^ from the top : John Tierney (D-incumbent) and Rich Tisei (R-challenger); Seth Moulton (D-challenger)

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What to make of the puzzling battle hotting up in our State’s 6th Congressional District ? It’s not a simple matter. I live in the District, have been involved with its Congressional elections since 2010, know and like both the Republican nominee, Rich Tisei, and the Democratic incumbent, John Tierney; I haven’t yet met Tierney’s Democratic Primary challenger, Seth Moulton of Marblehead, but am impressed by what i have seen of him on social media and in the press. Still, impressed doesn’t mean convinced. Not convinced by Moulton and also not by Tierney or Tisei.

Let me tell you why. I speak here as a voter in the District as well as a journo :

First, Rich Tisei, the Republican challenger. A few days ago I received an e-mail from his campaign in which he spoke of economic growth. Now, let’s be clear ; Tisei is a hero of civil rights; I was hopeful to find from him some equally bold proposals for economic advance. If not bold, then at least common sense. But what did I read ? That economic growth requires tax breaks for corporations. Why ? Because, said civil rights hero Tisei, they need these incentives in order to start hiring again and to spur their own growth.

Really ?

Didn’t I read the same thing from Mit6t Romney all during the 2012 election ? It made no sense then and doesn’t now.

Word : businesses don’t hire people because they get tax breaks. They hire because consumer demand for their products or services increases. Put more money in consumers’ wallets, they will spend more, and businesses ill hire more people.

This isn’t rocket science, but Tisei doesn’t seem to get it. At a Salem Republican city Committee meeting in 2012, at which tisei — then a Congress candidate for the first run — spoke, he talked about a mortgage broker friend of his being out of work.

I challenged him. said i : “I’m sorry about your mortgage broker friend, but how about 1,000 people with mortgages they can’t pay and which the banks won’t modify ? Rich,” said I,” this is math. Your mortgage broker has one vote. Mortgage borrowers out there have 1,000 votes. what are you going to do about the 1,000 ?”

He had no answer. He still has no answer.

2.Tisei’s big fail on economic issues puts the spotlight on his opponent, incumbemt ten term Congressman john Tierney. It should be an easy decision for me — for you — to vote Tierney, who does get it on economic issues and who almost always promotes the economic reforms — including a much higher living wage — that ordinary people need and which therefore grow the economy. So why not Tierney ?

Why not, is because of the kinds of campaigns that Tierney has run since the worm started turning on him. we all know what that worm was ; he married into a family with a criminal history. His wife Pat is a great gal; I like her a lot. (I also like John.) but John clearly knew more of the Aramian brothers’ affairs than he has admitted, and if only to be a good husband to Pat, he clearly allowed her to accept large sums of money from the trust set up under Federal Court order to oversee the Aramians’ funds. I think that John also did promote legislation that aided his brothers-in-law, and he found himself ensnared and then turned on by his in-laws.

None of the above is in any way criminal. John Tierney is an upstanding citizen. but when you find yourself married into a family with criminals in it, and you are a powerful Congressman, you get trapped. Our district needs a Congressman whose time and energy are not commandeered by criminal in-laws wanting favors and threatening consequences if they don’t get them.

Criminals suck the soul out of those close to them; they are users, users of everything that has social calories. It will take John Tierney much energy to get his criminal in-laws out of his life, much less out of his wife’s. Better he do that as a private citizen and not as our Congressman.

3.So that brings us to Tierney’s most significant Primary challenger, Seth Moulton. (There are two others.) Moulton has raised tons of money — outraised Tierrney each of the last three quarters — and has a fine local resume : US marine, grew up in Salem, raised in Marblehead, graduated from Phillips Andover (disclosure : my alma mater too) and Harvard College.

As for issues, on gun control alone — such a crucial matter — Moulton speaks eloquently for broad-based reform of a situation long since out of control and epidemic. says his website :

“The reality is each year thousands of people are killed in gun-related crimes. We need common sense gun reform, starting with the implementation of universal background checks. It’s too easy for powerful guns to get in the hands of the wrong people. We need to put a stop to that by requiring all gun sellers – whether federally licensed or at a gun show – to run a background check before completing a sale. In addition, we must crack down on gun traffickers with tougher penalties for straw purchasers, ban high-capacity magazines, and keep guns away from domestic abusers and out of schools, churches, bars and restaurants.

I applaud the efforts of Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) for coming together in a bipartisan effort to put forth stronger background checks. While the measure ultimately failed, Senator Manchin plans to revive the amendment in the Senate, and I will advocate for and propose similar legislation in the House.”

This is language you won’t hear from Tierney, for whom bi-partisanship doesn’t exist (and who has called Rich Tisei a Tea Party candidate — a charge so ridiculous it calls in question Tierney’s political sanity. You also won’t likely hear the gun part of it from Tisei, who would like to not mention gun issues at all, given that the national GOP is fully in thrall to this organization of threateners.

But Tisei does talk bipartisanship and has a proven record of it from 22 years serving as Malden-Melrose’s State Senator, as eat that he commanded so strongly that usually he ran unopposed. Tisei’s forward stand on civil rights assures that he will stand well outside the circle of oppose-everything anals who comprise the House GOP. Tisei will, in fact, have no choice bit to work with the House’s Democratic members — though that will require him to lose his “job creator” horse effluent.

Moulton has no such record. If it’s bipartisanship that our District wants, Tisei is the surer choice by far. Also troubling is that Moulton has called Tisei “too extreme” for the District. that sounds a whole lot like John Tierney calling Rich Tisei a tea party candidate. It is demagoguery and unworthy of my vote.

So there you have it. None of the three major candidates seeking the support of our 6th District’s 200,000-plus voters fits the bill very well. Yet one must choose. Right now, my choice, despite serious reservations on economic policy, is Rich Tisei.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Yesterday I wrote about the Left-ward momentum in the Massachusetts Democratic party and how it was confounding the party’s ability to pick a best Governor nominee. My story felt incomplete, more notion than news. Today I had in mind to dig deeper; to discuss the tremendous surge of activity going on, outside the Boston area Core, under the rubric of the GOP, that confirms, in the opposite direction, the Democrats’ Leftward momentum story. In short, polarization, as we have come to see it in national politics these past six years and more.

Such was my design when, an hour ago, I sat down to read today’s Boston Globe and found on the front page, the following story : http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/02/20/proposal-would-add-planks-about-abortion-gay-marriage-state-gop-platform/n3wDwD1SxePriF8eHVHpON/story.html

It is not a pleasant story. News that discrimination is invading the political scene never is pleasant. But it supports — gives a sad cast to — my own column, today, about the polarization that bids to take over our state’s politics.

Perhaps it’s a battle we have to fight. We cannot allow the voices of darkness to gain traction. They have already gained plenty. The charlatan talk show hosts, who say outrageous things to get attention and thus ad dollars, have given discrimination and hate legitimacy — with those who either do not see that they’re being had, or who actually believe that their darkest thoughts should become political policy. I suppose that most of us have road rage moments; but most of us also recognize that such squalls of anger augur no good. So it would be, were it not for the talk show thing. But we now have talk show politics; it is not going away, as I — many of us — used to imagine it would. As the economy continues to struggle; as wages for most of us lag while huge money accrues to the very few; as life becomes more diverse and all of that diversity confronts us via social media, a politics has come of age that rejects a future it feels not a part of; a politics of deep pessimism and profound alienation, politics of naked personal fear.

This is the turbine that drives the train of political intensity across Massachusetts’s towns and cities. But the polarization isn’t simply of value judgments. It has a geography. From the outer suburbs of Boston along Route 495 and close inside it and throughout central Massachusetts all the way to the exurbs of Springfield there has arisen a wide swath of towns whose voters reject the politics of the Boston area, reject Boston values, Boston diversity, Boston inclusion and experiment. This circle of towns — maybe 100 in all — is the heartland of the “Tank the Tax’ referendum; of Tea party sentiment; of Republican votes in recent elections. There are towns in this Circle of rejection that gave 20 and 30 point victories to Gabriel Gomez even as he lost last year’s US Senate race to Ed Markey by 10 points. These same towns gave Scott Brown 30 and 40 point victories in his 2010 special election win. And today these towns are generating a large number of Republican candidates for the Beacon Hill legislature — many more such candidates than we’ve usually seen in Massachusetts, with much better funding and a much deeper bench of activist support.

This last development makes the polarization story significant. US Senate elections have their own dynamic. Massachusetts has elected Senators from each party, all the way back to the late 1800s and ever since. But not since the GOP lost majorities in our State legislature some 60 years ago has there been, except in a few upper income places, any kind of Republican activity at the local level. Today almost all of those upper income communities have become Democratic. The most Republican active communities today are middle income, even low income, places : tract house suburbs, low-density exurbs, and sparsely populated rural places. think Billerica, Bellingham, and Tewksbury; Grafton, Mansfield and Whitman; Douglas, Monson, and Charlton.


^ Bush – Kerry in MA, 2004. Note Charlton, in the middle of the map towards the bottom.

Charlton — a pass-through stop on Route 20 southwest of Worcester — exemplifies the new, hard right Massachusetts GOP. In 2004, when John Kerry, then our US Senator, was winning 62 % of the Massachusetts vote for President, Charlton gave its 60 % to George Bush.

Not that long ago, party divisions in Massachusetts had more to do with ethnic histories and 1920s-1930s Labor radicalism than with city versus rural, diversity against the old way. (And then, the Democratic party was culturally much more conservative than the socially liberal, WASP GOP establishment.) We can mark each step in the change thus : in 1970, Arlington, filled with prosperous Raytheon workers, was a bellwether town — as it voted, so did the State. Today Arlington. an academic community, is a guaranteed 20 to 40 point Democratic victory. By the 1980s, the bellwether vote town was Framingham — farther from boston than Arlington but definitely a commuting place. Today, Framingham votes 15 to 30 points Democratic. Conversely, in the late 1990s, the bellwether community was Peabody, a town filling up with culturally conservative Italians. Today, Peabody gives the GOP a 10 to 20 point victory and has a Republican state legislator, Leah Cole.

Today the bellwether city in our state is Waltham : the front line between Boston diversity and old-line factory city passes right through it. Quincy shares much the same mix. Yet these few exceptions aside, there really is no bellwether community today in Massachusetts. Most towns and cities are now all GOP or all Democratic. That is why we see the current surge of GOP activity at the state legislature level. It’s when a community moves from swing voting to being all one thing or all another that low level, neighbor to neighbor elections take on a partisan color.


^ how it was in 1978, when Senator Ed Brooke was narrowly defeated by follow progressive Paul Tsongas. — a campaign of nuance, not polarization

Fortunately for those of us who live by Boston, city values — diversity, inclusion, welcome to immigrants, and government working to serve all the people — the polarization taking shape on both ends claims a clear city values majority. Democrats running state wide can pretty much count on winning by 6 to 20 points. That’s because about 25 % of Massachusetts voters live in the Boston core area — and another 15 % in the academic bastion Connecticut Valley and points West, and these areas (Amherst, Lee, Springfield, Cambridge, Brookline, Dorchester) vote overwhelmingly Democratic : 30 to 70 points ! No Democrat is likely to lose a statewide election with that kind of wind at his or her back.

For despite the surge of GOP energy out beyond the City core, its roar represents an interest distinctly minority and one that is dwindling — and knows it. It is fighting a rear guard battle and seems energized to fight to the last man standing. It is Alamo politics : dramatic, fascinating while it is going on, but, in the end, complete defeat. Those of us who move with the blossoming majority — the flowers of tomorrow, no matter the huge challenges looming– can take heart in knowing that Alamo politics do not end with an Alamo victory.


^ the shape of polarization — and its limits : Patrick / Baker / Cahill, 2010

And what of the 2014 Governor race ? There I predict a Charlie Baker victory. He is running as a city values candidate, has credibility as a city values guy, and almost certainly has the GOP surge vote on his side simply because it dislikes the Democratic tone of voice so profoundly. Though the Democratic party is moving Leftward by the same dynamic that has the GOP moving Right, many more Democrats than Republicans remain pragmatic centrists : because .the Democrats own the legislature and run the State. These Democtrats cannot throw aside their investment in state policy and governance. The most practical team to get things done, that they care about, is Charlie Baker as governor and Robert DeLeo as Speaker — because, ultimately, it is easier for them to stand — loyal Democrats ! — behind a Democratic Speaker as he pacts with a Republican Governor than to find themselves ripped in two directions by constituents here and a Democratic Governor there.  These go-along Democrats represent a significant vote, especially in the suburbs that lie between the GOP outer ring and the innermost Boston core. Think Winchester, Salem, Braintree, Norwood, Wilmington, Woburn, Natick.

It would seem a paradox to find a centrist progressive like Charlie Baker elected by a state whose politics are polarizing so momentously. But life is complicated, and not every mind moves to the flavor of the moment. Those who take the long view also matter.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ apostasy to party ? to most of us, it’s the way things should be. To the activists, just the opposite

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The Democratic party looks on the verge of cleaving, Left versus Left-center, even though the Left’s avatar, Senator Elizabeth Warren, will not be a candidate for President. I seriously hope this does not happen. The Democratic party’s unity is the major factor holding America steady on forward. Splitting the party can only impede. Sometimes it seems as though those who would move the Democratic party to the Left want America to NOT proceed. This is a huge policy mistake.

One sees the signs. Senator Warren has done a lot of talking, challenging the money interests at every turn, and though much of what she talks about needs saying, at a time when the Congress is finally of a mind to take small, fragile steps forward, Warren’s insurgency seems as ill-timed as Ted Cruz’s in October. Warren acolytes abhor the comparison, but I am hardly the first or only one to make it.

Both Cruz and Warren are fanning flames that want to be flamed and which would likely find other bellows if Cruz and Warren were not stoking. At a lower level, here in Massachusetts, in Boston, the decision by newly elected Councillor Michelle Wu to support the “conservative” — but Democratic — Bill Linehan for Council President has generated a huge flare of Left flame, even though the selection of a Council President has almost no policy consequences.

This Left split is not new. I wrote of it three months ago, during the Mayor of Boston campaign, noting attacks, by Left-minded Democrats, upon John Connolly for his school transformation call — a policy advocated by Democrats for Education Reform as part of what Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, was seeking. Connolly was also attacked as the candidate of moneyed interests generally : yet the bulk of moneyed interests supporting his candidacy was Democratic. All of this sounded strange in a local, one-City campaign. But there it was.

The polarization of national party politics have no business deciding a purely local election. Yet for the Left, polarizing party politics were a key to victory for their candidate, who, after a primary in which the Left made various personal choices with few partisan consequences, became Marty Walsh. He was well advised to take advantage of the opportunity. By no means do I criticize him or seeking out that support : it’s what he had to do. But at the time, I noted that the potential Democratic party split was a rehearsal for a wider split in 2014 and 2016 and a direct consequence of the Tea Party capsizing the GOP. As I wrote, “you can’t radicalize an electorate in one direction only.”

The timing could not be worse for those who, like myself, desire a workable forward national agenda. Even as the Democratic party split aggravates, the split in the GOP is resolving, in favor of the pragmatists. The Tea Right is under serious attack from all quarters — business, incumbents, centrist money PACs, even from evangelicals — and is losing as GOP House (and Senate) incumbents free themselves from the fear of a serious primary challenge. Many states are considering legislation similar to California’s, in which all candidates run in the same primary and then a final between the top two. This process has already made California’s parties move to the center and away from domination by “base” activists.It would hardly be good for Democrats if the nation and the GOP are moving toward unity while the Democratic party is splitting. But activists do not care about consequences. For them, it’s their way or the highway.

I prefer the highway.

You may argue against me, that in the Budget Deal that passed the Senate today, the Democrats stood united, the GOP quite split. True enough; yet the Budget Deal was criticized often and loudly for its omission of unemployment insurance extension. Democrats voted “yes’ as a bloc because to reject the deal might have made any deal impossible, given the fragility of the House GOP’s new pragmatism. My thinking is that the more the House GOP commits to pragmatism, the more that Left Democrats will feel that they can split the Democratic party without endangering the nation.

The warning signs are there. People continue to Cruz-ify Elizabeth Warren.

All of this you would expect to go away were the President to exert his power of office effectively, as he sometimes knows how : in foreign policy always, during the “shut down” too. His weak management of the Federal bureaucracy — ah, the Annals of Health.gov — has opened an effectiveness  gap, however, into which people are stepping who really don’t like the President’s agenda all that much anyway. It’s a cliche now that President Obama’s most activist supporters wanted a messiah but got a mishugas. In other words, a President ; but they don’t want a president, they still want a messiah. When that happens in American politics, we usually get an anti-messiah instead. With Obama, an Abraham Lincoln saved us. Unless things change, I doubt we’ll be as lucky in 2106.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere


On Thursday I received a letter from the “Committee to Elect Fisher for Governor.” Since I am Here and Sphere’s politics reporter, I had heard of Mr. Fisher — had surfed his facebook page, in fact, and not favorably. I wondered why he would be writing to me. I read his letter. Half way through it, I was moved to answer him. As I read to its end, I found in it truly serious questions about what our politics is all about and thus decided to answer him by what political people call an “open letter.”

“Dear Candidate Fisher :

“You write me because of my ‘service to the Republican Party,” for which I thank you. I am, as you note, a registered Republican, as were four generations of my forbears. The Republican party meant something to my Dad, Grand Dad, and Great Grand-Dad, and it has meant something to me since I first became active just out of college. I thus looked in your letter for some commitment on your part to what it has meant to us. I found none. What I did find, I reject.

“You say that you were moved to run for Governor because Governor Patrick “re-opened the tolls on the western part of the Mass Pike.” You then say that “tolls are great for only…Patronage,’ and you decry the men and women who work as toll collectors.

“A candidacy that starts by denigrating people who work is a strange candidacy. Toll collectors work hard under sometimes horrible weather conditions and at all hours. If they earn an average of $ 76,000 a year, as you write, that is hardly a king’s ransom ; but it is enough for them to participate in the consumer economy that keeps our economy — and their family’s lives — moving forward.

“You also miss the larger needs that the resumed tolls address. Our state’s roads and bridges badly need repair, and our public transit facilities break down all the time for lack of money to maintain them, much less upgrade them.

“You talk about ‘conservative values.’ I’m not sure what ‘conservative’ means any more, but on your facebook page you cite several agendas which defame whatever defensible adjective you want to ascribe to them.

“You would deny to women control over thrir own bodies and health care, something that neither you nor I have any right to do and a contravention of the policy of every Republican Governor this State has had in my lifetime.

“You want gay and transgemder people to not have the full civil rights that all citizens are entitled to and which the Republican party was created to fight for. Your position is an affront to all people of good will and incompatible with a Republican nomination for any office.

“You talk about ‘gun rights.’ Such talk was offensive long before Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown, not to mention George Zimmerman. To talk of ‘gun rights’ now is to pit yourself against the entire society which your candidacy seeks to govern. Mr. Fisher, guns HAVE no rights. people have rights. And our society has the right to be free of individuals with loaded guns putting everyone in fear and worse — for what ?

“You dehumanize the people you call “illegal immigrants.” you say they cost the state almost two billion dollars. Mr. Fisher, that’s just wrong. As Jeb Bush — a Republkican — said at this year’s CPAC conference, ‘undocumnted immigrants are a boon to the economy. and because of their young demographic, they’re also how we rescue Social security.’

“Mr. Fisher, undocumented workers pay more in taxes in one year, every year, than Mitt Romney has paid in his entire lifetime. Do you have any idea what the life of most undocumented peope is like ? I have seen them standing outside in summer or the cold, at dawn every day, across from Home Depot in my city, hoping to be hired for a day’s pay. Undocumented people — and immigrants similar — take the subway to work at 5 AM, working at the toilet-cleaning and janitor jobs, in office buildings hospitals hotels and universities, for pay that until recently was minimum wage. Yet you decry these people ? Mr. Fisher, they are heroes.

“Reading what you think of the least among us, do you have the slightest idea what is entailed in governing the 6,000,000-plus people who live in Massachusetts ? The Governor  has to administer our roads, bridges, transit system; to maintain our clean water and environmental quality; to assure a strong public school curriculum; to operate the State’s parks, beaches, courts, district attorneys, prisons, half-way houses, career retraining centers, welfare offices, retirement, veterans affairs, and a variety of administrative agencies, licensing divisions, tax collection, and more. All of these exist because in our extremely complex, diverse, and changing society that we call Massachusetts, capable administration keeps our intricately adjustable State moving forward with as little friction or confusion as human capabilities reasonably manage.

“I read nothing, in all your campaign talk, of any plans to improve, reform, or add to any of these Governor’s responsibilities; indeed, nothing of any of the public policy issues that activists everywhere are discussing and proposing. All the other Governor candidates who I am following have plenty of policy suggestions : where are yours ?

“I can only conclude that your candidacy isn’t about us, the 6,000,000 and more. It’s about you. It is ALL about you. As you say near the end of your letter, “in the past I would vote and then complain.” But “my circumstances have now changed.”

I, I, my, me, and mine ! Mr. Fisher, I hate to tell you, but being Governor is NOT about you. It”s about everyone, diversely, equally respected and all of us together.

Sinerely, Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ much love for Juliette : Kayyem speaks to Democratic activists in Barnstable last Sunday

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In the parlance of now, there is much love afoot for Juliette Kayyem, one of five Democrats exerting to be that party’s nominee for Governor of Massachusetts. At 10.24 AM on this December 13, 2013 morning, Kayyem has gained 1,089 twitter followers since I first checked the numbers on November 10th. No rival compares. Don Berwick has added 374; Steve Grossman, 194; Martha Coakley, about 600; Joe Avellone, 67. (On the Republican side, Charlie Baker has added 307 followers, while Tea Party Mark Fisher’s newly posted twitter account has 36 followers.)

Kayyem’s total twitter following stands at 5,321 ; about 1600 behind Grossman’s and way behind Coakley’s 12,400 ; but she already tops Baker’s 4,311 and Berwick’s 2,203. As for her presence on facebook, Kayyem trails the “big’ names, yes ; Charlie baker has 32,317 “Likes”; Martha Coakley, 19,193. But Kayyem’s 3,469 isn’t far from Steve Grossman’s 5,520 and leads both Don Berwick’s 2,011 and Mark Fisher’s 1,367. Adding these numbers up, Kayyem has risen to the top of the “second tier” already. So what is going on, that has produced slo many Romeos for this Juliette on our State’s 2014 political scene ?

Charisma first. You need only look at her pictures to see that she connects to people. She leans forward to them, not back away or ramrod straight. She’s casual, even slangy, gets the humor on the net and gives it back. She casts better as the candidate of “now” than any of her rivals — only Charlie Baker has a similar degree of “now”-ness.

Second, her issues and how she addresses them. Of course no one should expect a candidate to accomplish, if elected, what he or she proposes in a campaign ; government isn’t that simple (witness Mayor-elect Marty Walsh’s back-walking his “overhaul the BRA” proposals). But you can tell a lot about how a candidate will approach the office he or she seeks by the temper and content of his or her campaign proposals. Here’s what Kayyem’s website says about “reforming the Criminal justice system” — as pressing a need as there is in State governance right now :

Massachusetts cannot continue to imprison more and more of our citizens at an ever increasing cost. This trend is not fiscally sustainable, it often doesn’t make sense from a law enforcement perspective, and it does not reflect the kind of Massachusetts we want to be. Juliette will make sure that our criminal justice system becomes more evidence based and less wasteful; more rehabilitative and less purely punitive; and, perhaps most importantly, more focused on integrating those who have served their time back into society as productive citizens rather than ignoring their problems once they leave a correctional facility. In order for the Commonwealth to seize the opportunities of the future and build inclusive and productive communities, we must do better when it comes to our criminal justice system.”

Then there’s health care, a huge issue nationally and thus one that we in Massachusetts also talk about, even though for us universal health care has been a given for almost a decade. Kayyem says this :

Massachusetts is a national leader in ensuring that all residents have access to quality, affordable healthcare. As governor, Juliette will work to: Continue to bring technological advancements to Massachusetts’ health care system that will bring the cost of health care down while improving service; and Reduce health disparities in the Bay State’s underprivileged communities.”

Note that last sentence. How many candidates these days for high office ever talk about the difficulties faced by people living in poverty ?

Don Berwick, who is a doctor, confronts the health needs of poor people at least as directly as Kayyem; on other issues of fairness and civil rights he stands, ahead of what Kayyem has published so far. But from the huge love now being accorded Kayyem online — and the immense schedule of meet and greet events with activists that she is pursuing, all of them drawing large crowds — one has to conclude that in person, Kayyem persuades that she — the person she is — will be most able, as Governor, to do what she talks of. One need only ask the large crowds who have recently met her up close in Melrose, Brewster, Franklin, Barnstable, Worcester, and, especially, at the “JPProgressives’ candidates’ night at Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica plain.

Or perhaps it’s the “Elizabeth Warren” effect ? Until recently, Massachusetts voters had hardly ever elected a woman to high office. Then came Senator Warren, and now Congresswoman Katherine Clark — the State’s third female Congress member. Massachusetts Democrats, at least, are acting like converts do : once seeing the light, they become more than merely enlightened; they become apostles. It helps that, in Kayyem, they have a candidate with a resume and education approaching Warren’s. Especially is Kayyem the object of a ton of Romeos in contrast to the dry and reticent Martha Coakley, the memory of whose befuddled 2009 US Senate campaign has hardly dimmed at all and whose current campaign for Governor hasn’t generated much better.

If you haven’t yet paid much attention to Juliette Kayyem — or to the race for Governor in general — it’s time now to do so. The Democratic party caucuses begin in less than two months. The Republican meetings follow soon after.

NEXT FOR #MAGOV : the mid-December OCPF fund-raising and expenses report

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

From Texas with Billie Duncan : What the Tea Party Really Wants to Do


By now it should seem obvious to everyone that the Tea Party wants to dismantle the American government. The fact that the Republican Party is allowing them to follow this agenda shows how little foresight the GOP had when it allowed itself to get hijacked by a group of anti-American radicals who gained power by playing to the basest, most dissatisfied and least educated portion of the population.

Once the Tea Party gained credibility by being anointed by the Republicans, they were able to pour out propaganda that appealed to a wider audience of Americans who were not as radical but were also dissatisfied not only with how the government was being run but by how the Great Recession had affected them.

They then used their new-found power to target people in the Republican Party and replace them with people from the Tea Party—all with the blessings of the Republican Party, which somehow could not see what was happening.

The Tea Party’s objective in Congress is not to govern but to obstruct . They see government as the enemy. They are not Republicans; they are simply using the Republican Party as a vehicle in which to drive the government over a cliff.

The American government is set up as a system of checks and balances, not as a dictatorship. The Tea Party wants to dictate how the country will be run. They have no use for compromise, but they use the term to indicate that others must give in to them while they stand firm in their own beliefs. There is no room in their agenda for listening to people who are not in lockstep with them.

The Republican Party is not only allowing this but actively supporting the TPs in this path to destruction.

The Tea Party has expanded by playing to fears and prejudice. TPs actually believe that the American government has a plan to take away their guns. They actually believe that Latin Americans (particularly Mexicans) are taking away jobs from real Americans. They actually believe that Obama is not a legitimate president. The faction that is violently anti-abortion truly believes that pregnancy cannot result from rape, that any use of birth control is morally wrong, and that a woman who has an abortion is a murderer and should be sent to prison.

They want an “America” that reflects their beliefs, their religious ideology and their racial superiority. This is not what the Republican Party is all about. But, if the GOP continues to allow this drastic group to push them towards the abyss, to force their ideology on all Americans, to abolish all government programs that they don’t like, the Republican Party will cease to exist. The Tea Party will emerge as one of the parties in America’s two-party system. Then they can try to do what they really want to do: fundamentally change what is America.

What they don’t seem to realize yet is that America will not let them do it.

—- Billie Duncan / Houston, Texas



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

—- —- —-

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

They’re both right. Here’s why.

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

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

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


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

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


^ Rand Paul : most influential libertarian voice in decades

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


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

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

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


^ Tea Party ; frustration is a dead end politics

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

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


^ Chick-a-fil CEO : fast food GOP

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

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

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


^ Ted Cruz : a male Mary Kay Ash ?

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

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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