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

“A KID FROM TAFT STREET IS NOW MAYOR OF BOSTON !”

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^ taking the three-part oath as Boston’s 48th Mayor :Martin Joseph Walsh of District 3

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So said Marty Walsh after being sworn in as Boston’s 48th Mayor. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland swore Walsh in. Walsh’s Mom and brother and his gal-pal Lorrie Higgins stood by to watch the “kid from Taft Street” official become His Honor. It was a moving moment no matter which of the 12 Mayoral candidates you wanted. Walsh grew up without a big name, on a three-decker street, surrounded by temptations, some of which befell him. And now here he was, the City’s leader, holder of perhaps the most powerful elected office in Massachusetts.

Other men have traced the same kind of path from bottom to top. One thinks of Diocletian, Roman Emperor, yet born a slave, who rose, who educated himself. Or of Abraham Lincoln. Or Fiorello LaGuardia and Al Smith. It is, in fact, a commonplace of politics, that those on the bottom often believe in the system more truly than many on the top and who, aspiring, steel themselves to rise within it, no matter how long or painful the climb, and to become the steward of it and of all it represents. There have been innumerable Marty Walshes in history. And yet…it is still moving to see an actual Marty Walsh actually become Boston’s Mayor and to see the gathered thousands of Boston’s elite and non-elite actually there, in Conte Forum, to witness his becoming Mayor and to cheer it.

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^ Senator Elizabeth Warren delivering her remarks to “my friend Marty”

The powerful did not hang back. Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke eloquently about the passion that she and Walsh, so she said, share for alleviating inequality and the achievement gap. Governor Deval Patrick, choosing a light comic note, told Walsh that he would wake up from “a day of blur” but to savor the moment anyway. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also sat on stage. Yo Yo Ma performed the “Danny Boy Serenade” with dominant intensity and equally masterful delicacy. The entire City Council, all 13 members, sat on the other side of the podium and took its own oath. The front rows of the Forum found a seated multitude of descendants of former Mayors : Flynns, Whites, Fitzgeralds, Hyneses, Collinses — lending depth to the occasion’s topside.

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^ the gathered thousands included a huge segment from Dorchester, all of whom cheered loudly when their Councillor, Frank Baker, was sworn in.

Walsh then delivered an inaugural address sturdy and point by point clear. All the themes of his campaign took a turn : collaboration, diversity in staffing, improving education, ending the achievement gap, attacking violent crime, and assuring full equality to all Bostonians no matter what their sexual orientation, lifestyle or origin. He thanked “,my sisters and brothers in labor” — was roundly cheered — and almost in the next sentence said “let it be known that Boston is open for business.” Here he spoke of “innovation in every neighborhood, not just downtown” and of small business, start-ups, and businesses big.

It was a firm speech, confidently delivered, steady as she goes. Which may well be the defining tenor of Walsh’s administration.

And so you have it. Marty Walsh is your Mayor. Yep.

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^ from Chelsea, with what mission ? new corporations counsel Eugene O’Flaherty, currently chairman of the State’s House Judiciary Committee

Hardly two hours had elapsed after that “yep” when an announcement was made at least as portentous as the inauguration itself : State Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, of Chelsea, is giving up his House seat and his House Judiciary Committee chairmanship, moving from Chelsea to Boston, and becoming Walsh’s chief corporations counsel : the city;s top lawyer. I admit that this choice surprised me completely. It was easy enough to believe that Walsh wanted O’Flaherty, who was first elected to the House in the same year as he (1996). The two men share much heritage. The difficult part for me was, why would O’Flaherty take the job ? He isn’t just a State Representative, he is one of the chamber’s key leaders. And also have to move house. There has to be a big story going on, and what it is, I can only speculate. It may involve the Steve Wynn casino project : O’Flaherty represents Charlestown, which Walsh did not come close to winning on election day and which will; be heavily impacted. Is O’Flaherty being asked to use his particular knowledge of the area to win the best mitigation package possible from Wynn, including — a top Walsh priority — construction jobs ? or perhaps to sue the Wynn project, or the Suffolk Downs Revere-only casino project if needed ?

We will soon find out.

We will also find out who Walsh chooses to head the other City departments. Of only one such did he say there would be a “nationwide search” : schools superintendent. Of course so. No Bostonian would want the thankless, frustrating job. (One of his two school committee appointments has already caused comment : replacing charter school principal Mary Tamer with labor lawyer Michael Loconto.) As the school committee appointment shows, not many Bostonians Walsh might name as superintendent would avoid raising an outcry from one interest group or another. Compared to schools superintendent, it’ll be easy to pick a Police Commissioner and one for the Fire Department. No nationwide search needed there.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere