Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Elephant in the Room at the Convention

As Democrats Target GOP, Baker Escapes Criticism” — Boston Globe

At State Convention: Mass. Dems Focus National, Tread Lightly on Baker’s Beacon Hill” — WGBH

During most of the speeches at the convention yesterday, I was tabling in the hall for Raise Up, rather than sitting and watching the speakers. Following the speeches on Twitter, however, I began to notice a striking absence: direct criticism of Charlie Baker, our Republican governor.

When I decided to take a break from tabling for the day and head into the auditorium, I listened to party chair Tom McGee criticize anti-union Republican governors in other states (like Wisconsin), without so much as mentioning the anti-union governor in our own state. To my memory, McGee did not even mention Charlie Baker once in his speech.

I turned to a friend of mine and asked, “Have any of the speakers criticized Charlie Baker by name?” She paused for a moment to think: “Nope.”

Steve Tolman, the president of Mass AFL-CIO, was a pleasant change. He called out Baker’s Executive Order No. 562, one of the most dangerous things put forth by Baker so far, designed to roll back our state’s public interest regulations to placate Charlie’s Big Business buddies. His attack on the privatization agenda — of schools, of transportation, of services — had clear targets in both the State House and the governor’s mansion, even if names might not have been directly stated.

But this, as both the Globe and WGBH picked up as well, was a rarity at the convention. Democrats felt much more comfortable attacking national Republican boogeymen like Donald Trump rather than the Republican who has the most influence in shaping the future of our state: the governor.

When Senator Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats say, “Come to Massachusetts to see the future” without acknowledging the governor who is pushing us back into the past, they are engaging in political malpractice.

Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts, said it well in the aforementioned Globe article:
“If the Democrats are to run a credible race [for governor] in 2018, they really need to start developing a counter narrative to the success of the Baker administration,” he said. “It’s never too soon to start it.”
And given the partisan nature of the audience, he said, “if you are talking about what the shortcomings of the Baker administration [are], [the convention has the] safest audience to do it in front of.”
Charlie Baker has sky-high poll numbers because Democrats are faint in their criticism in the rare times they even criticize him at all. And that refusal to forcefully articulate a contrasting vision for governance (not a “Promises Watch” that implies all of the promises are good) spells electoral doom.

One is left wondering if the reason why our elected Democrats do so little to push back is that they largely agree with

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