Charlie Baker

The rich folks next door

Townhouses on Louisburg Square, on Beacon Hill, Boston. Some call the square the epicenter of Boston wealth.

Townhouses on Louisburg Square, on Beacon Hill, Boston. Some call the square the epicenter of Boston wealth.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

‘Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo commendably wants the state to be a lot more like Massachusetts – a desire reflected in her State of the State address and her (too?) ambitious budget proposals. That’s especially true when it comes to her ideas on how to advance public education -- K-college/voke school -- the heart of her program, around which hovers the question of how tough her administration will be willing and able to be on standards, as measured by tests.

The legislature is casting a gimlet eye on how she would fund her proposals, which would hike some fees, broaden the currently rather narrow sales tax and “scoop’’ some money from some quasi-public agencies. And who knows what might happen if we get a recession in the next year or so? We’d like to see contingency plans.

By the way, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also wants to raise taxes, in part to boost education aid to the localities. Among his proposals: putting a levy on opioid sales, broadening the excise tax to include vaping products, and boosting the tax that homeowners pay when they sell their house. The $150 million a year projected to come from this levy is supposed to go “resiliency-building’’ projects to address such effects of global warming as increased coastal flooding, flooding that’s already cutting property values in some places.

The biggest problem that all Rhode Island governors have in trying to implement programs like Massachusetts’s is simply that the Ocean State, while richer (in median household income, etc.) than the majority of states is much poorer than the Bay State, with its huge wealth-creating (and thus tax revenue) machine in Greater Boston based on technology, world-famed higher education, financial services and health care. (Consider that Massachusetts General Hospital alone has just announced a $1 billion building project).

Rhode Island, which has been much slower than Massachusetts to move away from its old mill culture, has nothing like this. But it does have proximity to Boston, which it must leverage with its own strengths, especially in such sectors as design and marine-related industries. The best thing that Rhode Island could do economically is make itself part of Greater Boston.

A model governor in Mass.

Gov. Charles Duane Baker.

Gov. Charles Duane Baker.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

The low-key Republican governor of a very Democratic state, Charlie Baker is close to a model chief executive. He rigorously oversees the administration of state government, with a sharp eye on personnel selection and oversight; after all, government is just a bunch of people. He doesn’t overpromise.

He makes his important decisions after much consultation with leaders of both parties and with cities and towns; he seeks consensus whenever possible. He tends to grant localities more say than many previous governors have, showing great respect for local knowledge. He knows how to strongly advocate his usually very pragmatic proposals, how to cut deals with the legislature, and when to give up. A former highly successful businessman, he brings a knowledge of private-sector efficiencies  and innovation without confusing the responsibilities of government with those of companies, even as he’s always on the lookout for ways to privatize some services.

In another time and another national Republican Party, he’d be considered a potential presidential candidate.

Charlie Baker waves the 'red flag'


From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

'Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s signing of a “red flag” gun law that will let household members seek a court order to take guns away from people posing a risk to themselves or others means that the Bay State’s gun-death rate, already the nation’s lowest, will probably get lower. Of course, the rate is low because the state has among America’s most restrictive gun laws.

The new law encourages family or household members to ask a judge for an order to remove guns from persons at risk of harming themselves or others and to ban them from having firearms for up to a year, when an extension could presumably be requested.

Massachusetts has become the sixth state to pass such a law, and Mr. Baker the fourth Republican governor to sign the bill into law since the Parkland shooting last winter. But the gun makers, and their lobbying organization, the National Rifle Association, own Congress – especially the House – so don’t expect any such action there anytime soon.

The states with the lowest gun-death rates are, in order, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Hawaii and Connecticut – all with restrictive (by American standards) gun laws. The NRA and its congressional servants say that “guns don’t kill people, people do.’’ Yeah, but it’s a hell of a lot easier with a gun….

James P. Freeman: Mass. 'Vanderpump Republicans' will never be in the majority


You must feel for Charlie Baker.

The incumbent Massachusetts governor must feel like Lisa Vanderpump, the matriarch of reality television’s Vanderpump Rules. Described in a New Yorker profile as “elegant and inscrutable,” for six seasons she has remained, observers say, above the debauchery and debris of a drama based upon the shenanigans of its wayward and intoxicated cast. Vanderpump is a kind of detached and absolved participant. Likewise, for four years, the thoughtful and reserved popular political patriarch has witnessed the unhinged vaudeville repertory that has become the Bay State GOP. Another dreadful drama: Vanderpump Republicans.

Sensible observers must feel that Republicans will never again be in the majority in Massachusetts.

For political reality is something incomprehensible to local arrested development agitators -- and their national cousins -- who have hijacked with hijinks the Party of Lincoln. And they have abandoned authentic conservative values (guiding principles, core philosophies) for hate-mongering, willful ignorance and fact-free ideology. All in the name of the Party of Trump.

President Trump, supposedly "draining the Washington swamp '' but actually drowning in his own, has done something remarkable in American politics. He has hyper-nationalized and simultaneously hyper-factionalized the Republican Party. In Massachusetts, Baker governs but Trump presides.

How else to explain the rise of Bay State Republicans Ron Beaty and Scott Lively?

Beaty, a tidal wave of bombast and bluster, is a Barnstable County commissioner who is running for the state representative seat in the 5th Barnstable District. He is challenging Republican incumbent Randy Hunt, a genuine conservative and the antithesis of Beaty. Hunt is civil, intelligent and, given the dearth of like-minded public servants, probably lonely; he is also not a convicted felon.

Beaty, whose Facebook and Twitter accounts boast his laughable conservative credentials, spent more than a year in federal prison for threatening to kill President George H.W. Bush and other politicians in the 1990s. A Trump wannabe, he recently asked if David Hogg, a Parkland, Fla., school shooting survivor, was a “fascist wannabe.” And, last October, Beaty tweeted that the #MeToo movement was “nonsense.” There is now an effort to recall him from his Cape Cod seat.

Then there is the fire and brimstone pastor from Springfield who is also a fire starter.

Knowing full well in advance his shameful acidic past, Republicans at their state convention last month still gave Lively enough votes to challenge Baker for this fall’s gubernatorial primary. They encouraged, in the words of Boston Magazine, a “world-renown homophobe,” and author of The Pink Swastika, to assert the ludicrous claim that he “represent[s] the full-spectrum conservative perspective of Republicanism” in Massachusetts. Whatever that means.

Lively, an anti-abortion, anti-tax, pro-Trump vulgarian, bizarrely wrapped himself in the drapery of Ronald Reagan who, Lively said, “stood for social and fiscal conservatism.” (Who will tell him that Reagan also signed into law in 1967 California’s Therapeutic Abortion Act (becoming pro-life later on) and, in the 1980s, created massive federal deficits?) Still, Reagan possessed a certain grace and temperament unknown to Lively, who touts himself as an “authentic conservative” and a “true Republican.” Well.

Beaty’s and Lively’s respective resumes and outbursts should automatically disqualify their candidacies. Instead, acquiescent Republicans essentially affirm them. And their values-systems. At their peril.

The official voice of Massachusetts Republicans,, says, with the breezy élan of a tourist brochure, that it promotes “our conservative values.” What exactly are those values? Baker is respectable and a gentleman but no conservative. In fact, Baker never says he is a conservative. The others, meanwhile, emphatically and repeatedly proclaim they are conservatives. Absent loud denials, the inclusion of the word “conservative” by the state party implies endorsement for Beaty and Lively.

In her May 10 email bulletin, MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes makes no mention of Beaty and Lively. She prefers to silence them. Bullies need to be confronted, not silenced. (At least WBUR’s Meghna Chakrabarti, to her credit, challenged Lively; and Baker sharply rebuked Lively after the convention vote.) No worries. Hughes happily finger points, like an admonishing adolescent, by transferring blame to the “Democrats’ toxic culture,” and how they will be “held accountable” for “tolerating” and “creating” this kind of “corruption.” So there… That settles that.

Beaty, Lively, and Hughes -- and others masquerading as conservatives -- need a history lesson.     

Today, Trump  self-identifies as a conservative; therefore, he must be a conservative. As a consequence, conservatism lacks definition, like a giant amoeba. Now, conservatism is what you say it is. As many of Trump’s 52 million Twitter followers, born of political mitosis, defensively attest. We’ve devolved from when political identification was rooted in philosophy and principle, which informed policy. In 2018, it’s mostly about personality.

Who needs reason when you’ve got emotion? And social media?

The long arc of modern conservatism began with Edmund Burke (1729-1797) and likely ended with William Buckley (1925-2008). For many Republicans today, they never existed.

Burke was deliberative, restrained by a sense of morality, and was suspicious of radical reforms. He espoused the virtues of prudence, moderation and character. And he would write of the Trump Revolution as he did of the French Revolution: “The levelers therefore only change and pervert the natural order of things.”

For all of Buckley’s accomplishments -- and there were many -- biographer Alvin Felzenberg writes that he “took special pride in the success he had in keeping that movement free of ‘kooks,’ ‘crackpots,’ racists and anti-Semites.” Ten years after Buckley’s death, his movement has seemingly collapsed and fractured: Extremists are dismantling accepted ethoses after their hostile takeover.

Greg Weiner, contributor to the journal Law and Liberty, brings much needed clarity to these recent developments. In the summer of 2016, he wrote of a Republican Party that underwent a “lurching metamorphosis” from its commitments to “constitutionalism, free trade, and chivalry” to “royalism, protectionism, and vulgarity.” He also anticipated that the “good sense” of the institutional Republican Party would be tested to constrain the future president. “A premise,” he concluded, “that the party’s leaders like principles more than they like power, especially as the latter is embodied in the Presidency.”

That premise is lost on those who embrace the likes of Beaty and Lively.    

The last time that both chambers of the Massachusetts General Court were controlled by Republicans was in 1954, three years before candidate Lively was born. Sixty-four years later, party leaders -- and their ilk of faux-conservative enablers -- will not see so much as a slight reversal of their Republican super-minority status in 2018. That may be fitting as residents rightly associate the party with Beaty and Lively, whose presence complicates the efforts of a party desperately searching for members and voters.

Baker may have angered conservatives for acting moderate -- his original sin? --in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. But he acts as a mature realist, too. (Buckley called conservatism “the politics of reality.”) Some say the rise of local fringe candidates is a form of protest, expressing an anti-Baker sentiment. Arguably, though, it reflects more of a pro-Trump sentiment. Trumpism has become a sort of liberation theology for pretend conservatives who see themselves as the oppressed class among establishment Republicans. And Trump is their liberator.

Baker's re-election seems certain but  no one should be surprised if Republicans lose legislative seats in Massachusetts this year. Having long ago discarded fundamental truths, and with the probability of losing more electoral power, what’s left for the pitiful Bay State GOP?  

Vanderpump Republicans should be cancelled before Vanderpump Rules.

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former banker. He is a former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal, The Cape Codder,,, and


James P. Freeman: Curling toward GOP victory

Curling in Toronto in 1909.

Curling in Toronto in 1909.


“Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,

Lift up your voice like a trumpet blast…”

                                                --Isaiah 58:1a


If voters mean what they say -- constantly expressing dissatisfaction with the current hyper-partisan political class and calling for its removal -- they could convert hyper-pandemonic emotion into action by dismissing Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren in 2018. An able replacement would be Beth Lindstrom. She is the saucer that could cool the Senate’s tea. And, maybe, ferocious minority factions.

If this is, as we are reminded daily, the Year-of-The-Woman in American politics, Lindstrom, a moderate Republican, counters the argument that her party is comprised of old white men, tired and empty. And should she win her party’s nomination to unseat Warren this autumn, her candidacy removes one stone from the hand holding the political rocks  that Warren likes to throw: the progressive granite of gender politics.

If you are Warren, you must hope that Lindstrom is not your challenger in November. For Lindstrom, personable and perspicacious, makes the improbable seem possible -- Warren’s wicked claw paralyzed; the screech silenced; the progressive oppression lifted.

For this column, appearing sturdy, cheerful and thoughtful over English Breakfast, fittingly, at a Boston hotel, the single biggest take-away is that Lindstrom is serious and compelling.

“A strong economy,” she says, is still the biggest issue for Massachusetts residents. Ever since Donald Trump won the presidency stock markets have anticipated the unbridling of America’s economic might. Higher wages, bigger bonuses and lower taxes (mere crumbs to likes of Warren and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) are filtering into wallets and purses. A recent national poll found that the second and third most important issues to respondents were, respectively, the economy and taxes. (Healthcare ranked number one; a relative non-issue in Massachusetts since Romneycare in 2006.) This bodes well for Lindstrom’s focus on economics.

Though never elected to office, Lindstrom brings just enough public-sector experience (executive director of Massachusetts State Lottery (1997-1999); director of Consumer Affairs in Gov. Mitt Romney’s cabinet -- overseeing regulatory agencies including banking, telecommunications, energy, insurance and licensure (2003-2006)) and private-sector experience (a founder and owner of small businesses) to understand the complexities of modern government.

As President Calvin Coolidge noted nearly a century ago, “the chief business of the American people is business.” But today much of America’s business is government. Lindstrom’s skill-sets and her MBA degree, therefore, will come in handy as Trump steers his massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure initiative into a hybrid of public-private partnerships (with lots of still-unknowns).

In January, Lindstrom launched a Business Growth Tour, intended to “collaborate with Massachusetts business owners on the steps that can be taken to help them grow and expand.” Lowering costs and reducing regulation present a “fair opportunity,” she insists. Small business owners make a big voting bloc. In 2016, there were nearly 640,000 small businesses in Massachusetts. They employed 1.4 million workers, representing nearly 47 percent of all  workers in the commonwealth. And nearly 90,000 of these businesses are minority-owned.


Warren, meanwhile, defends her questionable lineage, and her support of Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- both saturated with excessive regulations. Do small-business proprietors think that  there are too few regulations?

Perhaps unintentionally, Lindstrom’s presence is that of a restorer of Rockefeller Republicanism -- to frustrate today’s right-wing pathology; and repairer of the breach -- the chasm between professional politicians and everyday citizens. She speaks in tones of incrementalism, not extremism.

For the doubters -- those wondering if she knows how to win in liberal Massachusetts -- Lindstrom managed Scott Brown’s successful Senate campaign eight years ago. The inconceivable to the achievable.

Lindstrom senses a tremulous electorate in 2018, like what she felt in 2010. But today it’s harder to define; and it’s not yet articulated into a slogan. (In 2010, Brown ran to capture “the people’s seat.”) She may be forgiven for defining herself as an abstraction: “A common-sense Republican.” But what does that mean? Standard definition is yesterday’s technology and yesteryear’s candidacy. It will need some high-def refinement before Warren pounces. (In 2012, incumbent Brown called himself a “Scott Brown Republican,” letting Warren ill-define him.)

Her fractured party and its national leaders pose problems, too.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky bemoans Republicans embracing Trump’s $1.5 trillion in new debts (reminiscent of Obama-era levels) and projections for unbalanced budgets for the next decade. Ironically, Rand joined Warren in opposing the recent “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018,” which increases the debt ceiling and spending by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two years. Lindstrom believes that the GOP must remain “the party of fiscal responsibility” and determine whether spending that is “necessary versus nice.” She favors congressional term-limits and a presidential line-item veto to force the government to think long-term, not each election cycle.

Like many Americans, she winces at the president’s “tone, temperament and tweeting” but thinks that more Americans will continue reaping the benefits of Trump’s economic policies by this year’s mid-terms. And, like many Americans, she supports his tax cuts; she expects that higher growth rates (not the paltry, so-called “new normal” touted after the Great Recession) will “temper higher debts and deficits.”

Talk of voters abandoning the GOP en masse in November may be premature. Just this month, a Politico/Morning Consult poll showed Trump’s approval rating equaling the percentage of voters who disapprove of his job performance (47 percent). And on a “generic congressional ballot” basis, the same poll found that the GOP now enjoys a one-point advantage over Democrats, as of Feb. 12. Will Americans reward his policies and ignore his personality this fall?\  

Still, while Trump may be the elephant in the room, he is not on the ballot in 2018.

Fortunately for Lindstrom, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker will be on the ballot. Baker, like Lindstrom, is a moderate. And more importantly, he is also the most popular high-level politician in Massachusetts. A January WBUR poll found that 74 percent of Massachusetts voters approve of the job that Baker is doing. That means  that he is more popular than Warren, and Lindstrom hopes  that his coattails will carry Republican votes down ballot.

(Incidentally, the same poll found that: “The one somewhat positive number for Trump is that a plurality of Massachusetts voters (43 percent) say the president has been good for the overall economy.”)  

For the next few months, Lindstrom looks to build her brand. Currently fewer than 8 percent of Massachusetts residents know who she is; Warren is recognized by nearly 95 percent of residents. That’s a challenge also facing her principal Republican opponents, state Rep. Geoff Diehl and former hedge-fund executive John Kingston. But all three Republicans are confident that they will meet April’s GOP state convention threshold to appear on September’s primary ballot. It’s still early.

Voters have been watching more Olympics than politics lately. Nevertheless, they may soon understand that Lindstrom’s campaign is analogous to the winter sport of curling, which requires resistance, patience and persistence to win. Whereas Diehl and Kingston are the two-man luge. Exciting and daring, certainly, but susceptible to crashing.

James P. Freeman, a former banker, is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal, and

Boston mayor complains about dearth of state funding for city's schools

Plaque commemorating the first site, on School Street. of the Boston Latin School, the most prestigious public school in Boston and, founded in 1635, the oldest public school in America.

Plaque commemorating the first site, on School Street. of the Boston Latin School, the most prestigious public school in Boston and, founded in 1635, the oldest public school in America.


Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told the New England Council  on Monday that his city is in a “crisis” because the state has been failing to address longstanding shortages of state funding for local schools. And he said he disappointed in the amount of aid proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican with whom the Democratic mayor has generally had friendly  political relations.

“One of our biggest fiscal challenges that we can’t wait to solve is our declining and underfunded state aid. We have issues there.''

The city says: “State aid has been reduced substantially over the course of the last two recessions. Since FY02, net state aid (defined as state aid revenues less state assessments) to the City has been reduced by over $252 million or 59%. The City lost approximately $79 million between FY03 {fiscal 2003} and FY05, gained approximately $16 million between FY06 and FY08.''

To read more, please hit this link.




Tim Faulkner: Governor wants to talk to Interior chief about offshore drilling

Photo by TheConduqtor

Photo by TheConduqtor

From ecoRI News (

Florida recently received an exemption from a new plan to revive offshore drilling and other states, including Rhode Island, hope to receive the same treatment from the Department of Interior.

Gov. Gina Raimondo's office spoke with the Department of Interior on Jan. 10 to schedule a call with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. No date and time for that call have been announced.

After traveling to Florida to meet Gov. Rick Scott,  a Republican, Zinke removed the state from a proposal to open federal waters off the East and West Coasts and Alaska to oil and gas drilling.

“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” Zinke said.

Zinke made the Florida decision five days after a Jan. 4 announcement of a sweeping proposal to expand drilling in areas long closed to fossil-fuel extraction, including in many prime commercial fishing grounds. Most of these proposed zones are in federal waters that typically begin just three miles off the coast.

Condemnation of the proposal was swift, with bipartisan opposition from governors of coastal states who see the same risks that Florida raised. Many governors threatened to sue the Department of Interior over the proposal, including Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, is the only governor from a coastal state to support the offshore drilling proposal.

The Department of Interior said governors are welcome to meet with Zinke to plead their case. So far, North Carolina and South Carolina had made requests to meet. Raimondo is seeking a phone call.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he also opposes the drilling proposal, but didn't respond to inquiries about seeking an exemption from the Department of Interior or a meeting with Zinke.

Political pundits claim the Florida exemption was a gift to Scott by President Trump who is urging the Republican governor to run for the U.S. Senate this year.

Details of the proposal will be open to public scrutiny during public workshops that begin this month and run through Feb. 28. Providence hosts a meeting Jan. 25 at the Marriott hotel, 1 Orms St., from 3-7 p.m. Boston hosts a meeting Jan. 24 and Hartford hosts a meeting Feb. 13. The meetings offer one-on-one conversations with industry experts and scientists from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Public comment will be accepted in writing at the meetings but there will be no town hall-style open discussions with an audience.

Public comments are being accepted online through March.

Local and national environmental groups uniformly oppose the drilling plan.

“At a time when offshore wind projects are gaining traction in our region, the last thing our coastal environment needs is oil drilling and all of the risks that go with it,” according to Providence-based Save The Bay. “Rhode Island has seen its share of petroleum disasters, including the 1989 grounding of World Prodigy on Brenton Reef and the 1996 North Cape oil spill off of Moonstone Beach.”

Tim Faulkner reports and writes for ecoRI News.


Don Pesci: In New England politics, 'moderate Republican'' is a term of art

An 1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly.

An 1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly.


A historical repetition, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard reminds us, is not possible, because it is not possible to recreate historically the precise conditions that occasioned the event we wish to replicate. Karl Marx, a poor economist but a passable social critic, put it this way: “History repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce.”  

The shadow of a not too amusing farce hovers over a recent Hartford Courant story.

The central premise of the report is this: Charlie Barker of Massachusetts is a successful Republican governor, his approval rating an astonishing 71 percent. Baker is the usual New England moderate Republican, one who is conservative on fiscal issues but liberal on social issues. If only Connecticut were able to field a Charlie Baker-like gubernatorial candidate in the upcoming 2018 race, the GOP might be able to sweep the boards and restore to the gubernatorial office – held for two terms by Dannel Malloy, a progressive governor with an appalling approval rating of 29 percent, the lowest in the nation -- a “moderate” governor such as John Rowland, Jodi Rell or Lowell Weicker.

Here is the paragraph upon which the proposition precariously rests: “In both style and substance, Baker evokes the New England moderate, a breed that traces its lineage from Leverett Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. to John Chafee and Lowell P. Weicker Jr. On the federal level, this type of politico has gone largely extinct in Connecticut following losses by former U.S. Reps. Nancy Johnson and Chris Shays. Since 2008, the state has only sent Democrats to Washington.”

Just to begin with, U.S. Sen. Lowell Weicker was by no means a moderate Republican. His eccentric political posture is signaled very clearly in the boastful title to his own autobiography, Maverick. Before Weicker had been dethroned by former state Atty. Gen. Joe Lieberman, his liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) rating was higher than that of U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who was neither a Republican nor a moderate. Indeed, during Weicker’s long reign as a U.S. senator, there were many Republicans in Connecticut who seriously doubted that Weicker was a Republican at all.

As governor, Weicker operated as a fiscal progressive, and he strained to the breaking point the compromised affections of fiscally moderate Republicans and Democrats by instituting an income tax. Governors Ella Grasso and Bill O’Neill, both moderate Democrats, were unalterably opposed to an income tax – for the soundest of reasons.  They supposed, correctly as it happened, that an income tax would spare legislators in the General Assembly the ordeal of a) reducing spending, and b) disappointing unionized state workers, Connecticut’s fourth branch of government. Following the imposition of an income tax, state spending tripled within the space of three succeeding governors. One can easily imagine Grasso snarling in that portion of Heaven reserved for moderate Democrat Connecticut governors.

Other Republicans mentioned in the paragraph – Governors Rowland and Rell and U.S. House members Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons and Chris Shays -- were, as advertised, fiscal conservatives and social moderates. But, as the story notes, a doom hung over them, and they were at last displaced by fiscally progressive, socially progressive Democrats.

So then, here is the lesson that ought to be learned by people in Connecticut, both Democrat and Republican, who do not wish to repeat the mistakes of recent history: 1) “moderate” is a term of art deployed by artful politicians who are, in truth, immoderate, and 2) the division between fiscal and social issues is largely imaginary.

Are the urban poor in Connecticut’s larger cities deprived because of economic or social disruption, and which, in this sad turn of events, is the chicken and which the egg? Isn’t it obvious that there are two economies in the state, one urban and one suburban? And there are two social models in the state as well, one urban and one suburban.

But the poor themselves are indivisible; there is not one part of a poor man that is economic and another part that is social.  The traditional family in cities as we know it – dad, mom, two and a half children – has been entirely uprooted and destroyed, mostly owing to programs that finance the production and spread of poverty and social disruption.  And the consequent pathologies associated with these policies – fatherless families, a high incident of crime, crippling economic dependence on government for the necessities of life, poor educational possibilities – are everywhere apparent for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The politician who claims to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal is a prisoner of a false dichotomy – a willing prisoner, a man or a woman who simply refuses to confront the truth that lies, as George Orwell says, right in front of his nose.

And that is why the fiscally conservative-socially liberal politician has been vanishing from our politics. He will be replaced by demagogues who can lie in such a way that even the stones will believe them.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist.











James P. Freeman: A bumpy trip though Massachusetts's circus of 2017


And all our yesterdays have lighted fools”
—  William Shakespeare, Macbeth (Act V, Scene V)

The struts and frets of 2017 confirm we are on a portentous path to a dusty death.

Is there a doctor still in the house?

The Massachusetts Medical Society rescinded its opposition to physician-assisted suicide. Perhaps that phrase was too forthright in these sensitive times. So, a statement from the society reads “medical aid-in-dying.” The society’s governing board will, for now, adopt of position of “neutral engagement.” Theirs might be a dutiful death.

Newly offensive public statues and monuments were the rage. In Boston a street sign, “Yawkey Way,” so-named 40 years ago, became an object of moral grandstanding. Red Sox owner John Henry is now “haunted” by the racist legacy of a predecessor  owner, Tom Yawkey. Never mind that the Yawkey Foundation is one of the largest charitable organizations in the city. Henry and fellow progressives are more concerned about erasing history than improving it.

The Boston Globe — which Henry owns — haunted many subscribers with delivery and production problems. The Globe got it wrong in asking its readers this question: “Does Boston deserve its racist reputation?” More probing would have been: “How does racism still exist after a century of pure-bred progressivism in Boston?”

Bad news. The Boston Herald filed for bankruptcy and was sold for pennies on the dollar.

Boston Public Schools needed a bigger piggy bank, surprisingly, as it paid certain employees with off-the-books payments, revealed an IRS audit. But they won’t be pressing the snooze button. BPS announced (based upon computer research) the rescheduling of most of its starting times next school year.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term. No mention during the campaign that Walsh overwhelmingly crushed free speech and freedom of the press during the Free Speech Rally in August.

Andrea Campbell, 35, will be the first African-American woman to lead the Boston City Council. Her presidency, says The Globe, will make the council the “most diverse in the city’s history.” Forget political diversity, though. Republicans need not apply — there are none on the council.

For all the region’s proud progressives, don’t kiss and tell. The following codswallop appeared in  “10 Things Every Intersectional Feminist Should Ask on a First Date.” Warning: “What do you do for fun?” isn’t one of them.

Amazon came calling and Massachusetts went groveling. Twenty-six Commonwealth entities submitted bids to become the company’s second headquarters.

Take the long road home. State Sen. Thomas McGee, a Democrat from Lynn, proposed legislation that would bring more toll roads to Greater Boston. Funds would be allocated to all statewide transportation needs, including the troubled MBTA. For roadways, however, Massachusetts already spends an average of $675,939 per state-controlled mile — a figure exceeded only by Florida and New Jersey.

Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Maura Healey continued her quest as progressivism’s most litigious social-justice warrior. Her personal vendetta against the Trump administration included 24 instances of legal intervention in just the first six months of the year. How about Ticketmaster? Drug dealers?

A high school girl golfer beat a high school boy golfer by shooting the best score in the Central Massachusetts Division 3 boys’ golf tournament this fall. But she did not get the trophy, sparking national headlines and progressive incredulity.

In more gender-related news, the Girl Scouts of America advised against children hugging relatives. Such activity, reported The Washington Post, “could muddy the waters when it comes to the notion of consent later in life.” Meantime, the Boy Scouts of America accepted girls into their ranks to “shape the next generation of leaders.” And the singer Pink is raising her daughter gender-neutral. No wonder kids are confused today.

Poor Johnny and Jane.

Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at Cambridgeport School, refused to accept a gift of Dr. Seuss books from First Lady Melania Trump — a gesture recognizing “National Read a Book Day.” The Seuss illustrations are “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” she wrote in a letter to Trump. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered Soeiro posed for a picture in 2015 wearing a Seuss outfit and holding a copy of Green Eggs and Ham book. Only in Cambridge. Well, maybe not …

In a letter to parents, the Boyden Elementary School, in Walpole, bizarrely asserted that its annual Halloween costume parade “is not inclusive of all the students and it is our goal each and every day to ensure all student’s individual differences are respected.” Instead, trading a parade for political correctness, the school laughably said that Halloween would be known as “black and orange” spirit day. Call it Banned in Boyden.

Not on my ocean view! Having faced a “very vicious and very well-funded lobbying organization” to protect Nantucket Sound for 17 years, said Bloomberg, the last gale warnings were issued for America’s largest proposed  (and now dead) offshore wind project, known as “Cape Wind.” It’s officially kaput. Some wonder if Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth will now close, as scheduled, in 2019. Power down, green protesters!

Scandals ran down Beacon Hill. Former Democrat state Sen. Brian Joyce was indicted in a sweeping federal corruption case. i And Democrat Stan Rosenberg stepped down as state Senate president amid an investigation of sexual-assault allegations against his civil-law husband, Bryon Hefner — while he conducted state business. Rosenberg said the Senate has a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment.

Charlie Baker is running for Comedian-in-Chief of the Commonwealth. When the popular incumbent announced his re-election, a running joke circulated within the GOP:  “For which party?” Confirming his unassailable allegiance to progressivism instead of conservativism, the governor signed bills mandating free birth control and bilingual education.

Always in character, thin-skinned progressive U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren got her feathers ruffled with faux-outrage, once again. She said President Donald Trump used a “racial slur” during a White House celebration of Native Americans when he referred to her as “Pocahontas.” Funny, did she consider the 1995 eponymous movie to be a slur, too? Millions didn’t. The Disney animation grossed over $141 million during its theatrical release in the United States.

Among the initially named visiting fellows at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics for the 2017-2018 school year were two improbable scholars:  former Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and former U.S. Army intelligence-analyst-turned-traitor Chelsea Manning. Harvard students are falling behind … Fordham students. Two students were kicked out of a coffee shop at Fordham University for violating a “safe space” with their “Make America Great Again” hats.

Shootings were up 18 percent in Boston. There was no evidence, nonetheless, that those weapons were modified with “bump stocks.” But bump stocks were outlawed in Massachusetts as a threat to society.

Fifty years after The Summer of Love, take the flowers out of your hair but be sure to put some LSD in your head. People looking to get an “extra edge at work are turning to [the] illegal drug to boost their focus and creativity,” reported They are micro-dosing, which involves taking small amounts of the substance about twice a week. Says computational neuroscientist Selen Atasoy, “It’s really like jazz improvisation, what LSD does to your brain.” Will it block progressive impulses in 5/4 time?

Psychedelic meet-up groups are trending in Portland, Ore.; San Francisco, and New York. Cutting-edge hipster millennials in Boston are likely meeting now.

Meanwhile, the opioid crisis rages on. However, for the first nine months of 2017, Massachusetts reported a 10 percent decline in deaths over the like period in 2016, likely a result of more immediate administration of Naloxone, which reverses the effects of overdose. Theirs is a dusky death.

Needham-based TripAdvisor, the travel and restaurant Web site (which includes reviews and public forums), got into trouble when it repeatedly removed posts warning of alleged rape, assault and other injuries at Mexican resorts. And, reported, a writer in London tricked TripAdvisor by creating a “fictional eatery” that became the city’s top rated restaurant. Trust but verify.

Snowflakes actually coated the College of Holy Cross in May. A committee was formed to determine what to do about the fact that its founding president owned slaves, and what to do with a now-objectionable sports name: “Crusaders.” As National Review noted, “where there’s a will, there’s a microaggression.”

Not to be outdone, Pope Francis, a leader in thoughts and words, is considering a change in one word of “The Lord’s Prayer.” The pontiff, conversant in nine languages, is concerned about the word “temptation.” He believes that the phrasing in the Our Father prayer “is not a good translation.” Will this translate to stemming high rates of disaffiliation plaguing the Catholic Church?

Next year, should it be tempted to arrive, marks the 45th commemoration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion. Since then, it is estimated that over 58 million abortions have taken place in America. As a stark reminder, the only gravestone on the premises of the chapel at Holy Trinity Church in Harwich reads: “In memory of The Unborn – Denied the Precious Right to Life (1973-   ).” Theirs was a despicable death.

James P. Freeman, a former banker, is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal, and

In the Bay State, trying to disable handicapped-parking fraud


From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill to crack down on people who misuse disability credentials to get handicapped parking spaces. Rhode Island officials would do well to order the same sort of crackdown.

We sometimes see people who seem in  very good physical condition using handicapped parking placards in order to park in spaces very close to where they’re shopping, seeing physicians and so on.

The Boston Globe reported that the new law, which increases the authority of the Registry of Motor Vehicles to investigate fraudulent applications for handicapped placards, was enacted after a 2016 report from the state inspector general found that people were misusing placards  in every Boston neighborhood that was watched.

“’The use of disability parking placards should be reserved for our most vulnerable residents,’ Baker said. Obviously.

The issue reminds me that the demand for handicapped parking will presumably continue to surge with the aging of the population.  But will self-driving cars cool that demand as auto-autos pick up and drop off people exactly where they want to be?

To read The Globe’s article, please hit this link:

And then there are those “therapy animals,’’ mostly dogs, with owners with invisible health problems.


James P. Freeman: Boston's mayor should keep his ambitions within reality

Boston Mayor Martin ("Marty'') Walsh.

Boston Mayor Martin ("Marty'') Walsh.

“Believe or not I’m walking on air
I never thought I could be so free
Flying away on a wing and a prayer, who could it be?
Believe it or
not it’s just me”

— Theme from The Greatest American Hero (“Believe It or Not”)

In homogeneously progressive Boston  pell-mell fantasy  can exceed partisan reality.

Appearing on WGBH's Greater Boston a day before Election Day to promote his book Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, former aide to the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, was getting a second thrill going up his leg. When asked who in the Democratic Party today is closest to the late senator (presumably in temperament and spirit), Matthews responded with understated hyperbole:  “Maybe the mayor here.”   

And on WCVB-TV’s Sunday political program OTR five days after Election Day, the usually rational Patrick Griffin was clearly under the influence of hypnosis. Or something else. When asked during the roundtable discussion who had the “best week,” the Republican strategist responded with overstated gusto. “Marty Walsh!” Where the mayor, newly reelected, is now poised and positioned to begin a “national narrative.” Well.

Cue the needle scratching over the record.

With little enthusiasm (just 27 percent voter turnout in the general election; 14 percent in the primary), little competition (his challenger lost by over 30 percentage points), and little in the way of transformational advancement during a single term (understandable after following the longest-serving Boston mayor, the late Thomas Menino (five terms, 1993-2014)), Boston Mayor Marty Walsh won re-election. And, summoning ghosts in machine politics, Walsh is — so say observers — now worthy of higher office in Massachusetts and, possibly, a position in national affairs. Play me a new song.

Walsh’s parochial progressivism may in fact appeal to those outside  Routes 128 and I-495. And that may even extend beyond, to the hills of Williamstown and West Stockbridge, if he were to seek statewide office. But it stops there. (Besides, he will have to wait until 2022 to run for governor, when, presumably, Charlie Baker will be leaving, with the state in better condition than when he found it, after serving two terms.)

Thrilling for conservatives, Walsh’s platitudinous progressive record will play like warped vinyl on the national stage. It will be punched through with holes, and its collection of Democratic covers will be relegated to the bargain bin of bad ideas. Like abandoned vinyl records. 

Still, it will be fun listening. (Will he reprise Hillary Clinton’s “Listening Tours”?)

How does Walsh propose to solve problems in the country that he hasn’t been able to solve in the city or the commonwealth? The playlist is long but exposes progressivism’s universal shortcomings:  affordable housing, income inequality, climate disruption, sanctuary cities (some calling for sanctuary states), and public education.

And his first forays into the national spotlight proved opportunistic and potentially disastrous: He essentially blamed his hyper-interest in Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid as a form of payola, a political payoff to honor the legacy of a commitment made by the Menino administration. No friend of the First Amendment, he essentially suppressed freedom of speech and freedom of the press during the monstrously overblown Free Speech rally last August on Boston Common, despite favorable media coverage. That won’t work on the National Mall.

In many regards, Walsh is instinctively progressive but he has learned lessons from his Massachusetts mentors.

If you can’t fix it, expand it. Former Gov. Deval Patrick proposed in 2013 massive growth of the state’s transportation system, while he ignored the troubled MBTA. If you can’t improve it, market it. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s persistent message in tweets and books is that ever more government is what is needed to make America great again.

Walsh hasn’t written any books, but that didn’t stop him in 2016 from actually issuing a suggested reading list to all Bostonians. Reading is not fundamental in Boston. The booklist directive reflects the new soft sell of progressive bullying:  from the cold engineering of public power to the warm “engagement” of like-minded citizens. For Walsh’s Boston (like Warren’s America) believes in diversity of all aspects of life. Except thought. Or political party.

Walsh can’t even claim one thing that Patrick and Warren could:  reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans. Because there are no Republicans in the elected part of Boston government.

City Hall is not a standard steppingstone to the Oval Office. Only two mayors have gone on to become president of the United States. The first was Grover Cleveland, former mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. (1882), who is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885-1889 and 1893-1897). And the last was Calvin Coolidge, former mayor of Northampton, Mass. (1910-1911), who, as vice president, became president in 1923, when President Warren Harding died of a heart attack. Coolidge is the only American to be a mayor, lieutenant governor (1916-1919, Massachusetts), governor (1919-1921, Massachusetts), vice president, and president. He might be the last.

Mayors fare better becoming senators. Today, they include Dianne Feinstein (San Francisco), Bernie Sanders (Burlington, Vt.) and Cory Booker (Newark, N.J.). There might be a practical explanation behind these histories.

As explains, “Americans, not surprisingly, have come to respect big-city mayors as managers, but not necessarily as custodians of important values.”

Over the last 30 years, Massachusetts politicians have had difficulty articulating ideas — exporting local values? — that resonate with voters outside of the commonwealth, into electoral victory for national office. Probably, their loud, turgid progressivism is incomprehensible to the nation. And moderates are undoubtedly viewed with suspicion — guilty-by-approximation to progressives. Walsh must be acutely aware of the performance of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (1980), Gov. Michael Dukakis (1988), the late Sen.  Paul Tsongas (1992), Sen. John Kerry (2004), and Gov. Mitt Romney (2012) in presidential contests. What will happen to Elizabeth Warren in 2020?

With or without Warren, Walsh may decide next decade, cape in hand, that he will be the Greatest American Hero to progressive causes. For now, though, those lofty aspirations are prematurely foolish.

Should America reject Warren and Walsh’s propulsive progressivism, the consolation prize might be membership in an exclusive club. They could join George McGovern, who won just one state in 1972. In a landslide, he swept Massachusetts. As they likely would too.

James P. Freeman, a former banker, is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal and here, in

James P. Freeman: Questions for two GOP candidates eager to take on Senator Warren

It’s been said that you can’t split dead wood.

Surprisingly, the Massachusetts Republican Party, usually barren tundra when competing in statewide races, is fielding a forest of formidable candidates to challenge Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018. Two of them — Beth Lindstrom and John Kingston — are twin oaks of establishment politics and just recently announced their candidacies. They are worthy contenders, nevertheless, and deserve recognition.

Lindstrom is a Groton resident. She was executive director of the Massachusetts Lottery in the 1990s and, later, worked as director of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation while Mitt Romney was governor. She also managed Scott Brown’s successful U.S. Senate campaign during the 2010 special election and is the first female executive director of the state Republican Party. Lindstrom appeared, notably, on television ads in 2014 for a super PAC backing Republican Charlie Baker. She announced her candidacy on Twitter on Aug. 21, with a formal announcement on Oct. 14.

John Kingston is a Winchester resident. He is a rich businessman and philanthropist. He was a lawyer at Ropes & Gray and went on to hold leadership positions at Affiliated Managers Group, the global asset-management company. He serves on the board of the Pioneer Institute, the public-policy organization, and is a member of  the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington D.C., think tank. He is also involved with several charitable endeavors. Active in state and national Republican Party affairs, Kingston was part of Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and was an executive producer for the 2014 documentary film Mitt. He formally announced his candidacy on Oct.  25.

So, before debate moderators and deceitful mainstream media can ask them their favorite color or when they last wept, they should be asked serious questions. Herewith are some to ponder:

1. Your mentor, Mitt Romney, was mocked during the 2012 presidential campaign for suggesting  that Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat to the United States. Considering the allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, is Russia today still the biggest threat to American security? Why or why not?

2. What should be done to mitigate North Korean provocations? Can America live with a nuclear-armed North Korea?

3. In May, with over $70 billion in outstanding debt, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy (believed to be the largest ever U.S. local government bankruptcy) under Title III of a U.S. Congressional rescue law known as PROMESA. Puerto Rico’s poor fiscal condition, highlighted again after Hurricane Maria, mirrors many mainland municipalities. What should this debt restructuring look like? Do municipal bankruptcy laws need modification given the sheer number of over-incumbered, bankruptcy-prone municipalities?

4. Some would argue that the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter are effectively operating as monopolies, and that their size and influence far exceed those of Standard Oil, and AT&T, for instance, which were ultimately broken up. Do the current examples raise anti-trust concerns? Does the Justice Department need to rethink its anti-trust policies?

5. For better or worse, President  Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, your party. In what regard is the president doing well? In what regard can the president improve?

6. In Massachusetts, you will not win election without winning over some Democrats. How do you garner their vote? What do you say to Senator Warren’s core constituency, progressive populists, to gain their vote?

7. The commonwealth has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the country. This year police in several Massachusetts cities and towns are seeing massive increases, not decreases, in non-fatal overdoses. The rightly called opioid epidemic has been trending for over a decade in the wrong direction. What are your proposals for action? How should state and federal governments better address this matter?

8. The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon lured 238 bids from cities and regions for its second corporate headquarters. With no public vetting or commenting process, a total of 26 Massachusetts sites are competing for Amazon’s business, which, according to estimates, will bring tens of thousands of jobs to the winner. Is public policy perverted when one of the world’s richest companies is seeking — and will be granted — generous subsidies and tax benefits from these places where there is already high indebtedness, massive unfunded pension liabilities, and where there is need for drastic infrastructure improvements? What are your thoughts on these arrangements?

9. Does Obamacare need to be repealed and replaced? If yes, what are your proposals? If no, what improvements need to be made to make it a sustainable health care system? And looking at health care locally, Romneycare is now eating up close to 45 percent of the Massachusetts budget, prompting state Rep. Jim Lyons to call the budget “an insurance company.” How do you bend the cost curve? Is the expansion of Medicaid slowly bankrupting Massachusetts? How do you finance it on the federal level?

10. Former Sen. Scott Brown said during the 2012 senatorial campaign that he was a “Scott Brown Republican.” He lost by a wide margin. Likewise, both of you have described yourselves as abstractions. (Lindstrom: “a common-sense Republican.” Kingston: “an independent thinker.”) What do you mean by these Twitter-inspired thought bubbles? Do you have better descriptions?

11. Speaking of 2012, Brown and Romney could not decide if they were moderates or conservatives or something else. Lacking such identity probably hurt them. Warren is proudly progressive. What are you? And does it make political and electoral sense to fight a progressive with a conservative?

12. What are your reactions to the Massachusetts Republican Party settling charges for $240,000 in 2015 with Tea Party member Mark Fisher? (He claimed that the party stymied his efforts at getting on the Republican gubernatorial primary ballot in 2014, which raised larger issuers of attempting to purge the party of conservatives.)     

13. On March 10, The Boston Globe’s Frank Phillips wrote: “A major concern for the governor’s political team is that the party’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2018 be compatible with Governor Charlie Baker and his political positions.” You both speak of not being beholden to President Trump but you’re both considered insiders in the state Republican Party. How do you refute Phillip’s premise that you are not beholden to Baker? Do you think his team favored the party’s proposal of doubling the number of super-delegates at next year’s nominating convention?

14. Who are your political role models?  Why?

15. Has the national legislative branch abdicated its constitutionally prescribed powers to the executive branch? If yes, how do you bring the balance back?

16. Candidate Lindstrom:  In the announcement video for your candidacy, you say you are “not a professional politician.” (Technically Olympic athletes aren’t professional athletes either.) Granted, you were never elected to public office, yet a substantial portion of your career has been involved in government. Do you think that the average voter would believe your statement?

17. Candidate Lindstrom:  In 2008, Former Republican Lit. Gov. Kerry Healy would have been the first woman elected Massachusetts governor. You would be the first Republican woman elected Massachusetts senator. What advice has she given you?

18. Candidate Kingston:  It was reported that you switched party registration last year from Republican to unenrolled and led an effort to create a movement to field an independent candidate in the presidential election. You have lent your own campaign approximately $3 million. You are a harsh critic of President Trump. Candidate Trump also had a history of switching party affiliations and lending his campaign personal funds. Philosophically and operationally, aren’t you behaving like Trump? Why are you running as a Republican and not as an Independent?

19. Candidate Kingston:  You made a fortune in the asset-management business and spent a significant amount of your career in financial services. Did Wall Street learn any lessons in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008-2009? What were they? Are Americans more protected from Wall Street shenanigans today than last decade? Should hedge funds, which play increasingly powerful roles in trading and asset accumulation, be taxed and regulated more?

20. Candidate Kingston:  In your formal announcement video, you say you are a “different kind of leader.” How so? In a separate statement you also said, “We cannot risk that chance [defeating Warren] on candidates who cannot deploy the resources necessary to win, or on candidates who are unelectable or uninspiring.” Is that an elitist sentiment, and don’t ideas matter too? Are you suggesting that your primary opponents’ lack of comparable wealth is a disqualifier? How are you inspiring?

Lindstrom and Kingston aren’t the only GOP candidates. State Rep.  Geoff Diehl, businessman Shiva Ayyadurai, and Allen Waters of Mashpee are also running. But these questions are for the two candidates formally jumping in this month.

It’s too early to tell if Lindstrom and Kingston will split the vote or split their differences with Massachusetts Republicans. Each will need 15 percent of the vote at next April’s state party convention to secure their respective names on the primary ballot. But already there is controversy and trouble among them. Kingston, it was reported by the Globe, has bizarrely urged Lindstrom to drop out of the race. Surely a brush fire Baker wants extinguished immediately.

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer, former columnist with The Cape Cod Times and former banker.  This column first appeared in New Boston Post. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal as well as here,

Why Charlie Baker has succeeded (so far)

Joshua Miller, of The Boston Globe, had a nice summary of the success (so far) of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker:

“His wonky, straightforward style stands in stark contrast to that of his party’s bombastic leader, President Trump.

“What’s more, Massachusetts’ economy is strong, and unemployment is low; there’s a sense among voters that the state is generally headed in the right direction, while the nation is on the wrong track; Baker has crafted a likable media persona; he’s presented himself as a fiscal check on the Democratic Legislature; and there’s been an apparent dearth of crises in state government.

“’He’s not an ideologue, and voters here, at least in their governor’s office, prefer managers and problem solvers,’ said political science professor Peter Ubertaccio, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Stonehill College. ‘He’s like the uncle who is always glad to see you and give you good advice, even if you’re not going to take it. He strikes folks as a decent guy and a good manager, and that just fits the moment.’”

Most GOP governors (which means now most governors) govern with far more practicality and cooler rhetoric than members of Congress. They have to, in order to get anything important done. Actually governing/administering, and coming up with the compromises and solutions to do so, is a hell of a lot tougher than bloviating on Capitol Hill, where people are rarely held responsible for much of anything, as long as they’re good on TV.

Federal legislators spendremarkably little time actually legislating, as opposed to raising money and giving speeches. In recent decades they ‘ve spent less and less time working according to their constitutional job description and much less time working across the aisle to craft bipartisan bills.


James P. Freeman: Charlie Baker is sort of Nixonian

In his marvelously insightful book, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr., Alvin S. Felzenberg recalls the 1960 presidential contest when the National Review founder saw then-candidate Richard Nixon as “less the leader of the GOP than as the ‘amalgamator’ of all the forces that composed it.” More than a half century later, a sensible survey of the Republican Party reveals that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and President Donald Trump are, likewise, “amalgamators.” They share similar Nixonian propensities.

Despite the differences in their personalities and philosophies, Baker and Trump understand 2017 politics:  Recalcitrant Republicans — particularly conservatives — can be circumvented in the political process, and more importantly, in the creation of public policy. Baker and Trump exhibit a marked disdain for  real conservatives. As did Nixon.

Writing for National Review in 2013, commemorating Nixon’s 100th birthday, John Fund reasoned that the president “governed more as a liberal than anything else.” Nixon, he wrote, “didn’t really like or trust conservatives, even if he hired a bunch of them.” Furthermore, “he used them and freely abandoned their principles when convenient.”

Fund cited Nixon’s numerous liberal domestic initiatives, such as creating the Environmental Protection Agency and calling for universal healthcare. These initiatives also included sweeping regulations on the economy (wage controls), affirmative action (employment quotas), and massive increases in welfare (Food Stamps). And international initiatives (opening up to China). Such actions reflected Nixon’s own background and association with what Nixon himself called the “progressive” wing of the party.

Fund concluded that “at best, it’s the record of a progressive Republican who, in the end, didn’t view conservatism as a valid governing philosophy — even though it was the basis of the republic created by the Founding Fathers.”

Today, a political amalgamator is understood as one who feels compelled to forge bipartisan coalitions with the hope that it produces suitable progress for those believing that government — at all levels — is dysfunctional. The urgency for bipartisanship is especially acute for Baker and Trump, neither of whom who hold a core political philosophy other than a kind of modulating progressivism, which floats from one issue to the next. They must know — especially Baker — that while this may be a glamorous way of governing, it is a hazardous way for securing their future. For Baker, this is strategic; for Trump, it is more tactical.

But the message is clear:  Amalgamate Republicans incinerate conservatives.

Last year, Robin Price Pierre, writing in The Atlantic, believed that Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign bore a “striking resemblance to the 2016 presidential race:  Both have highlighted primal American fears.” The 1968 election, Pierre suggested, offered insight into why Trump’s supporters identified themselves as the “Silent Majority,” a term that Nixon employed to describe the electorate “whose fears and insecurities he successfully rode into the White House.”

Both elections ultimately signaled that “America, its values, and its power structure were under threat by a violent, liberal agenda.” Like Nixon in 1968, Trump in 2016 came into office after eight years of progressive governing. And those respective elections heralded shifts in political power and rhetorical discourse.

This past March, conservative commentator Mark Levin, on Facebook, asked, “Is Trump channeling Nixon?” On his syndicated radio show he said that there is a “Nixonian aspect to this administration.” Massive spending proposals on infrastructure and family-leave entitlements, coupled with talk of severe protectionism have fed Levin’s frenzy. He bemoaned the lack of any constitutional conservatives in Trump’s most senior policy and political circles. Those closest to the president include nationalist populists and progressive liberals, he noted. But no conservatives.

In the wake of Trump’s Sept. 6 agreement with Democrats — not Republicans — on spending (the continuing resolution), the debt ceiling, and Hurricane Harvey aid, Levin again spoke of the president’s “Nixonian habits.” Trump’s recent actions were “lurching left,” raising fears that he would continue in that direction.

Levin warned that “radical progressives,” including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, with whom Trump has suddenly and surprisingly become friendly — “have absolutely no intention of supporting bipartisan government.”

At the White House, on Sept. 13, with Trump speaking to a “bipartisan group” and working in a “bipartisan fashion” (his phrasings), the real news wasn’t a purported deal he sought on DACA, over dinner with Pelosi and Schumer. The real news was Trump declaring, in response to a reporter’s question about skeptical conservatives: “Well, I’m a conservative,” and “if we can do things in a bipartisan manner that will be great.”


Like Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency, Trump is a cryptoconservative:  virtual, speculative and fleeting. A novelty. But  the megalomaniac Trump is intent on using cryptographic techniques to strike any deal; whether or not a good deal, whether or not with Republicans, is irrelevant.

Baker suffers no such grandiose illusions. But he also tears a big page out of the Nixon playbook. Only more emphatically.

His first attempt at purging the party of conservatives began during the 2014 primary season, at the Massachusetts Republican Party nominating convention, in a nasty fight with Tea Party member Mark Fisher. The party ultimately settled a lawsuit in early 2015 with Fisher, for which he was paid $240,000.

The lawsuitcame from this situation: In Massachusetts a GOP candidate must receive 15 percent of the vote of delegates at convention to secure a position on the primary ballot. Baker’s people say that Fisher never achieved that threshold but Fisher’s people asserted that Baker suppressed convention votes on Baker’s favor, effectively manipulating the vote against Fisher. So Fisher sued. He ultimately got on the primary ballot but it made no difference. The settlement was reached after the 2014 gubernatorial general election.

In the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic, Molly Ball called Baker a “technocrat” who, during the 2014 gubernatorial election, “aggressively promoted his liberal stances on hot-button issues.” Boston liberals, Ball wrote, “seem grateful to Baker for being a Republican they can get behind.” Shortly after Baker’s victory, he assembled a bipartisan cabinet “that included several Democrats and independents.” No mention of conservatives. (A Boston area blogger observing the transition said Baker’s team took “a nonpartisan approach to state government and its problems.”)

Ball wondered if Baker’s election augurs a return to liberal Republicanism reminiscent of Nelson Rockefeller. But the governor did not see himself as a model for others. He is not a model. Rather, he is an anomaly:  A progressive masquerading as a Republican, who enjoys a 71 percent approval rating (higher than Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s) in a progressive state with a legislature dominated (over 80 percent) by Democrats.

Baker has described his governing style as “relentless incrementalism,” which may have inspired National Review in August 2016 to conclude Baker “resembles an older variety of conservative.


That characterization now needs a thorough reassessment. Today, Baker resembles a Nixonian conservative, which is to say progressive Republican. Which is to say not a conservative.

In retrospect, Baker is about as affectionate to conservatives as sharks are to seals; his lurch left over the last 12 months has been remarkable. He appointed a progressive, Rosalin Acosta, as labor secretary. He angered conservatives for vowing to replace Planned Parenthood funding with state dollars if Washington pulls its support for the program. And incrementalism will not fix the troubled MBTA transit system or the state’s towering indebtedness and unfunded pension obligations. These problems were indeed created by partisan progressives over decades, who certainly did not consider bi-partisanship while committing such grand malfeasance. These problems desperately need definitive conservative solutions. What happened to fiscal conservatism?

There are worrisome challenges looming on Baker’s horizon.

Just last month, Joe Battenfeld in the Boston Herald alarmingly reported that some leading conservatives simply won’t vote for Baker in next year’s gubernatorial race. And last June, Jim O’Sullivan, in The Boston Globe, wrote that the governor “recently told his fund-raisers that he wants nearly a third of Democrats and almost three in five independent voters to support him.” Baker, O’Sullivan admitted, “holds greater appeal among moderates and less among the GOP base.” He won in 2014 by a margin of only 40,000 votes, or less than 2 percent. His political calculus may discount Republicans and conservatives in 2017 but Baker will need every one of the state’s 479,237 registered Republicans, who still account for nearly 11 percent of all registered voters, in 2018 to win reelection.

With perverse irony, it is possible that Baker and Trump might, at their peril, galvanize conservatives. Classical conservatives, furious at being sidelined, could coalesce with libertarian progressives to forge a new political partnership, a disruptive third party. There is still time in Massachusetts to do this as a form of protest, to punish Baker’s leftward drift. He surely loses with substantial vote-splitting.  

Conservatives could simply stay home, too. As Felzenberg summarizes Bill Buckley’s thinking during the 1960 presidential election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon:  “‘We actually increase our leverage,’ Buckley told a friend, ‘by refusing to join the parade’.”      

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal, and

James P. Freeman: RINO Baker drifts left along with the anti-Trump Bay State

For many Massachusetts Republicans, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is the advancement of a dishonest marketing campaign:  Baker and Switch. (Run as a Republican, cozy up to Democrats, disown the Republican Party.) Rejected Republicans, perhaps feeling duped from day one, should take note. Baker’s dispiriting drift to the left may just prove to be a stroke of genius for re-election in 2018. It’s a plan without Republicans — the abandoned, fatherless children of Massachusetts politics.

The plan was actually hatched well before President Trump skunked The Party of Ronald Reagan. As  a Baker senior adviser, Tim Buckley, told The Atlantic, the governor’s campaign in 2014 focused from the beginning on “showing he could say ‘screw you’ to the Republican Party.” Those words have proven to be prophetic and strategic.

The cold calculus of political reality, as Baker’s team knows, does not favor any Republican in the Commonwealth, let alone an incumbent Republican governor. As of February 2017, there were 4,486,849 registered voters in Massachusetts, with just 479,237 registered Republicans (11 percent of the total). Unenrolled voters numbered 2,424,979 (54 percent) while registered Democrats numbered 1,526,870 (34 percent).

Since the 2014 election, unenrolled voters have increased by 133,824, while Republican voters have increased by only 9,973. Increased unenrolled voter registration is trending upwards, and may accelerate, as Trumpism (a governing style resembling the Coney Island Cyclone) roars through the land.

Even though Baker beat Martha Coakley by just 40,165 votes in 2014, the election was a blue lagoon of civility.

Next year’s election, by comparison, will be a dark pool of uncertainty but will certainly feature a rabid anti-Trump sentiment and, by extension and association, Republican defensive posturing. And in the Commonwealth — what fun! — the proselytizing progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren will also be on the ballot. Republicans will be the expendables. Something the governor, understandably, wishes to defy for himself.

Baker is an elusive electoral enigma.

He is a social liberal and a fiscal conservative who has melted the cryogenically frozen corpse of {Nelson} Rockefeller Republicanism into new life. He enjoys a 75 percent approval rating in a state where Democrats control 79 percent of the House and 83 percent of the Senate, and Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly won last November (61 percent to Trump’s 33 percent). He maintains a working relationship with House Speaker Robert DeLeo (where massive power resides), whose understated temperament is like his own. And,  he operates without a political base, given the minuscule minority status of his party.

Seemingly harboring zero national ambitions, Baker would be the first Republican Massachusetts governor to be re-elected since William Weld, in 1994 (who resigned in 1997 after being nominated as U.S. ambassador to Mexico – a nomination killed by right-wing North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms).

Baker’s survival instincts are validated by this paradoxical fact:  Even as prospective Democratic gubernatorial candidates (Setti Warren, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie) rightly cite his lack of grand vision for Massachusetts, many Democrats on Beacon Hill quietly concede that state government is functioning better under the bipartisan executive leadership of Baker than it did under his predecessor, Democrat Deval Patrick (who, with contempt for hands-on management, always spoke with a grand vision).

As The Boston Globe noted the other week, “State Democrats turn attention to Trump, not Baker, at convention.”

Still, for conservatives (a fringe of the fringe in the Commonwealth) hoping there might be some application of conservative ideas in this playground of progressivism, there is deep dissatisfaction with the governor. His risky political plan (popularity is perishable; a large unenrolled bloc can shift allegiance quickly) is, some believe, at the expense of foundational principles.

Howie Carr recently wrote in the Boston Herald:  “As his first term in the Corner Office  {of the State House} continues, it seems that the Republican-in-Name-Only (RINO) governor finds himself more and more ‘disappointed,’ not just with his party affiliation, but also with the drift of public affairs in general.”

That might explain Baker’s puzzling appointment last week of Rosalin Acosta, a Lowell bank executive, as his labor secretary. Acosta (a progressive activist and anti-Trump enthusiast) and her husband this year founded Indivisible Northern Essex, a liberal advocacy group that began supporting progressive candidates around the country. Should a progressive run against Baker, whom would Acosta vote for?

James P. Freeman, an occasional contributor to New England Diary, is a New England-based essayist, former Cape Cod Times columnist and former financial-services executive. This piece first ran in The New Boston Post.



Find a good governor to run for president

Adapted from an item in Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

Hillary Clinton should fight her combative instincts and keepa low profile so as not to take the oxygen out of potential Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, such as  the highly effective and popular Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. Then there are New York Sen. Kristin Gillibrand and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, both smart, articulate and fast on their feet politically.

And wouldn’t it be nice if the very able and popular Republican governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, ran for his party's presidential nomination? Of course, in the current rendition of his part, he’d probably have little chance.

As a general rule, it’s better to elect someone who has run a state than someone who has just served in Congress. Executive experience in a political and public-policy environment is invaluable for would-be presidents. It’s easy to spout off as a legislator, but a lot tougher to oversee administration.  The record ofpeople running a state government gives voters quite a bit of useful information in how they might run the federal Executive Branch.

The public’s immune system needs a rest from the Clintons. The kids predictably loved her at Wellesley College’s commencement this year but I suspect that a large majority of the American electorate wants her to take a lower profile.


Mass. and N.H. top US News's "Best States'' rankings, winter and all


Apple orchard in Hollis, N.H. New England winters help keep out the worst bugs and tropical diseases.

Apple orchard in Hollis, N.H. New England winters help keep out the worst bugs and tropical diseases.

Adapted from an item in Robert Whitcomb's 'Digital Diary,'' in

Yet again, after many decades of Sun Belt hype, we have another measure of how the generally northern and mostly Blue States are, by important metrics, the best states to live in. That’s largely because of their tradition of strong education and infrastructure. US News & World Report’s first ranking of the best states list in the top 10: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Washington State, Iowa, Utah, Maryland, Colorado and Vermont. (Connecticut was 12th, Maine 18th and Rhode Island 21st.)

The publication said:

“Some states shine in health care. Some soar in education. Some excel in both – or in much more. The Best States ranking …draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state’s economy, the opportunity it offers people, its roads, bridges, Internet and other infrastructure, its public safety and the integrity and health of state government.

“More weight was accorded to some state measures than others, based on a survey of what matters most to people. Health care and education were weighted most heavily. Then came the opportunity states offer their citizens, their crime & corrections and infrastructure. State economies followed closely in weighting, followed by measures of government administration. This explains why Massachusetts, ranking No. 1 in education and No. 2 in health care, occupies the overall No. 1 spot in the Best States rankings. And it explains why New Hampshire, ranking No. 1 in opportunity for its citizens, ranks No. 2 overall in the Best States rankings.’’

The low-tax (except for their regressive sales taxes) low-public-service Red States in the South generally did very poorly.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican and a very able executive who’s expected to run for re-election next year, said:         

“We have a lot of really smart people, we have a lot of great schools. That has led to a whole series of terrific what I would call ‘ecosystems’ around technology and health care and finance and education. And you put it all together, and in this day and age, in this kind of global economy and global world we live in, it’s a terrific mix.” Of course, Massachusetts has had some great institutions since the 17th Century; it had a running start.

Mr. Baker will probably get some credit for the ranking, but the essentials of the Bay State’s health have been in place for a long time.  Governors and U.S. presidents have remarkably little impact on the economic health of their jurisdictions;  there are far too many variables.

As for New Hampshire, it has the overwash of wealth from the very rich Greater Boston area, the Granite State’s good public education, political integrity, local  and state civic-mindedness, a tradition of  having many well-run small and medium-size companies and industrial craftsmanship. And as  befits a state that is mostly suburban, exurban and rural,  lower taxes than Massachusetts’s.

US News folks did note that Massachusetts, despite of, or because of, its very low unemployment rate, had too little “affordable housing’’ (whatever that means exactly) and very wide income inequality. But the latter is due largely to the vast wealth collected by the senior execs and shareholders of very successful enterprises founded in, based in or with major operations in the Bay State and the large number of well paidvphysicians, engineers, financial-services honchos and other very highly skilled professionals.

Another advantage of New England: It's so far north that tropical diseases rarely make it to the region. There are some advantages to having the cool snap we call "winter.''

Gary Sasse: Do four governors presage Republican renaissance in New England?

Calvin Coolidge, Massachusetts governor, and then vice president and president, was often seen as the quintessential old-fashioned, flinty New England Republican. In fact,  his views and his personality were complex and in many ways he was very modern.

Calvin Coolidge, Massachusetts governor, and then vice president and president, was often seen as the quintessential old-fashioned, flinty New England Republican. In fact,  his views and his personality were complex and in many ways he was very modern.

New England is often described as a solidly Democrat region. When one looks at the numbers, it is easy to see why. Only one of New England’s 33 congressional seats is held by a Republican, and Democrats control eight of the 12 state legislative chambers. And yet as a result of last November’s general election, Republicans now serve as governors in four of the six New England states — Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

While nobody can predict the future with any certainty, all signs suggest that the 2018 gubernatorial races in both Connecticut and Rhode Island are eminently winnable. The ascendency of New England’s Republican governors has not gone unnoticed. A recent article in The Washington Post was headlined, “Governors lead a Republican renaissance in New England”. The question facing Republicans in the region is whether GOP victories at the gubernatorial level can usher in a new political order at other levels of government, as well.

Political success will require many things. Rather than talking about the economy in broad terms, for example, GOP governors must be ready to focus on specifics that place state government on the side of both working families and small business. Rather than being critical of social programs, Republican governors must lead and promote those that foster work, opportunity and self-sufficiency. Rather than imposing state mandates, Republican governors must deliver services based on the principles of choice and devolving responsibilities to communities.

Finally, New England’s GOP governors must contrast their “fix it” solutions for failing schools, unsafe streets, economic stagnation, over-taxation, costly regulation and cronyism to the Democrat’s identity politics and liberal overreach.

If there was ever a time to make these changes, it is now. Indeed, the economic dogmas of the New Deal have been insufficient in addressing the economic concerns of working families, recent graduates, and small businesses in New England today. From the rise of technology to the impact of globalization to the decline of manufacturing, the region has found itself lagging behind the rest of the country in its ability to compete.

A report released last month by the non-partisan New England Economic Partnership reflected this, finding that the region’s overall growth is expected to drop below the national average, and the region’s employment growth is expected to be below national employment growth through 2018.

The question facing Republicans in the region is whether GOP victories at the gubernatorial level can usher in a new political order at other levels of government, as well.

In light of these failures, it is not enough for Republicans to merely point out how Democratic policies have come up short. Instead, voters must be convinced that GOP initiatives can work and make a real difference in their lives. Massachusetts Gov.  Charlie Baker summed the situation up this way in an interview with The Washington Post: “Our job is to focus on what matters most to people. Is my neighborhood safe? Do I have a good job? Are the schools I send my kids to going to prepare them for the future.”

Maine GOP Chairman Richard Bennett agreed, saying that, “Republican governors are successful candidates when they roll up their sleeves and propose practical ways to fix things and not focus on ideology.” Put another way, Republicans win when they are viewed as “can do” problem solvers who are addressing the needs of the people, rather than the needs of elites, cronies and special interests.

To achieve this moving forward, GOP governors and gubernatorial candidates should adhere to the following fundamental best practices:

First, set a few key priorities and try not to be all things to all people. The National Governors Association advises “that success in the governorship depends first and foremost on focus.” The focal point must be a strategy to make the most productive use of people, capital and natural resources. States compete to have the most productive environment to keep and grow jobs.

Second, gain control of the center. A governor’s effectiveness depends on the cooperation and goodwill of others. As Governor Baker said in that same interview, “If you’re going to get into a debate or an argument, be soft on the people and hard on the issue.”   To accomplish things, it is essential to establish a good working relationship with the legislature. Conflicts are inevitable in partisan politics. How a governor manages these conflicts and controls the center can determine if his or her agenda is enacted.

Third, make effective use of the bully pulpit to mold opinion needed to garner public support for making tough decisions. What a governor can do, that no other state leader can do as well, is to tell the people where the state is, where it needs to be, and when it gets there. One of the most important powers a governor has in that regard is the power of communications. Effective and direct communication is critical, and broad popular support is essential to make the fundamental structural reforms that special interests and their legislative allies have long opposed.

Fourth, understand that good policy and good politics are linked. To achieve sustainable political success, New England GOP governors have an important role to play in party building. Voters will support Republican ideas if the party recruits excellent candidates, gets the message out and has the organization and resources to win the battle of ideas. In a 2006 essay in The Ripon Forum, then-Mississippi Gov.  Haley Barbour wrote that voters do not get involved with political parties and elections because of the delight of knocking on doors and raising money. They engage and support candidates who will propose and implement programs to help their families prosper consistent with their values.

It is problematic to predict the outcome of elections. However, if New England’s Republican governors can make a lasting difference in the economic and social well being of their citizens, then we may in fact witness a revival of a strong two-party system in New England. And perhaps someday soon, blue New England will turn red.

Gary Sasse is the founding director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University. Previously, he served as diirector of the Rhode Island Department of Administration and Department of Revenue. From 1997 to 2007, he served as Executive Director for the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, a public policy research organization. This piece was originally published in the Ripon Forum



James P. Freeman: Charlie Baker's quiet reinvention of state government


As the national Republican Party self-immolates as a consequence of its traumatic homage to the incendiary and self-destructive Donald Trump, Massachusetts Republicans should seek solace in knowing that Gov. Charlie Baker is quieting reinventing state government and, in the process, creating a model of New Republicanism.

Baker – and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito – are governing in style and substance that is moderate, pragmatic and unpretentious (there are no hints at being a “compassionate conservative,” for instance) which, even in the firmly progressive commonwealth, is highly effective. It should be considered a new form of Republicanism and a model of success -- especially for the few national Republicans vocalizing an oath of fidelity to the party’s core values.

Even The Boston Globe has taken notice. In a front page story on Aug. 8, it noted that Baker has -- “without grandstanding for the media or waging partisan battles – successfully courted the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature, declaring victory on many of the major issues he’s tackled in the past 19 months with rarely a word of opposition from longtime lawmakers.”

Citing “no bold agenda but with a potent combination of high-level government experience, a strong grasp of complicated public policies, and just plain charm,” Baker, remarkably, has emerged as “the dominant figure on Beacon Hill.”

Among his achievements: slowly (it took decades to reach this point; dozens of legislative sessions and eight governors since the1970s) repairing and reforming the troubled MBTA; addressing the opioid crisis (in March he signed into law limits on opioid prescriptions); increasing tax credits for low-income workers; creating fairness in the workplace with equal pay for comparable work; reducing the state workforce as a means of balancing the budget; and, just the other week, celebrating completion of a $1 billion economic development bill.

And the work continues…

Baker-Polito, a political synchronized diving team, are now plunging into the swampy green pool of state regulation in search of efficiency and efficacy, not accolades. As reported by The New Boston Post, their administration is “eliminating nearly 15 percent of Massachusetts state regulations and amending at least another 40 percent in a top-to-bottom overhaul aimed at making state government more efficient and business-friendly.” These are waters that the previous administration, under former Gov. Deval Patrick, never dared wading into, given the progressive proclivity that more and greater government regulation is better and best for its citizens.

When the governor launched this regulatory initiative, he laid out three options for all executive office departments to consider during this methodical promulgation process: either retain, amend or rescind regulations. Those deemed unnecessary and obstructive in making the commonwealth a “better place to live, work and grow a business,” would be amended or rescinded, according to Brendan Moss, Baker’s deputy communications director.

Thus far, 336 regulations are slated to be amended and 122 are to be rescinded, with hundreds more under the hot white spot light of review. As Moss further explains, “members of the administration met with municipalities, businesses, and individuals at over 100 listening sessions across the state and we look forward to finalizing this comprehensive review in the near future.”

Baker’s best act of 2016 is, actually, inaction. He rightly decided not to immerse himself into the presidential contest; he neither embraced Trump or attended the convention in Cleveland, thereby immunizing himself – unlike so many so-called “principled” Republicans -- from association with the embarrassing national ticket. Instead, he has quietly gone about the people’s business. According to veteran observers, reports The Globe, Baker “listens and wants to understand everyone’s views – and is willing to adjust his own.”

As a testament to Baker’s sensible reforms and keen political instincts, he is, for the second year in a row, the most popular governor in the country. For many this development would have been simply unimaginable just two years ago during the gubernatorial race. But for those listening in 2014 it was inevitable.

Two years ago, while at a campaign stop at The Pilot House in Sandwich, Mass., he spoke of the practical agenda he intended to implement, relying heavily on a theme of restoration and repair. As far as his latest projects -- reducing the saturation of codes, rules and regulations along with economic development – they are rooted in his pronouncements from 2014. Back then he said that Massachusetts “is a complicated place to do business” and that Bay Staters need “to think differently about economic development.” Baker is proof that one can be successful in linking campaigning with governing. A lesson lost on many Republicans today.   

With much work to do (such as state debt and pension reforms), one fact will, however, emerge by the end of the day on Nov. 8: Charlie Baker will be seen as the top of the presidential class of 2020. And perhaps more importantly, his brand of governing – and the heavy lifting of effecting sensible policymaking -- will be seen as a model for the national party and should be emulated by members of the national party to ensure that the Grand Old Party retains its grandeur.

As Labor Day 2016 approaches, Baker’s New Republicanism must be a novel concept to those Republicans still pledging allegiance (without a trace of buyer’s remorse) to its two national candidates, who are positioning themselves, ever so effortlessly and recklessly, for massive electoral losses.

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. 

Charles Chieppo: Undergoing treatment for sick sick-leave policies



The aftershocks are still being felt in Massachusetts from the case of a state university president who received a payout for unused sick and vacation time of nearly $270,000 upon his retirement last year -- in addition to an annual pension of more than $183,000 and a $100,000 consulting gig. Proposed fixes are taking shape that, though imperfect, are steps in the right direction.

The problem is very real for many state and local governments. In Massachusetts alone, as of last year taxpayers faced about $500 million in liability for unused sick and vacation time.

The outcry over former Bridgewater State University President Dana Mohler-Faria's golden payout has already had an impact. Mohler-Faria refunded the state for 15 weeks of improperly accrued vacation time and agreed to terminate his lucrative consulting contract.

For the longer term. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has proposed legislation that would limit executive-branch employees' accrued sick time for to 1,000 hours, or about six months of work. The about 5,800 executive-branch workers who already have accrued more than that would be grandfathered, though their sick time would be capped at the hours accrued at the time of the legislation's passage.

Another bill, this one filed by Democratic state Rep. Colleen Garry, is tougher, limiting payouts to 15 percent of an employee's annual salary. Regardless of what you might think of her proposal, Garry made a point that public officials everywhere should heed, saying that government should "pay public employees fairly during their working years and not push compensation into retirement packages."

Mohler-Faria was one of 10 state and community-college officials who received six-figure vacation and sick-time payments between 2011 and 2015. Just this week, the Board of Higher Education eliminated the practice of rolling unused vacation time into a sick-leave bank and will gradually reduce the maximum vacation allowance to 50 days, still over 50 percent more than the limit for most state employees.

The University of Massachusetts, which is not governed by the Board of Higher Education, had previously limited accrued time off to 960 hours for non-union employees, but it remains unlimited for union workers -- yet another reminder of why post-retirement benefits should never be subject to collective bargaining.

The Board of Higher Education's new policies eliminate the worst abuses, but challenges remain when it comes to reforming policies around accrual of unused sick and vacation time. For one thing, whatever emerges from Massachusetts' legislative process is likely to cover only-executive branch employees.

Perhaps state and local government officials everywhere should be guided by Gov. Baker's simple point: "Sick leave is a benefit designed to deal with health and family issues, not a retirement bonus. Bringing … sick-leave accrual policy in line with other private- and public-sector employers just makes sense and is the fiscally responsible thing to do." What a concept.

Charles Chieppo  ( is a research fellow at the Ash Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School. This piece first ran at