Here And Sphere: Gov. Charlie Baker Is 'In'
Dec 13, 2017 06:46AM ● Published by Mike Freedberg
A few days ago Governor Baker announced that he is seeking re-election. This is hardly a surprise. Why wouldn’t America’s most popular Governor seek a second term ?
He brings to the table a most impressive record, one that I have almost always supported since the day he first took office. Granted, that credit for his achievements must be shared with the legislature, particularly the House, which has adopted almost all of the following list of reforms, unanimously or close to it :
( 1 ) complete restructuring of how the MBTA is operated, including its financial decisions
( 2 ) limiting the number of opioid pills a physician can prescribe in a 72-hour period
( 3 ) enacting the first comprehensive municipal law reforms in 50 years
( 4 ) assuring no-cost contraceptive health care for Massachusetts women
( 5 ) reforming the Department of Children and Families, including requiring its social workers to be licensed and providing each social worker an iPad so that they can write reports in real time
( 6 ) enacting our first in the nation ban of “bump stocks,” which when tacked onto rifles turn them into automatic weapons
( 7 ) enacting the “TransBillMA,” as twitter users short-hand it — legislation assuring transgender residents full civil right including in all public accommodations, thereby completing legislation only half done in the 2012 session. Baker also strongly and vocally opposes the upcoming ballot question that seeks to repeal this law. Baker also appointed transwoman Sara Schnorr to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women — a first.
( 8 ) successfully achieving a balanced state budget for all three years of his term so far, and doing so by unanimous vote in the House.
( 9 ) shepherding transportation improvements into place whereby greater Worcester is now connected to Boston by non-stop trains.
( 10 ) maintaining Massachusetts’ policy of embracing alternative energy, more so than ever, and devoting resources and personnel to protecting our conservation lands and urban farming projects
( 11 ) bringing workforce to employer connectivities to Western Massachusetts and the Connecticut Valley, areas of the state frequently neglected by Boston politicians.
( 12 ) changing Bridgewater State Hospital from a prison operation to one of treatment, thereby ending, finally, a 40 year scandal of abuse and mishandling of people committed to Bridgewater care. Baker also oversaw legislation that abolished sending to Framingham Women’s Prison women convicted of drug crimes. These women now go to treatment centers.
( 13 ) appointing the state’s first Latino Community Advisory Commission, a vital outreach to the growing number and location of Latino businesses, social organizations, and community concentration.
Baker’s record hasn’t been perfect. He has yet to find a workable answer for protecting undocumented immigrants from ICE harassment, or to provide them driver’s licenses, or to embrace the so-called “Trust Act.” Nor does Baker’s cautious persona, or his refusal to take on battles that aren’t core missions for his job, satisfy those who want him to lead the state’s resistance to President Trump’s many attacks on all sorts of people he wants to demonize and on the rule of law itself. Still, baker has found a way to make his absolute opposition to Mr. Trump felt and heard. As he said at the conclusion of his 2017 “state of the state” speech : “my job is to represent Massachusetts to Washington, not Washington to Massachusetts.” That said it all.
He now enters the re-election highway full of political fuel : a recent poll showed that 68 percent of our voters approve his work, only 14 percent disapprove. Because 36 percent of our state’s voters are Democrats, and because some Republicans disapprove of Baker’s centrist record, he will likely not win 68 percent of the vote; still, his re-election looks on course. Everyone I talk to, in my neighborhood and in my part of the LGBT community, likes him except the committed “progressives.” None of this surprises me. Surprising would be the most popular Governor in America not being re-elected, or winning re-election narrowly.
Instead, the State House political question that matters is, “what happens after Baker ?” Since 1990, our state has elected Republican Governors almost exclusively — only Deval Patrick’s eight years intervened. The state’s Republican activists saw very well that our voters like d Republican Governors and have been ready to accommodate Governor candidates whose politics are far more centrist, even liberal, than theirs for the sake of Republican victory., Now that seems to be changing. The old, realist cadres are aging fast, and the younger recruits — few in number though they be — are, many of them, unwilling to compromise for victory’s sake : they want Trumpism in policy and personality — radical reaction and rude, angry speechifying.
As Mr. Trump is enormously unpopular in our state (a favorable rating of 25 percent), the Trumpism of our state’s younger Republican activists seems a suicide pill; but to the activists, that’s OK. OK or not, if Trumpism becomes the language of the Massachusetts GOP< there won’t be another, seventh modern-era GOP Governor for a long long time. Baker could well be — probably will be — the last of the current GOP tradition : socially liberal, economically careful.
(Mike Freedberg is a longtime political activist and publisher of the blog "Here and Sphere")