing the Presidency, the one office that all of us choose.

The greatest presidents are principled, dogged centrists : Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George Washington, Ronald Reagan all held firm to their chosen course but refused to be hurried, bullied, or pushed over an edge. Confronters like Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson have done less well. Roosevelt and Wilson both achieved much, in a hurry, but they did not when or how to stop. Flame out was the result for Roosevelt, humiliation for Wilson. Jefferson’s terms, brilliantly begun, ended in disaster. Elizabeth warren is a confronter. (So is John McCain, but that’s another story.) There is a lot of Teddy in Warren — on much the same issues, too — and much Wilson. That alone should give us pause.

Frankly, I think we’ve had enough Senators in the Presidency for a while. The worst failing of President Obama, a Lincolnesque figure for sure, is his demonstrated inability to manage the Federal bureaucracy. We’ve seen it time and again, vividly in the stumbled roll-out of his signature legislation, the ACA. It is time to elect a Governor. Men and women who govern have to administer. it’s what a Governor is all about. those who succeed as a governor pass the first test — the most basic test — of a President. Managing the bureaucracy may not look sexy, sound dramatic, or feel like a crusade; but a President who cannot do it can’t succeed at much of the high drama and loud crusades that define the office for most voters.

The only reason that Obama’s failings as an administrator haven’t decimated the domestic agenda of his Presidency is that he knows his policy goals bottom to top, they’re modest enough, and he pursues them relentlessly, opposition be damned. He simply refuses to lose. That’s a good thing; but capable administration of his policy in action would be even better.  Conversely, the numerous triumphs of Obama’s foreign policy, an arena in which administration defers to manoeuver and decision, Here, Obama has had no equal since Reagan ; no Democratic equal since Truman.

2016 should be a Governor’s time for another reason : the office is chosen by all the people of a state and, in the hands of the most responsible governors, unites people rather than divides them. Cases on point : Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jeb Bush (FL) , Chris Christie (NJ), and Martin O”Malley (MD). In this time of radicalization, that has cleaved the GOP, paralyzing it, even rendering it a danger to the nation, and that threatens now to set Democrats at each other’s throats, the last thing we need is an inflamer of passions, a Senator Microphone, an advocate in a hurry.

Of course even a great governor can’t be an effective president without a responsible political party to lead, or tame. Mitt Romney had administrative ability to spare; but the party he led in 2012 had rendered him unthinkable, to a majority, by its virulence and its contempt for all but the successful, viewpoints that he unfortunately seemed to share.

To sum up : 2016 should be a Governor’s time. Let’s elect Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Martin O’Malley — and leave Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, to advocate, advocate, advocate all she needs to, a Charles Sumner but no, NOT a president.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR : THE LAST DAYS OF CITIZEN ACTION ?

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^ citizen action in a classic citizen campiagn ; john Connolly being blessed by the black Ministers’ Alliance three weeks ago

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As I look at where John Connolly’s campaign stands now, in contrast to Marty Walsh’s, the thought strikes me : these are last days of citizen action in Boston elections. No matter which man wins.

A true Citizen Movement — moms for school transformation — faces a vast army of interest groups, established powers, and institutional stubbornness. The candidate of Moms raised pretty fair money, but, until last week, when, faced with a sledge hammer of money opposite, he agreed to take his own “outside” money, he found himself confronted by an array of money scandalous in its immensity. This money array has not entered the vote arena out of any goodness of heart. It defends institutional hardball and, let it be said, ripens the thousands of people who staff the money-disgorging institutions which feel threatened by Citizen action.

It used to be, in America, that money had no place in elections; that its presence therein was considered scandalous, even criminal. Candidates shunned campaigning; it ws thought unseemly to stump and door-knock. The office sought the man, not vice versa. The common custom was that holding elective office was an honor and a duty, onerous and of necessity disinterested as much as possible. Obviously those days have long since vanished into bat belfry cobwebs.

Yet even once money came into politics — via Mark Hanna and his vast donation organization for William McKinley in 1896 — and even as the man began to seek the office, by Woodrow Wilson’s time at the latest — citizen action was still the driving force. Money paid for printing campaign lierature. it paid election day ward heelers. But money did not in that era invent interest groips, pay for think tanks, assemble voter profiles, control newspapers. Today money does all of these things.

Example : the Tea party, which would have been a very small, albeit extremely sulfuric, anger cult had not Freedom Works, the Koch Brothers, and the Heritage Foundation vacuumed millions of corporate dollars and spewed them out to the Tea party’s organizers. The Tea Party is fake citizen action. It gets all of its heft by way of media outlets (and their talk show charlatans) which exploit the Tea “movement” in order to generate advertising dollars. The entire thing is fraudulent, utterly bogus, a stain upon whatever honor remains in our political system.

Money endows the vast institutions of learning that have grown up in America ever since the 1862 Justin Morrill Act that created land grant state colleges. Money is the motive force behind the so-called churches whose talk-show host-type pastors have pushed so vociferously into our current politics. We like to think of academics and pastors as avatars of citizen action. They certainly were such in the Abolitionist movement and later in the 1890-1920 progressive era of social reform — the grand decades of true citizen reform action. Even then, of course, reform movements faced stubborn opposition; but with sledgehammer money absent from the fight, citizen action triumphed.

Not so today. At the Presidential level, Barack Obama trumped money institution oligarchy only because he represented a long prior citizen movement — civil rights — and was its climacric event. Once in office, however, Obama found himself blocked at every turn by fake ‘movements,” millionaired media, profit center “churches,’ and billionaired proganandists.

Here in Massachusetts, the cataclysmic US Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren was a fight between money movements and only money movements. Even with outside money excluded, the Warren campaign based itself in the theory that how voters in other states voted for Senator should dictate how Massachusetts voters voted. This was a radical parliament-arization of a system set up to be nothing of the kind ; it should have been shown the door ; yet it resonated, because in nation as drowned by institutional flood, it now really does matter to voters in Massachusetts what Senator voters in Oklahoma or Wisconsin vote for. It matters because there really are no longer any states with state-specific interests. There’s only nationwide pressure groups funded by billionaire money streams.

Senator Warren’s vote-getting operation also drew upon an NSA-like data bank in which every voter found him or herself identified, categorized, boxed, and labeled. This we will all now have to live with. It is nice for a campaign to try to identify its voters; that’s how one gets elected. But to maintain a data bank as invasive as Warren’s — and which has now found its way into the Walsh campaign — is an invasion of privacy every bit as intolerable as the snooping done by the NSA. Voter data as invasive as Warren’s does not come cheap. It is fueled by huge money,. It is said that Warren raised 52 million dollars to defeat Scott Brown. 52 million ! In one United states Senate race !

I call it corruption. Not of the old criminal kind, to be sure. But corruption indeed. Corruption of the very basis of our electoral system.

So now we come to the Walsh campaign. If it looks to you like a labor union, State House, developers and deal makers, local version of the Elizabeth Warren campaign, do not scratch your head : you see exactly what is. The Walsh campaign is the artillery of institutional power, the infantry of entrenched buddy buddy, and — almost now an after thought — a scout platoon of local labor unions : upon all of which veessel is found a beautifully carved bowsprit named Marty Walsh, a man with a laudable life story and a reputation for integtrity.

Competing against this huge ship of state with its gorgeous bowsprit, we find the good ship John Connolly. What is Connolly’s camapign but a throwback to the days, almost 100 years gone, of citizen action ? Of reform, of betterment ?

Watching — and liking — Connolly’s campaign I am struck by its historicity. It’s the kind of camapign that I, decrepit old as I am, studied 50-60 years ago in school : a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it is. School moms want to dramatically reform the schools. Candidate wants to reform, even remake City Hall for a very different era. Candidate leads with passion and policy and decent but not obscene money. Moms in tennis shoes gather to help him.

This, dear reader, was what we of my day learned was citizenship.

We now see the result. The candidate of citizen action stands very much an underdog, while the candidate of institutional goniffs struts the streets as an over-dog.

I fully expect that even if John Connolly wins, he will, like Barack Obama since 2009, find himself and his citizen reformers blocked at every turn by immovable institutions employing tens of thousands of people hard-assing to defend their benefits, security, and control; by interest groups determined to chomp the city budget into morsels of pay raise; by the State House crowd, which has always wanted to dictate Boston’s governance; and by the money caches which in nasty secrecy are now pouring their mints into preventing the thing most dangerous to corrupt government : citizen action.

—- Michael Freedberg / here and Sphere

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^ institutional high hand : Tom Keady, whom i knew way back when, and as sharp a political mind as I have met in my life, now Boston College’s Director of Development, said tyo be “the architect: of the Marty Walsh campaign.