ANNALS OF POLITICS IN AMERICA : THE NEXT PHASE

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^ the new unionism : SEIU members raising up

 

The first significant signs of a new alignment of American politics are already apparent.

Even as the Tea Party and its corporate enablers roar through many “red” states, and even as marriage equality takes hold as the law of all states, new civil rights battles are coming to the fore as well as new economic urgencies.

Free-for-all banking is crashing to the ground as huge financial institutions rely, almost always unsuccessfully, on low level staffs with huge turnover that precludes learning the intricacies of customer service in the age of investment by hedge fund pools and pass-throiugh securities. The future of banking is “go small” : no big bank of today comes close to matching the efficiency and customer service smartness of medium-sized and community banks.

The needs of high-tech and cutting-edge employers for entry-level hires fluent in the basics of programming, math, and reading are pressuring public education to sacrifice common ground for small-unit specialization. This is the motive force behind charter schools, and also the inspiration for opposing common core curriculum standards. Supporters of small, experimental eduction don;t want common standards or a one size fits all school. they want individualized schooling.

 

that entirely individualized schooling cuts children off from the other great educative principle — citizenship in a common community, Horace Mann’s ideal — is less important to these folks, entirely fixated on securing their children a good career.

I oppose their single mindedness, as do many other Americans in the new politics. It’s a battle that will divide old alliances and is already creating new ones. Witness the coalition that opposes “common core” : right wing Republicans and teachers’ unions.

Income inequality in America has reached a level where it threatens the sustainability of the entire economy. Many states are already taking steps tp remedy this imbalance. Some are raising the minimum wage radically; proposals to raise the minimum wage even higher are taking hold in the most progressive cities. Unions, too — until recently dubbed “obsolete” by some “conservatives” — are finding themselves newly popular and powerful. in the service work world, unions are winning huge wage increases — with more to come — and new unions are being organized for the most basic of worker demands : a living wage and basic benefits.

At the same time, many public sector unions are losing popular support, as more such unions are seen to protect wage packages that bust city budgets, packages for six-figure earnings that look to fall on the tycoon side of income inequality.

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^ SEIU leaders : economic power AND women power

Nor does it help public sector unions that they often stand in the way of system reforms. Big changes are coming in how public education is delivered. Many teachers unions are fighting all these changes rather than getting aboard them; and the larger public — much the same public that supports service worker unions — is noticing and not liking.

American living arrangements are shifting radically. Millerites want to work, live, shop, and play in the downtowns of big cities, and in many cases to do so without cars. Almost all the well-paid young techies live this way; few if any have any interest at all in living in suburbs enduring hour to two-hour commutes to work. Meanwhile the less well paid have no choice bit to move away from Downtown — the farther away, the cheaper the housing — and to endure commutes, while shopping in malls along Interstate highways and socializing via online social media. Meanwhile, within the big cities, neighborhoods are reshaping as mini Downtowns, complete with boutiques, nightclubs, leafy restaurants, and young activists, many of them members of education/commerce co-operatives.

In all of these new living arrangements, personal diversity is the norm. Gay, lesbian, transgender people participate as regularly as anyone else; for millennials, personal lifestyle is no more an issue than one’s hair color or choice of beverage.

These changes read like “blue state America,” but they are also occurring in “red’ states. The difference — if it is one — is religion. In most of “blue” America, religion embraces, or tolerates, people’s choices rather than condemn them; the churches of big cities mostly look outward to the whole world as much as, or more than, they look inward into the individual soul. This orientation has big consequences, and a large future. The same, more or less, is true of churches in “blue’ state suburbs. But even if the churches of “red” stares orient opposite, the economies , education, and living arrangements of “red” states are changing in much the same direction as they are in “blue’ states. nd this too has consequences.

One consequence is that the “angry, old, straight white man” who has embodied right wing populism is fading from the scene, like the hippies of 40 years ago. In his place we find nerdy think tankers, big-stomach gun toters, and — ba-da-bing ! — women and people of color. Because, yes, even the South is becoming less nativist, less male dominant, less white.
The Hispanic population of practically every deep Southern state is growing fast. Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, even Alabama will be 20 percent Hispanic soon — or higher than that. Texas will be majority Hispanic by 2030 at the latest. The populations of these states will be younger, too. And more female, because women are the glue that holds immigrant families together.

Thus we arrive at the biggest change of all : America is rapidly moving toward having a majority of its people being of color. This matters in every way, but right now it most matters because the rights of people of color, and of women, have not been achieved as thoroughly as lifestyle civil rights. After all, gay, lesbian, and transgender people are just as likely to be Caucasian as not. Identity civil rights are this mot a matter of skin color or immigrant status.

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the voice & face of change in the Democratic party : Senator Elizabeth Warren

The rights of people of color, and the rights of immigrants, continue to be an issue. But these will be solved by the change in our population. As for the rights of women, these too may well be secured, finally, as women become more powerful politically by way of their primacy in the newly powerful service worker unions. By far the majority of service workers are women; and as service worker women acquire higher pay and greater political power thereby, so will they — as women and as union leaders — secure the personal, body rights that men take for granted.

It was noted that Hobby Lobby, while denying to its women employees health insurance coverage from some contraception, made no such detail for men’s Viagra. In the new era of financially and union empowered women, that kind of discrimination will become unlawful no matter what the excuse.

Our two political parties are only now beginning to adjust to the new America. The Democratic party has adjusted more quickly ; the new unionism unifies Democratic politics in some places, even as the huge change in education is dividing it. The GOP has changed less ; yet even in the GOP, new voices are working out new responses to the change in education, income inequality, and population shifts. The difference is that change in the Democratic party arises from activists and large interest groups, whereas so far in the GOP it is coming mostly from think tanks. Curious, the asymmetry. We live in a democracy, where voters rule. the Democratic party operates on this principle; the GOP doesn’t — yet. My guess is that the GOP will have to change its ways as radically as the nation is changing — will have to start acting like a party of voters, not of researchers; and to trust the voters, not disdain them — or its recipe will fade from the new America.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

PRIDE BECOMES FACT AS GAY BCOMES FULLY MAINSTREAM

photo (37)^ fully mainstream and fully appreciated : Mayor Marty Walsh with drag troupe on Boston Pride Day

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In Massachusetts at least, gay, lesbian, and transgender people — once a separate category stamped “LGBT” — have become fully mainstream. A Pride parade featuring same sex couples, lesbians on bikes, and beautiful trannys, is now a family day like any other parade. At the Salem parade yesterday I saw trannys with their parents, one pretty tranny had her nine year old daughter in tow (see the photo). Every elected official in the City was either at the parade or at the “Pride flag” raising a month ago.

It’s the same in Boston. There, Pride week featured a drag show, after which Mayor Walsh posed with the troupe for a photo op.

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^ beautiful tranny Kelly with her proudly beaming young daughter

But the story that says it all comes from Salem. Yesterday, openly gay ward 4 City councillor David Eppley (see photo) told of how, knocking doors in last year’s city election, he introduced himself to an 80-year old lady at her door only to have that elderly woman say to him, “oh yes ! I’m voting for you. i met your husband at the polls in September !”

Just like that.

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^ Salem City Councillor David Eppley (with Paisley Rojagato)

That gay, lesbian, and transgender people now know that they are filly accepted as neighbors, friends, partners, citizens, even elected officials, is a terrific thing for our community as a state. Because after all, people are people no matter what sort of gender or sexual preference life they lead. Gay, lesbian, and transgender people are parents, citizens, community volunteers — everything that anybody else is. And the people of Massachusetts have embraced it fully.

It seems so simple now, so obvious. But thirty years ago, for trans people, is wasn’t obvious, it wasn’t even thinkable. For gays, the same ostracism fifty years ago.

You don’t have to go back that far, though. Just ten years ago it was hugely controversial for Massachusetts to enact a marriage equality law. The spew of toxic hate leveled at gay people during that debate was sickening to see, to hear, to feel. A referendum was demanded, and only narrowly did the legislature refuse to offer one, siding with marriage equality supporters who said, correctly, that “our civil rights are not a matter of majority vote !”

Even more recently — just two, three, four years ago — an even more disgusting barrage of hate was shot at trans people testifying at the legislature’s hearings on a transgender rights law. One Kris Mineau, a name for us all to remember as we remember segregationists and anti-Semites, led a pressure group that captured the votes of 32 of 33 GOP house members in opposing the transgender rights law that was enacted. that same 32 even wrote an open letter to the Governor asking that the new law not be enforced.

The hate did not end there. this winter our state’s GOP state committee adopted a platform — the vote was reportedly 56 to 12 — affirming “traditional marriage.’ Of transgender rights, it said nothing : because the state committee does not accord trans people any such rights.

Yes, the Chairman of the state GOP, Kirsten Hughes, rejected the platform. And Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito, running for governor and lieutenant governor, have made it known in the most definite words and ways available, their full embrace, legally and otherwise, of gay, lesbian, and trans people. Yet it was depressing that Baker and Polito felt the need to do so — though clearly they did have to.

But things in this arena have changed almost day by day. Six months ago, a gay GOP candidate was thought bold simply to be openly gay. Now, Richard Tisei, running for Congress in the 6th District, posts a campaign ad featuring his husband, Bernie Starr. Tisei stole the show at Salem Go out Loud’s equality Forum on Friday night — how could he not ? And in attendance were GOP activists long known to me, men and women who would not that long ago have avoided such a venue for such a purpose.

The state’s GOP is even becoming trans friendly. It helps that there is at least one totally public trans person among its activists. I think, in fact, that the smartest GOP activists are glad to know that their ranks include a public tranny. They know that today inclusion is the dynamic, trans the thing to be — Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New black” really has tipped the point; but this point had already been surging even without her, as drag shows become the rage — drag kids the fad — in every city, town, suburb, and burg of our state.

Gender and sexual preference remain huge issues for people living with them; but today they’re no more a matter for legal or social exclusion than a teenager’s acne or a young adult’s loss of a limb or lung. We’ve learned to live with people as they are, not just as they are supposed to be; and that’s a good thing, a very VERY good thing indeed.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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

TWO BITS OF NEWS : THE REVERE CASINO VOTE AND THE GOP STATE COMMITTEE

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^ Revere says “Yes”

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At first blush there seems not much linkage between last night’s casino approval vote in Revere and the Republican state committee’s vote making opposition to marriage equality an official stand in the party platform. But look again. in Revere, religion interests led the opposition to approval of the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs casino plan. At the GOP state committee, it was religion interests that forced the vote to discriminate against gay people.

What is it about religion — those who profess it — that makes it and them try to tell other people how to live their lives ? Tell you what : you profess a religion, fine; go live it; and leave my life alone.

There was a time — about a century and a half of time — when religion led the fight for civil rights, personal liberty, and the dignity of all people of whatever lifestyle. From about 1795, when the anti-slavery movement was first advanced by religion, in England (it had for some time been advanced by secular leaders) until the 1970s, when the Civil Rights movement crested in America, pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis, and manhy of their congregations took the cause of rights for all — of whatever religion, or of none –as their chiefest calling. Today we like to think of that era in the history of reliigion in action as the norm. The opposite is true. Mostly in the history of the West, and oftener in that of the Middle east, religion has caused the torture of millions and the deaths of millions, often cruelly. On balance religion has been a personal and communal disaster for those societies afflicted by it.

Such a time seems returning now, and not only in America. The will to demand of people that they be governed by other people’s religion has all but captured — and killed — the GOP in America; it has place in Europe (though there the bigotries of today seem mostly godless, fascist, mere racism), and, as we see all too much, completely dominates societies in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, India. As for places like North Korea — fortunately they are rare — what we seem to see is not religion politics but politics as a religion. It ain’t pretty.

I am no prophet of doom. I do not see America returning to the days of religious oppression. Most of us still call the secular, skeptical Constitution home, divided government the norm, separation of religion from state a must. Indeed, most religion groups in today’s America feel the same. They understand that for a religion to try to impose its commands on states’ laws simply makes religion a political enemy. Still, in some states, as we see, the practitioners of religion politics have managed to get their stonings enacted into law. (the current eruption in Arizona is only one of dozens of such initiatives.) My guess is that none will stand. All are unconstitutional and will almost surely be found to be such; and so will die a legal death.

No such legal death can undo the action taken by the Republican State Committee last night. By a vote —  opined by a Republican not present but well informed of the vote — of 52 to 16, the GOP platform now includes language opposing our state’s marriage equality. Of course a party platform is not a law; no one need obey it or give it a damn. Still, the vote puts one of Massachusetts’s two chief political parties at odds with civil rights and human freedom; and as Massachusetts has always been first among polities to seek and secure civil rights and human freedom, the state committee’s vote is an affront to 250 years of our history. We were also the first state to recognize that gay people have just as much right to marry as do any of us.

I am no psychologist. I have no idea what mindset propels citizens of Massachusetts to reject the last 10 generations of our history; to downgrade our gay citizens; to impose on a political party such a burden. Political parties are supposed to win elections. The state committee’s vote loses them.

Of course the party’s leading candidates, Charlie Baker for Governor and Richard Tisei in the 6th Congress District, immediately rejected the vote. Both men stand four-square for gay rights, marriage equality, women’s health rights — even for economic fairness — and are well known to be unshakably committed to these positions. Their campaigns will suffer no harm from a vote whose only goal is to harm. Still, it looks odd for the leading GOP candidates to be running on themes rejected by the party’s formal organization (as the state committee is).

Gabe Gomez, too, who in the past few months has become the most outspoken Massachusetts voice of Republican progressivism, tweeted a passionate denunciation of the state committee vote. I joined his call. I am glad that I did, sad that the need arose.

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^ next to Dan Winslow, Gabe Gomez is now Massachusetts’s man of progressive conscience

Meanwhile, in Revere, 63 % of voters, in a large voter turnout of almost 50 percent, rejected the moralizing “no casino” side, saying “yes, bring it on” to the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk downs casino plan. Mayor Dan Rizzo can now go mano a mano with Mayor deMaria of Everett. That one I look forward to.

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^ Mayor Dan Rizzo is a winnah tonight

I personally think the Revere plan somewhat unattractive and largely compromised by geography and brand; I doubt it will win the Gaming Commission’s license. Steve Wynn’s far more glamorous, better located, Everett plan will likely win it. But it is a step ahead to see Revere put its cards on the table (ha) on the side of entertainment, drama, people dressing up and having a good time, even — yes — people spending money at a roulette wheel. As we have every right to do.

Let the last word here be St Rep Kathi Reinstein’s : “Raising a big, fat Sam Adams pint to Revere tonight,” she tweeted. “63/37 victory ! I’m so proud of my city and its people…”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#MAGOV : A GOOD TWO WEEKS FOR CHARLIE BAKER — AND JULIETTE KAYYEM

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^ spark and height : Karyn Polito joins Team Charlie Baker and announces her support for marriage equality

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From December’s start to now, Republican favorite Charlie Baker has put his campaign into solid definition on many fronts. First, he chose a running mate, former State Representative Karyn Polito, who ran a strong State-wide race for Treasurer in 2010 and has as much charisma as any Republican in the state. A high point of their alliance, to all Massachusetts voters of good will, was Polito discarding her anti-gay rights past and joining Baker’s long-standing support for marriage equality. Second, he released a Homelessness Alleviation Plan that actually addresses the issue, in a beneficial manner completely unlike the contempt that we’ve become so used to hearing from Republicans these past six years, a plan that none of Baker’s Democratic rivals will surpass — they’ll be hard-pressed to equal it. Third, Baker almost raised more money, in this period, than his five Democratic rivals combined.

Baker and Polito announced their ticket allliance on December 3rd. Last night they held a campaign Kick-Off fund-raiser at Coral Seafood on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. (After which they campaigned along the street’s “restaurant row.”) Polito has added plenty of spark to the Baker brand. It made last night’s event worth the time. Before she and her entourage of young, almost trendy supporters entered the room, the average age of the Baker donors was easily 60. It was — to this Boston-based observer — an almost defiantly unhip group of flattops, toupees, and 1970s sideburns. Nor was there much excitement; the mood of the 150 donors was cardboard flavorless. Then Polito stepped into the room, radiant face, televisably sleek, a “great to see you” outreach, and — yes — excitement. She changed the mood from cardboard to glossy brochure.

The Boston Globe notes that Baker’s fund-raising falls way short of the donations amde to him in 2009, as he was preparing a 2010 run for Governor. But that’s not the right comparison. He was then running against incumbent Deval Patrick. This time the office of Governor is open. In 2009, Baker’s name wasn’t well-known; today it is. The measure of Baker’s success now is his five Democratic rivals. Against them, he is showing strong. Let’s look at the December 1st through 19th receipt numbers reported to the state’s Office of campaign finance, as of 9.30 this morning, December 20 :

Charlie Baker : 203,290.69
Steve Grossman : 106,554.00
Martha Coakley : 88,298.73
Donald Berwick : 72,428.35
Juliette Kayyem : 5,522.04 (receipts 12/15-19 not reported yet)
Joe Avellone : 9,329.11

Several of the Democrats have already filed full bank reports for the December 1st through 15th period. Here are the numbers :

Candidate            Begin Balance Receipts Expenses End balance

Martha Coakley 285,272.65 83,073.73 59,635.73 306,711.13
Donald Berwick 155,521.08 52,973.35 59,266.40 149,237.93
Juliette Kayyem 222,717.32 5,522.04 77,627.56 150,611.80

The Juliette Kayyem receipt number surely misleads. During this same time she has pressed a social media and meet and greet campaign second to none; it has boosted her social media presence enormously — far larger a boost than for all her rivals combined. Her twitter following has gained + 2,553 since November 10th when I first checked. No rival comes close. She’s doing more voter outreach than them all — campaigning almost like somebody running for Boston Mayor. Yes, that thorough and up-close. I am impressed.

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^ Juliette Kayyem at La Semana Television

It would surprise not to see Kayyem post a noteworthy fund-raising number in her December 31 or January 15th report. Like Baker, she has released action plans — more of them than Baker so far. We seem to have entered the campaign’s Policy Plan season; every one of the six chief contenders — except Martha Coakley, who is still working her Attorney General agenda as a kind of Governor rehearsal — is releasing Policy plans on everything from Green Environment to Health care costs to criminal justice reform, immigrants’ rights, and women’s health.

The feeling in Berwick’s plans parallels that in Charlie Baker’s Homelessness alleviation paper — maybe because both men come from the health care field. It would greatly uplift the political morale of Massachusetts to see the two of them become the campaign’s finalists. But Berwick has had less success with voters than Kayyem, and he has also fallen into the no-casino hole. Kayyem has avoided cul-de-sac issues and focused herself on the main chance. a final between her and Baker would be a classic policy battle : who has broader capability and a stronger resume predicting success ? Kayyem versus Baker might even rise above the polarized mess that partisan Washington has put upon us. Both candidates are solid reformers who believe that government should benefit people.

What, then, of Steve Grossman and Martha Coakley, presumed to be the two strongest Democrats ? They are that — for now. Grossman has run a laid-back campaign, an almost State of Maine nonchalance. Yet he has by far the most money on hand — I await his December 15th Bank report — and, as state Treasurer, has state-wide connect and name recognition. One woners if his campaign’s low heat is an intentional stance ; that he feels that after so much over-passioned politics, voters of Massachusetts would welcome a candidate who doesn’t stoke fires, who approaches governance with patience, not hurry. On the other hand, as reported, most of Grossman’s fundraising has come from interests doing business with the state. That’s a lazy way to fundraise, and it invites questions about Grossman’s independence. Would Grossman, as baker’s opponent, fall back upon Democrat versus Republican rather than address the State’s actual issues ? It could be.

And now for Martha Coakley. The polls say that she is the clear Democratic favorite. I doubt that will be true after February caucus month. Her fund-raising falls short. She’s running on Attorney General issues. She continues to be the wan campaigner who lost that now legendary 2009 US Senator campaign to then barely known Scott Brown. No activist has forgotten that campaign. It’s one thing to be laid back like Grossman; it’s another to be flat and cliche, words that define Coakley as a campaigner.

In any case, December so far belongs to Charlie Baker and Juliette Kayyem. With the Holiday period now beginning, the rest of December is likely to stay that way.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere