^ tantrums, attacks, and back look : Steve Grossman loses his grooming

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The Democratic party of Massachusetts seems determined to degrade this election — thus to discredit itself : because a party whose first response is to demonize its opponents is unfit to govern, unprepared for citizenship.

I had thought, until recently, that Steve Grossman was the class of the Democratic #magov14 field. My opinion began to shift when i saw him attack Martha Coakley at candidate Forums; attack and disrespect her. On his own his always fully groomed answer to every question had begun to annoy me : was he human or just a policy bot with bryl creem ? Then came the tantrums, the childishness.

And then came the attack on Charlie Baker, the GOP nominee, an attack outrageous in its overkill : Grossman attacked Baker for throwing transgender rights under the bus during the 2010 campaign,

Huh ?

Dear Mr. Grossman :

This is 2014. Four years ago, Baker handled transgender rights very wrongly, indeed handled much of his campaign wrongly. And he lost thereby. But that was then. Baker has run an entirely different campaign this time, one full of optimism, outreach, and progress; a campaign focused on technology reform of government — much needed, as the failure of our health connector makes painfully clear.

Baker’s running a campaign, quite frankly, a heckuva lot more innovative than yours.

If you want to challenge Baker, challenge his policy plans, not his past errors. But so far you haven’t done that. Is it because he might be right and you cannot accept that ? Frankly, I liked you better as a bryl-creemed policy bot.

Meanwhile, Mr. Grossman, two of your opponents, Juliette Kayyem and Don Berwick, are out there making forward policy proposals, running on optimism and grace and not on demagoguing opponents.


^ meeting the voters where they work : Juliette Kayyem at an East Boston T stop

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^ serious, if, for the time being, somewhat unrealistic, policy proposals : Don Berwick explains.

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^ street and meet, greet and tweet : Charlie Baker in Braintree two days ago

There are enough failures of administration in State government right now to make serious reform crucial. Don Berwick has been unafraid to address these failures in detail. Where has Steve Grossman been ? So far I haven’t heard much. attacking baker for events of four years ago is a distraction, not a solution.

Hopefully Massachusetts voters will reject the current Grossman approach — one mirrored by other Democratic campaigns going on in Massachusetts right now — in favor of the Berwick and Kayyem approach. Let this be a campaign of ideas and competence, not one of who can throw the stinkiest mudpie. And if running a campaign that enhances the public’s respect for our election process brings us a Republican governor, so be it. Because this campaign should NOT be about Steve Grossman or Don Berwick — or about Charlie Baker. It should be about Massachusetts gaining the best potential Governor, not the last card left undiscarded.

—- Mike freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ best at the Enviro-Forum and emerging as quite practical too : Don Berwick

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The iconic Speakers’ Hall at Boston’s Faneuil Hall hosted a good 500 environmental issues citizens at a candidates Forum earlier today. All five Democratic candidates participated; Charlie Baker did not; but yesterday he announced that he too was taking the Forum’s “1 % pledge” to dedicate at that much of every year’s State budget to what the Forum calls “environmental justice.”.

Moderating the Forum were the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson and former Romney administration official Douglas Hoy. Each asked hard questions, as the advance fliers for the Forum promised. Unhappily, it was hard to hear what they were asking. Foy spoke as if at a dinner table. Nor were all of the candidates’ answers audible.

Nonetheless, what I did hear left a sufficient impression.

For every single question, Treasurer Steve Grossman had ready a well prepared answer, almost too well prepared. Even when answering the Forum’s last question — which Derrick Jackson said was a throwaway — of water issues, Grossman spoke a full brief  on what he would do to safeguard the state’s water supply, delivered as rigidly as a water pump whose attendant had flicked the “on” switch.


Steve Grossman : needs to tone it down a few hundred pegs

Juliette Kayyem continues to converse at length, as if presenting a suggestion at a think tank symposium, rather than say “this is what I will do as Governor.” (One exception : she will oppose the ballot initiative that would repeal gas tax indexing.)

Joe Avellone continued to emerge from his very grey personality and to get usefully specific on several topics, including the gas tax, carbon tax, and the state’s “20,000 gas leaks,” as he was the one to point out, ending with “fix the gas leaks !” Even then, however, he sounded more the local town official he once was than a Governor evoking the big picture.

Martha Coakley attuned better to the questioners’ intentions than at prior Forums. She gave the best answer on Jackson’s “fish versus fishermen” question and often played The Flexible Thoughtful One, against Steve Grossman’s Mr Know It All. She also made clear that she was not about to commit, on the spot, to the Forum’s many yes or no pledges.

Don Berwick gave the best answers to most of the Forum’s questions and showed that, while he is the Democrats’ purest progressive, he is not just a dreamer. Alone of the five he said that no, he would NOT divest the State’s investment money from corporations not environmentally green. And why ? His answer was as smart as it was obvious: “I’d rather continue to be a shareholder and work to change corporate policy from within.” Berwick made the other four look spineless.

The Forum wamted everything. It wanted wind power, a carbon tax, fish over fishermen, conservation of land, of forest, and of water; it wanted fossil fuel usage cut back. It wanted alternatives to cars. And, as usual with groups that want everything, it looked selfish, and it was good to see some of the candidates — even Steve Grossman, who rejected cutting the gas tax because “we need it to do our transportation work” — sometimes say no. Particularly embarrassing were the candidates’ jellyfish answers to “what have you personally done to lower the carbon footprint” or “what was your most recent recreational activity.” I so wanted one of the five to announce, “my most recent recreational activity ? I drove a stock car at a NASCAR race !”

That said, the Forum left me far more uncertain than I had been of which Democrat is actually likely to be an effective Governor. My opinion had been Steve Grossman; but I am beginning to tire of his overly prepared advocacy. Can he not just once grope for an answer, or say, I will have to think about it ? Is he really just Governor Bot ? I have found Martha Coakley to be snarky, but today, after listening all Forum long to Governor Bot, she sounded remedially human in comparison. And as the two Democratic biggies made no secret of differing sharply with each other, personally as well on policy, I found myself on Coakley’s side troublingly often. As for the others, I am frustrated still. I would love say Juliette Kayyem is it : she is THAT stunningly chic and charismatic. But her persona is so much the think tank participant, almost never I Am The Leader. She should plug into some of whatever Steve Grossman is bot-ing.


^ one on one is Juliette Kayyem’s forte’

This leaves Joe Avellone, who simply lacks the bigness of vision for this race, and Don Berwick, who has hitched his lucky star to several pie in the sky adventures — no casinos, single payer health insurance, a graduated income tax — that won’t happen and, except for single payer, probably shouldn’t. Yet Berwick showed at this Forum — and has, at times, at others — that he can be very smoothly practical when he has to be. I have imagined the Big Dogs of the legislature laughing Don Berwick off, as they let him talk and then do what they were going to do anyway — because they, not the Governor, have the power. After toady, I think Don Berwick just might be able to play cards with them — even win a few games.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ huge SEIU candidates Forum last Saturday that Charlie Baker by-passed despite “repeated invitations sent,’ the SEIU program painfully  made known.

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Hard on the heels of last Saturday’s hugely attended SEIU Forum on the “low wage worker crisis” comes a Governor Candidate Forum at Faneuil hall this Friday. It begins at noon. The subjects this time are Energy, the Environment, and the Innovation Economy.

You would think that GOP leader Charlie Baker would want to be on stage at Faneuil hall. Its topics are his bread and butter. 28 citizen organizations are sponsoring the Forum. How can a serious candidate for Governor decline to participate ? As Baker also declined the SEIU Forum ? I ask the question rhetorically, because Baker has indeed declined both.

This is what one would expect of the rejectionist GOP, the Tea Party that looks upon Massachusetts’s broad and diverse citizenry as an enemy.

Baker isn’t Tea Party at all. Just the opposite. So what gives ? His apologists say that he is visiting people and neighborhoods everywhere; fine and good; but that is what Scott Brown did for his entire three years as our Senator, and it didn’t get him re-elected.

As I see it, by not participating in an issues Forum set up by citizen organizations that expend much time and money to make them happen, you send a message entirely negative, a disrespect for citizens who care, as well as for the issues that they care about. We’re not talking gun nuts here, or rabid anti-taxers. We’re talking citizen reform — core of what the Massachusetts GOP has always been best at.

Skipping out of such events is the wrong thing to do. It makes me question the seriousness of Charlie Baker’s candidacy.

That Baker has the GOP convention on tap this Saturday is no excuse. His nomination is assured, and it could only enhance his candidacy to speak sharply on the issues at very public Forums widespread reported in the media.

Had Baker a huge money advantage, a case could be made that he is the people’s choice already and needn’t participate in Forums where his candidacy might find itself challenged. I think this a wrong argument, because why shouldn’t his candidacy be challenged ? if Baker cannot respond to challenges — many of them — on a face to face basis, he shouldn’t be running. In any case, he does not hold a vast money lead. The six candidates — the five Democrats and Charlie Baker — reported the following donations, expenses, and ending balance for the month of February :

Charlie Baker

beginning 562,808.84
receipts 209,425.05
expenses 184,735.99
ending bal 587,497.90

Steve Grossman

beginning 1,048,299.70
receipts 91,091.67
expenses 129,780.51
ending bal 1,003,619.86

Martha Coakley

beginning 494,328.43
receipts 184,245.04
expenses 175,951.68
ending bal 502,619.79

Juliette kayyem

beginning 160,119.47
receipts 65,038.58
expenses 108.454.20
ending bal 116,701.85

Don Berwick

beginning 174,376.01
receipts 116,670.06
expenses 139,326.80
ending bal 151,819.27

Joe Avellone

beginning 142,166.73
receipts 14,718.37
expenses 35,512.55
ending bal 121,372.55

Charlie Baker raised more money than anyone in February, but not by much more than Don Berwick, and his money on hand pales in comparison to what Steve Grossman — the clear Democratic caucus winner — commands. Baker barely has more money than Martha Coakley, whose fundraising in February picked up significantly.

Baker’s donations also arise from the usual sources ; CEO’s, high powered lawyers and developers, and residents of old-line GOP towns like Boxford, Hamilton, and communities in the Mid-Cape (Cod). In his February list I couldn’t find even one donor from Baker’s home town of Swampscott. It’s possible that I missed one; but there sure weren’t many. It’s possible, too, that big name Governor GOP donors already maxed out ($ 500 per year per person) in January; I hope so, because I saw very few such on Baker’s February list.

Meanwhile, donors to the five Democrats span pretty much the entirety of diverse Massachusetts, including even CEOs. Massachusetts works best when we pair an innovative GOP Governor with an institutional boss, Democratic House Speaker. But to get that pairing, Baker will have to step it up and be BOLD. He has been a leader on many issues this time around — look at his support for the Minimum wage hike, contrary to GOP orthodoxy — but as i see it, he needs to be bold on everything. And bolder.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : The Boston Globe today opines that Charlie baker will get more than enough delegates to keep his Tea Party rival off the Primary ballot. this has been my view for at least the last ten days. It makes me all the more bewildered why Baker has avoided attending and speaking at major Citizen Forums. Is he afraid that if he does, the anti-everything GOP that he has spent the last three years buying off will rise up and snarl ?



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^ the Forum Five (photo courtesy of Chris Condon of SEIU local 509)

Since I last saw the Democratic Five at a candidates’ Forum — about six weeks ago — all have sharpened their profiles considerably. On stage at the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) candidates Forum today, there was lots of specifics, even some debate, and only a touch or two of the vague.

Specific, the five needed to be today. The SEIU’s members do the campaign grunt work and they have an agenda that they insist upon — and which they’ve proven, time and time again, they have the muscle to see enacted. Every one of the five badly wanted the SEIU endorsement. They want its game-on. They need it, and they made their need plain to the gathered attendees — at least 500 strong, a massive showing on a Saturday morning.

In return, SEIU members know which candidates have a chance to win the race and which ones probably don’t. So how did the five do ?


First, Steve Grossman.

Grossman reminded the gathering — maybe too many times — that they had endorsed him before, and he had always kept his promises and “stood with” them on strike lines and issues fights. He gave voice to more specific agenda items than any of his rivals — policy points are his great strength. But he missed the point of one question — about restoring rights to ex convicts : the right the questioner wanted to hear about was voting right restoration — and, addressing the minimum wage, he said that “I will veto any minimum wage bill that includes an unemployment insurance give-back !” As this give-back is Speaker Robert DeLeo’s price for supporting the minimum wage hike, Grossman opened up the door to a running fight with the Speaker — who, like his predecessor during the entirety of Deval Patrick’s two Governor terms has proven that the Speaker always wins such fights. And that any Governor who fights him comes away weakened. Grossman either is just blowing smoke here, or he has ceded the entire minimum wage issue to Charlie Baker, the almost certain GOP nominee, who has said — no ifs ands or buts — that he accepts Speaker DeLeo’s give-back and can thus get the $ 11.00 per hour minimum wage hike enacted. (Baker has also made the issue of expanding the earned income tax credit his own, and it was interesting to see that at least two of the candidates, Coakley and Avellone, mentioned expanding earned income credits. Two months ago, no Democrat at Forums mentioned it at all.)


Second, Martha Coakley.

Coakley campaigns with a light touch and an eyes-up grin that often feels snarky. She took a middle route at the Forum : not endorsing driver’s licenses for undocumented people, refusing to grant bargaining rights point-blank to public defender lawyers, sliding away from Don Berwick’s single payer health insurance call. Coakley played careful lawyer : she made clear that she agrees with SEIU’s wage hike and immigrant rights agenda, but maybe not on as all-in a basis as SEIU would like to see. Coakley spoke personally about mental health issues, and with real life stories about income equality; and before the Forum began she posed for many pictures with SEIU’ers who smiled like crazy to be photographed with her. She even said “we have to improve the economy for everybody.”


Third, Juliette Kayyem.

Kayyem continues to converse at times, in a Forum setting where conversation wanders off message. But she has become much, much more forensic in her approach; at SEIU she made big, clear points addressing criminal justice reform; she rejected Don Berwick’s single payer call, saying “even if it can be done, it can’t happen until 2018. we need a Governor for right now.” Obviously, Kayyem has realized that sweetness and glamour — which she owns in this race — must bring toughness and advocacy aboard. Yet the generalities continue. She said “Massachusetts has done well but we can do better.” Better how ? She posed an actual plan: “three points…Save, share, and grow. save money in criminal justice spending. share it by setting up a ‘green bank.’ Grow by investing in education and comprehensive immigration reform.”

Kayyem stressed her immigrant roots; that she’s a mother and wife; and — taking full advantage of being two decades younger than her rivals — that she is “the young generation ready to govern.”


Fourth, Don Berwick.

Berwick has no peer when discussion turns to health care. If he were running for Massachusetts Commissioner of Health and Welfare, he’d win by acclamation. He decries our state’s health care failings — its waste, high cost, inequities — as rigorously as Baker is likely to do. Berwick also speaks to income inequity and the “low wage crisis,” as SEIU’s Forum hosts put it, as passionately as anyone, maybe more. But Berwick overshoots the progressive mark. His solution to the health care system’s failings is single payer — a worthy idea, but it isn’t going to happen soon, and as Kayyem said back at him, “we are electing a Governor for now.” Berwick also seeks a graduated income tax (though he didn’t call it that), an idea that Massachusetts voters quite a while ago rejected in two separate referendums and which would hardly entice to our State the businesses which every Forum candidate, Berwick included, say that Massachusetts needs.


Lastly, Joe Avellone.

Avellone speaks authoritatively about the state’s drug abuse crisis, about recovery and re-entry, and about CORI reform. nd like all the Forum candidates, he supports raising the minimum wage and protection of low-wage workers’ bargaining tights, including extending them to hospital workers who don’t know have that right. Still, Avellone barely seems a possible Governor rather than what he has been, a town selectman. At no place in the Forum did he address the big picture, the massive responsibility sphere that we entrust to the state’s Governor. The Big Dogs of the Legislature would eat Avellone for lunch. So might the State House lobbyists. Avellone made some friends at the Forum; I doubt he won many members’ endorsement.

It was too bad that Charlie Baker wasn’t at the Forum. He had a delegate rally of his own to attend, in Saugus; and the GOP convention takes place next weekend. Still, an opportunity was missed. Baker could have addressed the health care issue authoritatively; the minimum wage and earned income credit; criminal justice reform; homelessness; schools reform; and jobs and innovation — even bargaining rights. It would have been an opportunity to expand his personal reach where a reformist candidate needs be : directly into the most important front of the labor movement, the fight against low-wage situations and all the burdens that low wage work puts on workers and taxpayers alike.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



The photo above is not a meme. It’s real. Governor hopeful Juliette Kayyem claims to have won the second largest number of committed delegates as selected by the party’s caucuses, which have now finished.

This would be huge news if it’s a true count. The truth of it is diminished somewhat, however, by the number of uncommitted delegates chosen. In Kayyem’s photo, “uncommitted” is not listed. Many uncommitteds were chosen in the immediate Boston area, and many of these are said to be actually Martha Coakley votes. Maybe what’s being said isn’t so, but the number of uncommitted delegates is not small. A spokesman for the Kayyem campiagn says the uncommitteds total about 50% of all delegates elected.

But to say it again : Kayyem having more committed delegates than Martha Coakley is big news. Coakley leads all public polls of the Democratic nomination; she’s a sitting Attorney General with an heroic record using that office to fight predatory mortgage lenders, whereas Kayyem holds no office at all.

Coakley’s troubles with the activists in her party are well attested. Some of it began with her dispiriting campaign and loss of a US Senate seat to Scott Brown. Coakley continues to be “unexciting” (as one Newton caucus goer called her), on stage in Forums, an under-exposed photograph, and almost as wan in the fund-raising game. And there are many who have not forgotten Coakley’s handling of the Amirault family, Fells Acres day care scandal, or her over-charging prosecution of former State Treasurer Tim Cahill.

Hardly any activist wants to see Coakley as Governor.

Will activists’ dislike of Coakley translate to her losing the Democratic Primary ? That question will be answered if Kayyem wins the 15 percent of delegates needed for the ballot. Everybody agrees that Steve Grossamn has by far the largest number of committed dekegates and that, barring an ambhush, he will win the Democratic convention’s nomination. In the Primary, however, he now polls far, far behind Coakley. Winning the convention’s Ok will bump his poll numbers a lot. Having Kayyem on the ballot will, Grossman must think, cut Coakley’s primary vote still more.

Will Coakley fail to get to 15 oercent of the convention vote ? The answer has to be : she’ll make the cut easily. Those uncommitted votes may not all be hers, but many of them are. Not being Grossman votres, whose can they be but Coakley’s ?

By no means has Kayyem yet made the 15 pecent cut. second place in committed delegates she may have — more even than coakley; but the convention includes many delegates not elected at the caucuses. Might many of these by-pass both Attorney General Coakley and Treasurer Grossman, to plunk for Kayyem (or Berwick) ? It isn’t enough for Kayyem to win 15 peecent or more of the caucused delagres; she has to win 900 votes — 15 percent of the entire body of 6,000 delegates. When I called for a number, Kayyem’s campaign wouldn’t put a figure on her second pla ce claim. It probably doesn’t total 900.

Her task is still a hard one.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Newton ward 2 caucus : idealists For Don Berwick, realists for Steve Grossman

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It’s hard to dig any message out of the five-candidate-for-Governor, Democratic caucuses that were held during the past month. Only after a full month of sitting in at about eight of those caucuses has a meaning become even hypothetically true, and it’s a cliched one : the Massachusetts Democratic party is split between idealists and realists. Or if you prefer, radicals and centrists.

This sort of division has ruled Massachusetts Democratic actives at least since John Silber, then Scott Harshbarger, then Shannon O’Brien, became the party’s nominees for Governor. Deval Patrick’s winning the 2006 Democratic nomination confirmed it. Yet in each of those cases, going back to 1990, the Democratic winner differed — in some cases sharply — about policy initiatives already contentious within the legislative calendar. This time the gulf between Democratic realists and idealists has widened. It was much in evidence at the City of Newton caucuses yesterday, where delegate candidates pledged to the quintessentially realistic Steve Grossman barely edged out delegate hopefuls pledged to this year’s idealist of idealists, Don Berwick.


^ realistically idealistic : Steve Grossman at the Boston ward 3 caucus

Both men live in Newton, and between them they claimed the entire prize of almost 100 delegates. There wasn’t much sentiment for Juliette Kayyem at the Ward caucus that I sat in on (Ward 2) and none at all for Martha Coakley or Joe Avellone. Home town strength mattered, but it wasn’t the major fact. Of this campaign, Steve Grossman epitomizes realism, Berwick the radical. Kayyem has been a candidate of glamor and nuance : but nuance doesn’t seem to cut it. She’s made scant mark on any of the caucuses I have attended, yesterday’s included. at every caucus she has her team, wearing “I am for Kayyem’ T shirts” (whose grey base contrasts meaningfully with the bold white backing dark blue of Team Berwick); but Kayyem’s team gatherings seem, at leat at the caucuses I’ve sat through, unable to translate enthusiasm into numbers. As for Joe Avellone, he doesn’t even bring a team, much less win a delegate (tough news reports have him winning quite a few out by Worcester County).


^ realistic outsider : Joe Avellone at Boston ward 14 caucus

Avellone is particularly weakened by being a candidate of realism who is also an outsider. This doesn’t work. A candidate cannot be persuasively realistic unless he or she is very much an insider. realistic goals presume the clout to get them done. Outsiders lack that. an outsider must be an idealist; must represent those who want the insider game shaken up. This, Don Berwick — or his helmsman –understands. He advocates all the wish-list that burns tyger-brightly (as William Blake once spelt it) in the night forests of Democratic progressives’ dreams : single payer health care, graduated income tax, green energy funding, sentencing reform, higher taxes to pay for transportation and infrastructure. He insists on them all; and the Democrats of idealist bent have responded. as recently as a month ago I thought that Juliette Kayyem, not Berwick, would be the third Democratic Governor hopeful to win the necessary fifteen percent of delegates or see her campaign end. Today I think it’ll be Berwick.


^ nuance and glamour may not work : Juliette Kayyem addresses Newton Governor Fum

Kayyem might have easily taken the route that Berwick took. She would have trounced him had she done so. Kayyem has charisma galore and is stunningly beautiful : if you meet her and don’;t rmemeber it vividly, physically, you’re a zombie. But Kayyem seems to have played her resume both ways : Obama administration,. Homeland security official, and thus an insider who should be realistic; but also outsider — having never run for anything elective — who gets the progressive agenda. Gets it, but doesn’t necessarily advocate it; certainly not in the all-in, progressive or bust gambol that berwick has winged. Unhappily for Kayyem, it’s unconvincing for a novice candidate to present as competent and idealist. Even for someone already an office holder, it would be difficulty to be both, especially in this season, when voters disbelieve that office holders are competent and distrust that idealists really mean it. Thus the success of Grossman and Berwick : because Grossman has proven himself uniquely competent, and Berwick, as a doctor successful in private practice and government, has the health care issue credibly to himself as well as the bedside manner that we expect of a physician.

And what of Martha Coakley, whom the polls say is still the choice of most Democratic voters ? Among activists, at least, she is falling way short because she has already failed the competency test, as a candidate first of all, and seems to continue to fail it — her money intake lags badly as does her presentation at Forums. There she demonstrates that an idealist, she isn’t. On those issues where she takes uncompromising stands — abortion rights, a prime example — she seems to move by calculation, not conviction.

Coakley may well still win the Democratic Primary, though I doubt it. If Kayyem doesn’t make the fifteen percent, I do not see her supporters going to a candidate even more diffident than Kayyem and — as one caucus goer put it — “hardly exciting.” Some will go to Berwick; but i think most will move to Steve Grossman.

If Grossman becomes the Democratic nominee, he will face a Republican who does seem convincing both as an idealist and a realist. Idealist, because in today’s GOP — even in Massachusetts, where the party at Governor level remains progressive — it’s idealistic to support marriage equality, abortion rights, expanding the earned income credit, and raising the minimum wage to $ 11.00 an hour. realistic, because Baker accepts the unemployment insurance give-back that Speaker Robert DeLeo insists on as a condition of his bringing the minimum wage hike to a vote.


^ leader and voice of the Governor GOP party, one of two MA GOP Parties : Charlie Baker with st rep Jim Lyons of North Andover and (on bottom right) Monica Medeiros, candidate in the Fifth Middlesex Senate District


^ representing the “idealism” of the “left outs, the ignored” : Mark Fisher

It’s because Baker convinces both as idealist and realist that he will win his primary against a Tea Party opponent. Mark Fisher almost perfectly represents the idealist wing of today’s Massachusetts GOP. He goes as all-in on the Tea Party;s agenda as Don Berwick does on the Wish list of Progressives. Fisher rejects marriage equality, abortion rights, a minimum wage rise. Fisher dismisses undocumented immigrants as “illegals’ and promises to make life in Massachusetts as difficult for them as he can. Fisher bitterly brandishes “gun rights.” Indeed, Fisher — a classy guy one on one — projects, in his public pronouncements, an angry tone; he rocks his “salt of the earth, long ignored” voters as they rock themselves : angry to be ignored, lashing out at those who get the attention of officials who ignore them, pissed off at Turnpike toll takers, angry about taxes that they see being spent on Boston but not out where they live.

There is, in Fisher’s campaign, an idealism of sorts — he calls it “principles” — as off the table as Berwick’s; but what a toxic idealism it is ! Anger is not a policy, scapegoating people is not legislation, and opposition to marriage equality and women’s reproductive rights is anathema to a large majority of Massachusetts voters. Only within the State’s eleven percent who register GOP does Fisher’s “idealism” have legs. Just as the idealistic Berwick has won himself a significant activist following, so Fisher’s views comport with a significantly GOP activism.

Right-wing actives have captured the GOP State Committee; this we saw in last week’s 52 to 16 vote to adopt the “values voters” platform. But the views these people espouse, their wagons circled in redoubts of reaction like the so-called “Massachusetts Republican Assembly” — which blithely calls itself “the Republican wing of the Republican party” — no more command a majority of GOP voters than the progressivism of Don Berwick commands a majority of Democrats.

It would be unlikely to find a democratic activist as negative as Fisher’s left-outs. The Democratic party is Massachusetts’s governing party; no Democrat is a “left-out.” But our GOP, except on the Governor level, runs nothing.

In fact the gulf in our GOP between Fisher’s “left-outs” and Charlie Baker’s confident moderates derives directly from this split. In fact, the he Massachusetts GOP is nothing less than two entirely separate political parties : one, a Governor GOP party, dedicated to electing its Governor — a party to which a large majority of GOP voters belongs and whose followers do not see themselves as left out or ignored; and two, a “Grass roots” GOP, spearheaded by idealists who are indeed an interest left aside by an overwhelming State consensus on the issues these “grass roots’ actives care about.  care about. Statewide, the Grass roots GOP numbers barely five percent of all voters; but within the eleven percent registered as republicans they’re a significant number — polls say 39% of the GOP whole.

Not surprisingly, the Grass roots GOP dominates in those regions of the state most alienated from Boston, in which GOP registration (and like-minded “unenrolleds”) count a majority of all voters. Almost all the State’s 30 GOP legislators represent Grass Roots GOP communities. How could it be otherwise ? the Grass roots GOP’s stands on the issues make its election impossible in most Massachusetts areas, and in any case, the Governor GOP hasn’t much interest in winning legislative elections on its realist-suburb turf. It’s far readier to accept — and usually can count on — the support of Democratic legislative realists. Can’t do that if you’re running GOP candidates against them !

NOTE : it wasn’t always this way. During the period 1990 to 2006, when Massachusetts had four consecutive GOP Governors, the entire GOP grass roots was deployed on behalf of the Governor. But since 2006 the Governor has been a democrat. With the Governor GOP out of power, the grass roots GOP has been as left out and ignored as it claims to be, and its embrace of the politics of a minority had a certain practicality about it.

Though at what a price !

In the Democratic Party, the division between realists and idealists takes a very different shape, because both mindsets win elections and thus feel anything but ignored or left out. Their differences are those of a contract negotiation, both parties knowing that once a contract is agreed to, each side will have to carry it out; and are quite ready to do so because they’re already doing it.

It is good that Mark Fisher has arisen to give voice to the left-outs. If the rest of us take their anger, their bitterness, their disparagement of everything that “Boston” means to them — huge taxpayer dollars spent; public transit; enormous state government programs; social inclusion — indeed, celebration — of many lifestyles, languages, and immigrants of all conditions; bicycles and night life; rejection of gun culture; the Unions and high wages; devotion to quality of life issues — as seriously as they hate us, perhaps we can find a way to bring these voters back into the community we call “Massachusetts.” And perhaps not. We will probably never see Don Berwick’s single-payer health insurance adopted in Massachusetts, or his graduated income tax. Never might also be the timeline for Mark Fisher’s voters. And maybe that’s OK. After all, what’s an idealism good for if the realists can absorb it ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ the charm offensive has its limits : Juliette Kayyem meets caucus push back

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Not even two days had passed after Democratic governor hopeful Steve Grossman accused rival Martha Coakley of being vague in her commitment to civil liberties than, this morning, I found my twitter feed filled with attacks upon a third Democratic contestant : Juliette Kayyem. One tweet said “Charming Kayyem favors ‘assassination as an instrument of intelligence and law enforcement.” Another, from the same twitter source, said “Charming Kayyem leading panel to legalize Torture ‘we were a room full of people who think it works’.” A third tweet from said source — “Bostonnish” — said : “If Kayyem hadn’t led effort to concoct legal cover for Bush -Era torture use, she wouldn’t be a charming accomplice to torture.”

“Bostonnish” sent me two more tweets of a similar nature. These were sent to me, evidently, as a response to my own tweet “if @Juliettekayyem had an agenda aspecific as her personal charm is masterful, she’d charm Spkr DeLeo — & win the election.” I am , of course, flattered to find that my tweets merit attack by an opponent of the candidate I happen to mention. Yet that’s not all there is to this story. Kayyem did work for the Deprtment of Homeland Security and has surely known that in the heat of this Governor battle she’d be challenged thereon. Big time : because the Homeland Security issue isn’t only about Kayyem. Edward Snowden’s revelations have made it clear that the war on terror has curtailed Americans’ privacy rights much, much more than we either knew or need to accept. The issue has also divided the Democratic Party. Had Snowden’s revelations been made of a Republican presidency, every Democrat would be ringing the tocsin. But no: the revelations were made of the Obama administration, and only on the very Left has there arisen any support for Snowden. Most Democrats find him a traitor.

This split matters for Kayyem especially, because the impact of her candidacy has been strongest among Democrats who consider themselves progressives — exactly the Democratic constituency among which the Snowden revelations have aroused the greatest anger. Now comes an attacker who connects Kayyem not to the Snowden revelations per se but to the Bush administration, no less, and to that part of the Bush government in which “enhanced interrogation” was defined, justified, and decked out in legal lipstick. Much of the Snowden revelations involved NSA measures begun in that Bush administration — though Obama expanded them. It would be hard to think of any political connection less appealing to Democratic progressives than to the Bush ’43 war on terror. For Kayyem, far more than for Coakley or Grossman — who so likely have no such connections — the attack made by “Botonnish” poses threat. And as I have 640 twitter followers right now, almost all of them political, “Bostonnish”‘s attacks will be seen by many.

Is there any truth to them, and, if so, how much truth ? I have read the two newspaper articles linked in the Bostonnish tweets. They do connect Kayyem to Homeland Security discussions on interrogation techniques — discussions in which she participated as part of a Harvard Law School professor’s symposium whose participants sought agreement on what interrogation techniques were permissible and to write their conclusions as a policy paper.

To the average voter, what I’ve just written may seem splitting hairs. Kayyem was involved in torture discussions, helped define “acceptable limits.” Nuff said. And to most voters, her participation therein as a policy advisor ruffles no consciences. unfortunately, the voters whose support Kayyem is seeking — and needs — may not take such a casual attitude of the matter. Though many Democratic progressives are the first to condemn Snowden as a traitor, and to accuse Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney — whose brief it was to secure policy approvals on interrogation techniques — of war crimes, other progressives dub Snowden a hero. There’s scant escape for Kayyem here. The Democrats who think Snowden a traitor hate Dick Cheney just as much as do the Democrats who think Snowden a hero; and Kayyem helped write policy papers for matters ultimately answerable to Cheney and Bush. The New York times article, from 2005, appended to one of my “Bostonniosh” tweets documents it.

What does Kayyem do about this ? If I were her advisors I’d tell her to discuss the matter thoroughly. She served the Obama administration as well as Bush’s — as did Bob Gates and others. She can say that she put “country first” — and if the man for whom that was a campaign theme — John McCain — is a case study in why our nation should oppose “torture lite” always, Kayyem did not make policy. She advised possible policy makers. And all of this happened many years ago.

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^ beauty talks : Juliette Kayyem with Worcester St Reps Mahoney and O’Day

Also on her case is a report, in the Globe, that Kayyem missed voting in two elections during the time she was living in Washington. There’s some disagreement as to whether she registered to vote there or not. She says she did; the DC elections board has no record of it.

Myself, I find this matter small potatoes. so what if she missed two elections or if she did or did not register to vote in Washington while living there ? She is running for Governor, not “super voter.’ yet the small potatoes does highlight the bigger potato of her consultancy participation in the “torture bureaucracy.”

It is not my job to make excuses for Kayyem or to devise responses for her to difficult challenges. She has opted to play big league ball, and cannot complain if an opposing pitcher plunks her with a curve ball. Her response, however, will matter a lot in how Democratic progressives, as sensitive as any activists to heavy handed war measures, take Kayyem’s interrogation policy years to heart. Who knows ? Maybe they’ll shrug it off. Charm does have its way even with issues obsessives, and charm Kayyem has more than plenty of. But the average voter probably won’t shrug so readily — if Kayyem gets her name onto the average voter’s Governior ballot. This flap doesn’t make that task any easier for her.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^basic democracy : Democratic state chairman Tom McGee of Lynn instructs West Roxbury’s ward 20 caucus

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There may be secret money in the Big Picture, but at the small level where actual people live, vote, and run for office, the money doesn’t taint. Whether it’s caucusing in West Roxbury or manoeuvering a run for State Representative in Dorchester, you find politics basic, the real deal, activism for its own sake. So it was, this morning at Boston Ward 20’s Democratic Party caucus, attended by almost 200 people. So it has been the past two days, since the House expelled Carlos Henriquez, leaving the 5th Suffolk State Representative seat vacant awaiting seekers.

But first, the caucus. I chose Ward 20’s because it is Boston’s biggest voting ward; many were sure to attend to elect 29 delegates to the Democratic convention. The caucus met in the community room at West Roxbury’s Police Station. Attendees and candidate volunteers filled every nook — the hallway too. The State Party chairman was there, Tom McGee of Lynn; so were two competing slates of delegates, a Don Berwick group led by Helen Bello — who hosted the huge Berwick house party that I wrote about recently — and a Juliette Kayyem list led by an old friend, Paul Nevins, an employment lawyer. A group of independent names was nominated too, well known people sure to draw votes on name alone; and attendees voted as much for names they knew as for any slate; there wasn’t at all the structure that I had expected of this meeting. It seemed as much a meet and greet as an election.


^ Ward 20 state Representative Ed Coppinger discusses matters with Here and Sphere follower Michelle Von Vogler

There was voting, but mostly there was conversation as faces familiar or new worked the room. State Senator Mike Rush was there, as was West Roxbury State Representative Ed Coppinger. Governor candidate Martha Coakley worked the room for about 20 minutes, then left. District Attorney Dan Conley shook hands. So did Congressman Steve Lynch. Old friends Carole White (Kevin White’s sister in law) and Marilyn LaRosa were elected; I noticed Helen Greaney in the room and Greg Haugh also — two other Haugh’s sought election as delegates — and Ann Murphy, still glamorous as ever, now working as an aide to Mike Rush. A couple of Boston Teachers Union activists signed in — but I did not see Ward 20’s biggest BTU name, Ed Doherty — and people from both the Connolly and Walsh mayor campaigns.

Circulating as well were four who ran last year for City Council : local resident Marty Keogh, Jack Kelly, and winners Steve Murphy and Michelle Wu. It was a “good hit,” as pols say of an event well worth being seen at.

UPDATE ON DELEGATES ELECTED : Thanks to Rob for posting to me the entire list, mostly of the usual Ward 20 activists (including two Haugh’s and a BTU active, City Council candidate Marty Keogh, a Marty Walsh cabinet member — Alejandra St. Guillen — and at least one State Employee) and two Don Berwick delegates. Take a look :

Female Delegates:
Alyssa Ordway – 75 votes
Carole White – 74
Ann Cushing – 71
Cathy Fumara – 68
Helen Haugh – 68
Diana Orthman – 68
Marilyn LaRosa – 65
Patricia Malone – 65
Anita Salmu – 65
Margaret Sullivan – 63
Josiane Martinez – 60
Alejandra St. Guillen – 59
Sue Anderson – 58
Heather Bello – 26
Hema Kailasam – 21
Jennifer McGoldrick (Alternate)
Pamela Keogh (Alternate)

Male Delegates:
Robert Orthman – 69 votes
David Isberg – 66
Steve Smith – 66
Marty Keogh – 65
Bill Smith – 64
Kevin Walsh – 64
Bill MacGregor – 63
George Donahue – 62
Joe Haugh – 60
John Fumara – 59
Leo Connell – 58
Tom Hanktankis – 58
Patrick Murray – 58
Larry Connolly – 56
Bob Tumposky – 56

(UPDATED 02/09/14 at 10.45 AM)

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And now to the 5th Suffolk District, in Dorchester, where the expulsion of Carlos Henriquez has left a gaping hole…


will he be the first Uphams Corner state Rep since Jim Hart 40 years ago ? John Barros may become a candidate in the 5th Suffolk special election… But so might the woman pictured below, Karen Charles of the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood :


The 5th Suffolk State Representative seat in the Massachusetts House won’t be vacant for long. Already the hungry are circling, impatient, guessing and out-guessing. The big news is that John Barros, who ran for mayor last year and impressed many, is seriously considering a run. Barros lives in the heart of the District, owns a successful restaurant in it,. and would be an elite voice for 40,000 people very much in need of one. Barros is not, however, the only notable who is thinking publicly about running. There’s also Karen Charles, who works at WGBH (full disclosure : WGBH’s Peter Kadzis was my editor at the Boston Phoenix and remains a friend professionally and personally), and who, with her husband Kevin Peterson, an NAACP activist, make a formidable team of articulate reformers and who are said to be close to Charlotte Golar-Richie, who once represented the 5th Suffolk, still lives in it, and who was, like Barros, a candidate in last year’s Mayor campaign.

In that Mayor campaign, Barros won 2,072 votes in the 5th District’s 20 precincts; Golar-Richie won 1,465. Barros thus starts with a 600 vote advantage. That isn’t the entire story, though, Felix Arroyo won 570 votes in the District; and Carlos Henriquez, of Hispanic origin like Arroyo, is said to intend running again to reclaim his seat. Even if he does not run, the 570 Arroyo votes seem up for grabs, not to mention the 313 won by Charles Yancey and the 495 won by John Connolly. (Marty Walsh’s 640 votes might split between Barros and a Golar-Richie-backed candidate, as both she and Barros helped Walsh win the Final).

That said, Barros certainly would enter the race as the favorite no matter who else decides to run — including Henriquez himself. The two men are said to be close friends as well as political allies, and some speculate that if Henriquez runs — and he probably will — Barros will not. We shall see. Whatever the case may happen, this is a District that badly needs an A-list voice. It has always had a working-class majority even in the days, not too long ago, when much of it was Roxbury Red Raider country. The “5th” includes the entire Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, one of Boston’s most impacted by gang violence; a stretch of Blue Hill Avenue that Red Raiders knew as “Cherry Valley,” once almost entirely blighted but, of late, enjoying the beginnings of a resurgence (as anyone familiar with local hot-spot Merengue Restaurant knows); Upham’s Corner and half of Jones Hill (where I had my first adult job, working as go-fer to state Rep. Jim Hart); and, of Roxbury, the north side of Dudley Side from Hibernian Hall eastward, all the way past the Governor Shirley mansion to and including “the Prairie” ball field (where Red Raider teams played Park League baseball and football). None of the district is high-income; not much of it is middle-income. Everyone benefits from having an eloquent and respected voice in the legislature, but the people of the 5th Suffolk would benefit more than most.

There will be a special election to fill the vacancy. It will be called soon — the date of it as yet unknown but probably early May. It will be a short campaign, a local effort, politics at its most basic and not much different from that Ward 20 caucus that I attended this morning. More voters to reach, yes, but not much more structure. It also looks now to be the most attention-getting time that the 40,000 people of the “5th” have gained in many, many years if ever. Let the democracy of it begin.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Still leading the pack, thus reason to smile : Charlie Baker in Leominster

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Massachusetts people are moving to pick a new Governor. The Democratic caucuses begin in a few days. The GOP meetings have already started. As I see it today, February 2nd, Charlie Baker leads the pack. His bold move, last week, to support raising the minimum wage by way of Speaker DeLeo’s legislation, ensures its passage; none of the five Democrats has yet made the same pact. Baker also supports expanding the earned income credit for lower-wage workers. None of the Democrats has even, to my knowledge, mentioned this initiative. Big advantage for Baker.

So is the $ 1,014,906.36 that Baker reported raising last year, with more to come, much more.

In charge finally, Baker stumbled a bit when the question of seeking the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was put to the candidates. All of the Democtrats said that no, the death penalty is not OK for any defendant in Massachusetts; we have abolished it. This is true and principled. Baker’s response ? That he has long advocated the death penalty in very heinous crime situations. His statement seems a step backward for our boldly progressive state. And where do the Feds get their sudden death penalty willingness ? Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy ; he didn’t get a death peanlty. Is Tsarnaev more heinous ? Or do we simply live in miore barbarous times ? Certainly a great deal of outright barbarism unfolded here in Boston after the Marathon bombing. Who can forget the Antigone situation that arose over the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev ? It is not good, not at all, to see Baker play to the Creon mindset.

Advantage then to the five Democrats, as their party’s caucuses begin.


^ heartfelt dedication to social justice : Dr. Don Berwick at a packed house party in West Roxbury yesterday

If yesterday’s Don Berwick houseparty on Chesbrough Road in West Roxbury was any indication of interest, the caucuses should be full-house. 75 locals crowded into every nook of the Chesbrough Road dwelling to hear the gentle, classy Dr. Berwick deliver his social justice speech and answer questions — most of them well informed. And Berwick isn’t even one of the two “majors.” Imagine how many are likely to caucus for Steve Grossman, our State Treasurer, or for Martha Coakley, now the Attorney General. Juliette Kayyem, too, with her personal charisma — 9,749 twitter followers as I write this — is sure to draw many to the hundreds of Democratic town and ward (each ward of a city holds its own) caucuses taking place between next weekend and March 2nd, the last day on which they can occur. So yes, for the five Democrats — Joe Avellone is the one not mentioned above — it’s now crunch time. Any candidate who can’t secure 900 pledged delegates — 15 percent of the total who will vote at the Democratic convention — won’t get his or her name printed on the Democratic Primary ballot.

We won’t know who has done that and who hasn’t until probably mid-March, when the Democratic State Committee tallies the results. But we can assess the five with reasonable objectivity by looking at their fund-raising. (Charlie Baker has yet to report January numbers.) Since January 15th, the day on which I last looked, this is how the five’s fund-raising tallies up :

Martha Coakley 168,951.23
Steve Grossman 153,695.00
Juliette Kayyem 84,679.20
Donald Berwick 50,260.00
Joe Avellone        36,365.64
Total Funds raised by the five —- 493,950.87
Per cent of total :
Coakley —– approx 34 %
Grossman — approx 31 %
Kayyem —– approx 17 %
Berwick —– approx 11 %
Avellone —- approx 7 %

Fund-raising isn’t everything, of course. But in MA, each donor is limited to $ 500 per candidate per year. Thus the list above represents a lot of people. The caucus-goers choices aren’t likely to differ radically from the donors’ picks. In any rate, it’s my working hypothesis as to who — as of today — will make the “15 % cut” and who won’t.


^ charisma and a progressive smile gets Juliette kayyem lots of attention — and probably a spot on the Primary ballot…..


^ or maybe it gets Kayyem second place on a Steve Grossman ticket ? we will see.

For Donald Berwick, who by my analysis falls short, it’s a good thing that the caucus process lasts for a month. He can step up his game in that time — probably needs to. Juliette Kayyem can’t rest calm, either, sitting at 17 % of the total. But then what ? Coakley and Grossman clearly dominate — no surprise there — which means that Kayyem may want to think about taking the Lieutenant Governor position on a Steve Grossman ticket — if offered.

It would be a very strong Democratic pairing. It represents about 50 % of the Democratic convention. The stars are beginning to align.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ 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