MAGOV14 : “IT’S AN OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE VOTERS A SENSE OF WHO YOU ARE”

 

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^ brothers forever, solid love : as it should be :Charlie Baker and Alex Baker

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Charlie Baker, Republican nominee for Governor, yesterday released a vidclip of him meeting with his brother Alex at Alex’s South Boston home. Much comment has been generated, starting with a thread of my facebook page wall, a thread that quickly went viral.

Why all the fuss ? it’s because Alex Baker is gay, and married to his husband, and Charlie Baker has now made this side of his family’s life a flash point in the campaign. As he said in the quote that made this column’s header, the vid gives voters a sense of who Baker is.

Why did he do it ? Or perhaps I should ask, why did he feel he had to do it ? Why did a veteran of the Weld/Cellucci governorships — in which gay citizens were brought fully and openly into into public life – feel the need to prove his civil rights bona fides ? After all, support for one’s gay family member should no longer be any issue at all. In Massachusetts, full civil rights for gay people is a settled matter. Even for transgendered people, full civil rights is settled, at least among ordinary people. But when one is a Massachusetts Republican, these are issues indeed. The national GOP’s blatant bigotry against so many sorts of people who don’t fit its fanciful picture leaves serious politicians like baker almost no choice. Even here in progressive Massachusetts this had to be done, because, as almost everybody now knows, the Massachusetts Republican state Committee infamously revised its party platform to express solidarity with “traditional marriage.”

This, in the state that was first to recognise marriage equality.

The move by the Republican state committee was especially shameful because the republican state committees of other states — far less progressive than we -=- are moving to drop opposition to marriage equality from their platforms.

Immediately after the state committee platform vote, there was outcry and push back. The state party’s own chairperson, Kirsten Hughes, rejected the platform. This was good; but as Baker’s vidclip shows, it wasn’t enough. Massachusetts voters have made it very clear that the national GOP’s toxic views are extremely unwelcome, and Baker felt — correctly — that he needs to make the clearest possible break between him and it. and with the Massachusetts GOP state committee if he hopes to be seen by Massachusetts voters as free of all that toxin.

All of that said, I disagree with Charlie Baker that a campaign is an opportunity to show voters who you are. It’s only an issue when voters fear that who you are might be something quite unlikable.

A campaign — the Charlie Baker campaign too — should be about what your policy plans are and how you intend to implement them, how you’ll work with the legislature, all that stuff. The five Democrats running all have their plans and all of them talk about their plaws and priorities at every Forum and in almost every event. They are serious candidates and they take the job seriously.

Which means that I also disagree with Charlie Baker’s first premise too. Running for office IS a “job interview.” it is that, and it is set up to be that. And Baker has his plans and priorities and has spoken about them at length and continues to. It’s only because the national GOP, and its local state committee division, have imposed a disgraceful burden on his back that he has needed to take this vidclip trip into giving voters “a sense of who (he is).”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#MAGOV : “WISH” LISTS vs. “DO” LISTS

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^ Just DO it : Charlie baker with Karyn Polito supporters in Leominster (photo by Baker campaign)

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The contest for Massachusetts Governor has taken on a definite shape during the past three days. The biggest shaping force has been Charlie Baker’s, given as his response to Governor Patrick’s state of the Commonwealth speech. Baker used the occasion to announce his support for raising the state’s minimum wage and for expanding the earned income credit. The news surprised almost everyone. It contradicted recent GOP orthodoxy — you know, the whole “job creators,” no ACA, no minimum wage legislation mantra — and also went beyond what most of the Democratic candidates have suggested. Baker also accepted Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo’s minimum wage raise requirement, that there be some give-back on umployment insurance contributions.

I wrote yesterday about Baker’s announcement and its implications ; these merit repeating. First, Baker established that he will join with Speaker DeLeo on minimum wage legislation. No Democratic candidate has yet done so; when specifically asked what they would do if the Speaker rdejected their legislation, all avoided answering. Second, by embracing doable (and very popular) legislation to relieve income inequity, Baker has vetoed all those GOP-ish advocacy groups (such as Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance) that oppose “using government to make people’s lives better” (as Mayor Walsh has stated his mission). And this may actually be the hugest consequence of Baker’s announcement. Right now I cannot think of a single Republican Governor, Senator, Congress person — or GOP candidate for these offices — who embraces minimum wage hikes and expanding the earned income credit. Whether Baker’s announcement has national GOP implications I can’t yet say; but for Massachusetts its consequence could not be weightier. He has taken the Massachusetts GOP back not just to Weld-Cellucci — whose administrations Baker was part of and mentioned in his talk — but (as my old colleague Peter Kadzis mentioned to me) to the days of John Volpe, Eliot Richardson, Frank Sargent, and Ed Brooke — almost 50 years ago — when the Massachusetts GOP was the reform party, the advance guard of using government to benefit people.

Granted, that Baker is free to take this stand because the Tea Party has never had much ground in Massachusetts — in 2010, Tea candidates didn’t even get the 15 % of votes at the Republican convention needed to get their names on the ballot — and because the huge right-wing greedPACs that have all but kidnapped the national GOP, knowing how un-Tea this state is, don’t involve themselves here. Baker needs no greedPAC money. He has almost out-raised the five Democratic governor candidates combined. T

Baker’s move all but assures that he will have significant Democratic support in the November election. That is how it used to be for the Massachusetts GOP in state elections, Why not again ?

And here is where my headline for today’s column comes into play : “wish list” candidates versus “do list.” Most of Massachusetts’s 166 Democratic legislators and State Senators are realists — do list people, not wish listers. Their voters want stuff done first, talk stuff later. Massachusetts voters are quite common sensed about this. We send our inspirational wish listers to Washington — none more arch-typal than Elizabeth Warren — to voice our noblest wishes, ideals, hopes for a juster social future. To Beacon Hill, we send our grubs and drones to do the grub and drone work. Nor is our thinking wrong. Deval Patrick’s entire two terms has shown just how powerless wish list eloquence is to move the Speaker of the house — no matter who he was or now is — to support legislation. To cite just two examples ; Governor Patrick wanted casino legislation badly. When Sal DiMasi was Speaker and opposed, no casino.. Then came Robert DeLeo, supportive, and lo and behold, casino legislation, no problemo ! Second example : Governor Patrick wanted an enormous, $ 2 billion transportation bill; Speaker DeLeo wanted a much smaller bill. Guess whose “transpo bill” got enacted ?

We like to think of today’s GOP as missing the point of governance, but the Massachusetts Democratic party misses the point too. In its rush to speak nobly of social justice and the higher purposes of civic life, the Democrats of Massachusetts talk just as unrealistically about governing as do the GOP right-wingers. Yes, there is a “progessive caucus” in the Massachusetts Democratic party, and there’s one in the legislature too. What have they recently achieved ? CORI reform, maybe. But every other advance enacted by the legislature belongs entirely to the realists : charter schools, an $ 800 million “transpo bill,” casino legislation — vigorously opposed by “progressives” and right-wingers alike (Ha!)– electronic toll taking, divorce law reform, mandatory sentencing amendments. I often get the impression that the social justice focus of many Massachusetts Democrats arises as a reaction to GOP right-wing talk rather than for its own sake. A genuine progressive movement would be far more broadly based, out among the people — as was the Progressive movement of 110 years ago — broad enough to affect, even command, both political parties, not just one.

The five Democrats running for Governor cannot break free of these conditions, and only one has really tried : Steve Grossman. In forums he talks real talk about realistic goals. Even he has yet to admit that only in sync with the Speaker can he accomplish anything. Even he has yet to tailor his policy suggestions to the Speaker’s — and just yesterday, the Speaker made clear that the coming year’s State budget would include no tax hikes or fee increases. Still, Grossman talks the business-climate, innovation talk that, until two days ago, was Baker’s core message. He also of course supports minimum age legislation though not the Speaker’s conditions). At Forums, Grossman swims in a sea of words : perfume from Don Berwick, chatty niceties from Juliette Kayyem, and quiet sarcasm from Martha Coakley, and often gains a measure of respect thereby : surely the Forum attendees, most of whom will vote in the coming caucuses, understand that Grossman is climbing the mountain, not paragliding onto it. Yet the impulse to high-minded wish lists runs strong in the souls of our Democratic activists; strong enough that Grossman, even if he becomes the Democratic nominee, will be forced to divide his campaign between talking dreams and picking priorities. Baker right now faces no such division. His party’s angry philosophers have been put to bed, freeing him to focus on a do list that the Speaker can agree with and which thus can actually be enacted into state law. That’s a winning message in a Governor election.

Especially with do-nothing gridlock gripping Washington so completely, voters want state government to get good stuff done. Baker has beaten Steve Gossman to the get-good-stuff-done milepost.

—- Mike Freedberg / here and Sphere

#MAGOV : THE FIGHT FOR CONTROL OF THE BAKER CAMPAIGN

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^ Charlie Baker 2013 : taking it to real people in the real world

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GOP Governor hopeful Charlie Baker tweeted at 9:55 AM this morning :

“Visiting the team at the Dimock Center to discuss health and social service issues with one of Boston’s top provider groups.”

With that tweet — the first, since the campaign began, that i have seen in which he addresses health issues, and in Boston, no less — Baker pretty much said to the GOP right-wing “Game On !”

Baker does face a fight from the Right. He faced one, as Governor nominee, in 2010 too : but then, the GOP had a Senator, Scott Brown, who wielded his power to tamp down that year’s  Tea candidate, with complete success. This time there is no Senator Scott Brown in office, and the GOP right-wing looks far stronger. Its candidate in the Special Senate election, Michael Sullivan, won 33 % of the vote in the GOP Primary. Today’s Right uses all the social media linkages. A new pressure group,” Mass Fiscal Alliance,” is importing the Cato Institute’s anti-social safety net propaganda — devious stuff — into the boil.  The Right has also spurred a ballot referendum called “Tank the Tax,” collecting well more than the 68,000-odd voter signatures needed to be printed on the 2014 state ballot. This effort expanded the right wing’s reach beyond the Michael Sullivan voters into the 15 % vote that libertarian-ish Dan Winslow won at that Senate primary and even into the 51 % garnered by non-ideological Gabriel Gomez.

Baker’s challenge has steepened in the past week thanks to two developments : ( a ) one Max Fisher, a Tea Party member from Worcester County — ground zero for right-wing doom-saying in Massachusetts — announced his candidacy for Governor and ( b ) Karyn Polito, also of Worcester County, and a former State Representative, announced her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.  Fisher’s candidacy doesn’t scare a whole lot, but Polito’s does. She was a Sullivan supporter and — so reports today’s Boston Globe — spoke at a right-wing event honoring one Allen West, whom some may remember as an outspokenly hateful one-term Florida Congressman. West is a hero to the folks who sling the word “patriot” around as if mouthing a phrase with seven bleepable letters. That Polito would even be in the same county as such a man, much less speak in  his honor, casts a pall upon the GOP’s Governor prospects, already damaged in Massachusetts by the contemptuous 2012 Presidential campaign and all but poisoned by the recent government shut down.

Yet now, on the very morning of the Boston Globe article entitled “Running Mate Issue Gets Thornier for Baker,” Baker tweets about health care and social service ! It caught my attention, and it should catch yours. Either he sees Polito as his shield against the angry right, freeing him to discuss issues that matter to the vast majority of voters, or he is sending the right — and Polito — a message that he will not be intimidated, will in fact move aggressively away from right-ism and make IT his bogey man, as it already is for most Massachusetts voters.

We will soon find out which of the two courses Baker has chosen. Meanwhile, the fight is on, as anyone following Worcester County Tea-publican’s facebook threads and anti-Obama tempests should know.  The right has its guns locked and loaded, and how ! It is itching to win one… As accomodative Republicans mix on the same floor as power-groupies and the Right wing contempt machine, the Massaachusetts GOP convention of March 22nd should be a barn-burner.

It may come down to the supporters of state Representative Geoff Diehl, of Plymouth County. Though Diehl has got aboard the “Tank the Tax” referendum drive, to great effect, I sense that his instincts favor the reasonable side. He proclaims himself a “Charles Sumner Republican” in a context strongly advocat-ive of civil rights for all, including voting rights — the original GOP message. My guess is that at the Convention, Diehl’s supporters find an alternative Lieutenant Governor nominee to Polito; and by all means they go with Baker, not Max Fisher. The Republicans of Plymouth and Norfolk Counties are not Worcester Tea guns. My sense is that they congratulate Charlie Baker speaking to Boston area voters. I also sense that Baker sees these South Shore Republicans the same way that I do. Baker has tweeted his outreach to all voters, in social settings, as well as to business groups and innovators, who he addresses no differently from how Democrats Steve Grossman and Don Berwick speak.

We might even see more of Baker out and about in Boston. Meets and greets, perhaps. Wouldn’t that be something ? Baker of course wants to steer clear of the ballot referenda. He wants not to become the grinch of welfare “reform.” He does not want to be talking “2nd Amendment.” Would you ?

No, Baker wants to talk innovation, health care, empowerment for immigrants, school reform, the huge numbers of homeless that the State now houses;  transportation improvements — all the issues that matter to most Massachusetts voters. He wants to move Massachusetts forward, not backward. The question is, will be allow himself to do that ?

We will soon find out what Baker is thinking — I may well have it wrong. In any case, don’t count out Geoff Diehl. His is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

ALIVE, BUT ALSO DEAD : TODAY’S GOP


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^ Chris Christie : a Fiorello LaGuardia for the 21st Century ?

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Folks in today’s GOP think it’s very much alive, indeed is the wave of the future. Observers OUTSIDE the GOP think it’s very much dead, the voice of the past, grim and gone.

They’re both right. Here’s why.

A political party is its people, its rank and file and its big voices. Today’s GOP has major big voices that span almost the entire horizon of American governance :

—- There is Chris Christie, voice of the Northeast, populist, even progressive, Fiorello LaGuardia wing of the GOP, to which this writer belongs (Christie even looks and speaks like LaGuardia).

—- There’s Jeb Bush, son and brother of Presidents, voice of the expansionist, immigrant-welcoming vision of growth and opportunity — a Teddy Roosevelt without T.R.’s Anglo-Saxon bias.

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^ Jeb bush : welcoming immigrants as a boon to our economy and the rescue of Social security

—- In the Senate, there’s Rand Paul (KY), voice of “libertarian” agendas, with one foot in the camp of radical freedom / isolation, and his other in nativism and gun-brandishing kookery

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^ Rand Paul : most influential libertarian voice in decades

—- also in the Senate, there’s John McCain : internationalist, reformer — including progressive banking and campaign finance reform — top voice of our war veterans and the avatar of bi-partisan agreements, with his two most effective allies, Lindsey Graham (SC) and Bob Corker (TN).

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^ Tennessee’s Bob Corker : shrewd and willing to experiment

—- add yet another Senator, Marco Rubio (FL), who is trying to be all things to all people: a plan that rarely works but which at least acknowledges that all people are entitled to be listened to and responded to

—- and the Tea Party, anti-government to the max, and “Christian” social conservatives, strong in the South and Mississippi valley: think Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and a bunch of other guv’nors and legislators whose names we seldom hear up Nawth but who are wreaking Armageddon on the social progress of numerous states.

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^ Tea Party ; frustration is a dead end politics

Life, there most definitely is, on the GOP side. Unfortunately, there is also death there. The GOP rank and file includes almost no people of color, few who live alternative lifestyles, and not very many Hispanics. Walk through any important American city — state capitols especially — and you will see everybody that the GOP is not. The GOP holds sway in America’s back country, including the most outlying exurbs of big cities — people — almost all White — who see themselves losing ground, economically and culturally, to city people. This is not a misperception. They are losing ground. And the people to whom they are losing ground — the highly educated, the technology whizzes — today live, work, and shop in center cities and have remarkably remade almost all of these.

The GOP is, to a large degree, the party of America’s have-nots and excludeds. Few GOP’ers belong to the underclass or the working poor, but of those whose incomes rank just above the minimum — who work at tasks increasingly unrewarded by the technology economy — the GOP claims a majority. Curiously, the same is true of their bosses. The executives of technology companies overwhelmingly support the Democrats, but the folks who own and manage enterprises staffed by slightly above minimum-wage workers identify just as GOP as their workers do. As for minimum wage enterprises, the more minimum the wages paid to its workers, the more GOP does the management of such companies identify.

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^ Chick-a-fil CEO : fast food GOP

This is, economically, a culture of death. No one wants to live as a minimum wage employee subject to termination at any moment, without health insurance or benefits of any kind. No business that engages workers on that basis can ever rest easy that it will not be undercut by a competitor yet more ruthless. Workers in this sort of economy cannot participate in it. They can barely pay the essentials — indeed often require food stamps and other public assistance just to get by. A just-get-by family cannot buy anything discretionary ; and it is the discretionary economy that grows itself, that increases the nation’s prosperity and builds us a future.

This death would not be so dead if it embraced people of color, immigrants, and those of alternative lifestyle living and working in similar conditions. But it does not embrace them. It sees them as the cause of the death culture that has come upon them. Thus to death is added isolation, a kind of cultural solitary confinement.

The GOP needs badly to shake itself free of this culture of death; to deconstruct it entirely and rebuild entirely anew the lives of those now trapped in it. So far, however, the party’s only answer to this death trip is that of Texas’s Ted Cruz and Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan: an “opportunity fantasy.” As Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) just recently, in committee hearing, pointed out, this fantasy isn’t real. In it, everybody is on his own — no social safety net of any kind because that breeds laziness, say Cruz and Ryan — pursuing a kind of multi-level marketing scheme in which, if you dream hard enough, you will pyramid your dreams into acres of diamonds. This might work for a lucky, early few; for the future-less millions of us, it’s just another brick in the wall of being lied to.

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^ Ted Cruz : a male Mary Kay Ash ?

It is hard to be alive when much of you is dead. The GOP has plenty of life in it, at the leader level. Whether those leaders will have more alive followers than they have now depends on their ability to cast off the deadness. By 2016 we will know if any of them has succeeded.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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^ NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia ; when the GOP was the voice of big multitudinous cities

PRESIDENT, 2016 ; EARLY POLLS ALL FAVOR CLINTON and CHRISTIE

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^ Hillary Clinton : beats all opponents

McClatchy Newspapers and Marist have just published a full poll of the Presidential race. It shows that Hillary Clinton beats all challengers, most by double digits:

Clinton v. Chris Christie : Clinton 47 Christie 41
Clinton v. Jeb Bush : Clinton 48, Bush 40
Clinton v. Marco Rubio : Clinton 50, Rubio 38
Clinton v. Rand Paul ; Clinton 50, Rand Paul 38
Clinton v. Paul Ryan : Clinton 53, Ryan 37
Clinton v. Rick Perry ; Clinton 52, Perry 36.

as for the Dem primary, it’s Clinton 63, Biden 13, Cuomo 6.

This poll mirrors those already released by Quinnipiac University and Public Policy polling (PPP). Those polls show Clinton carrying Virginia against all comers and doing the same in iowa and Ohio except against Chris Christie, who ties her in those two states. Clearly, Hillary Clinton right now is the clear favorite to become our next President — If she runs.

Moreover, her huge numbers over Vice President Joe Biden, in the Democratic Primary, make clear that voters do NOT see Hillary as a continuation of the Obama Presidency. Indeed, it appears that they see Hillary as the opposite of him. this is bad news for those GOP pundits who want to assert that after eight years of Obama, it is time for a change. Hillary Clinton IS that change — at least she is how voters see it.

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^ Chris Christie : competitive against Clinton and favored by GOP voters

We have also been opining that the above results guaranteed that neither Christie nor Jeb Bush will get the GOP nomination. After all, they run competitively. And to the GOP base, being competitive with a Democrat means compromising with the unthinkable. But the McClatchy/Marist poll of Republican Primary voters indicates that we were wrong. It looks now as though we were wrong. Tea Party loudmouths, fake God preachers, and Tea-district Congressmen may view compromise with Democrats as anathema, but GOP Primary voters appear to favor Chris Christie, whose career has symbolized GOP-Democrat co-operation and mutual respect.

Here is the McClatchy/Marist GOP primary result :

Christie 15
Ryan 13
Rubio 12
Paul 9
Bush 9
Cruz 7

To the GOP loudmouths and haters, Christie is “dead to me.” that is how they talk of him. But to the GOP’s voters, Christie is more alive than any of the other hopefuls, several of whom look rather much like “dead.”

Maybe Chris Christie can do it — win the 2016 GOP nomination. If so, the GOP will be at least useful again to most people — an instrument of policy, not venom.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE GOP DESCENDS TO OBSTACLE STATUS

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^ New Hampshire State Senate leader Jeb Bradley (R), point man on blocking 58,000 NH residents from Medicaid insurance coverage.

It is one thing for a political party to disagree with the policies of the party opposite. It is another thing entirely for a political party to offer nothing to voters but obstacles.

News comes this morning that in New Hampshire, a state that borders on Here and Sphere’s home state of Massachusetts, the GOP majority in that state’s legislature is blocking New Hampshire from implementing the Affordable Health Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Specifically, the GOP legislature is blocking 58,000 currently uninsured New Hampshire residents from joining the 137,000 already receiving Medicaid insurance coverage.

It stuns us that a political party in a democracy, whose prospects depend on the good opinion of voters, would think it had anything to gain by blocking 58,000 uninsured people from obtaining health insurance and thus improving their health. Never mind that to deny people access to proper health care is unconscionable, immoral; does it not make economic sense for people to live healthier lives and thus miss less days of work on account of illness ? Or perhaps become able to work at all ? What conceivable policy objective is gained by blocking this outcome ?

Unhappily, the New Hampshire GOP legislature’s refusal is no unique event. Since September 2008, when the GOP-controlled House tried to block President Bush’s TARP Program — which prevented the collapse of our entire economy — the national GOP, with few exceptions (Chris Christie, Jeb bush, and John McCain especially) has become merely an obstacle. “Block this, stop that.” Stop America from moving ahead. Every act, almost every speech, that the current GOP has made or said defies us : “We will stop you, people, from doing anything to improve your lives.”

NO to sensible gun control legislation. No to pursuong unibversal hrealth care insurance. No to ther food stamp program by which millions of us love. no to women’s pay equity. No to the Treaty on Disabilities. No to President Obama’s nominations to Federal Courts and Federal Agencies. No to immigration reform. No to reforming “stand your ground” laws. No to Voting Rights updates.

No, no, no.

The Federal government ? No to it, too.

Yes only to putting governement into your vagina and into your sex life.

As we said : this is not a policy agenda. This is an obstacle merely. This is contempt, for you and for us.

It has happened in America before, and every time a political party has retreated to obstacle status, it has meant pain and suffering to millions of Americans.

It happened in the 1840s and 1850s, when slavery was the obstacle. It took a Civil War and 750,000 deaths to unblock that one.

It happened in the 1920s, when business tycoons and their political mouths blocked anti-union legislation; and again in the 1930s when a reluctant Supreme Court blocked FDR’s New deal reforms.

It happened from 1880 to the 1960s, when Southern Democrats blocked all attempts to making lynching a Federal ctime and to accord Black Americans the voting rights and other civil rights that we thought that the grievous Civil War had won.

It took almost 85 years of injustice, torture, killing, and intimidation before finally that block was removed.

How long will it take America to remove the many blocks set up by the current GOP ? How many Americans will suffer and even die because ? Only time will tell. Hopefully it will not take almost a century to remove the block THIS time.

Meanwhile, 58,000 New Hampshire residents wait for health care insurance and the healthier, more fruitful life that we all want.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere