Johnston blew it

Jon Keller’s take on Phil Johnston’s silly remarks yesterday is on target:

I want to start out by saying something nice about someone who’s having a tough morning. I really like Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston, a very nice guy who can take a joke as well as tell one. That’s why I was sorry to see Phil make a fool of himself yesterday when he claimed that by criticizing Deval Patrick’s positions on crime and immigration, Kerry Healey was bordering on – quote – “race-baiting.”

Johnston, it must be noted, has retracted his remarks, and the Patrick/Murray campaign has distanced itself from them, saying that “Phil Johnston speaks for himself.”

Crime and immigration are perfectly legitimate issues in this campaign, as Johnston well knows and has (belatedly) recognized.  No one seriously thinks Kerry Healey is a racist or a race baiter, and everyone would do well to accept Johnston’s act of contrition and move along to talk about these issues – and the rest of them – on their merits.

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17 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I thought....

    That it wouldn't be until November 8th before there were posts with that title....

  2. Careles Healey

    I, for one, shall watch with some interest though for Kerry's commentary. She has already shown a great willingness to lie baldfaced about Deval's positions.

    She won't stop short of personal attacks. We can't let Johnston's single instance of clumsiness that matched hers stifle remarks.

  3. He sure did blow it

    That was an asinine remark. And it's harmful in a number of ways.

    It helps to perpetuate negative stereotypes about people holding liberal/progressive views (that they'll play the "racist! sexist! you're politically incorrect if you disagree with me!" card anytime there's a legitimate difference of opinion).

    It counteracts the great efforts Patrick is putting toward running a positive campaign (thankfully, the Patrick campaign was quick to distance itself from this stupidity).

    In fact, some Republicans may very well make statements that are "close to race-baiting" during the campaign. But this wasn't one of them, and now it will be substantially harder to call them out on it if and when they actually do.

    I don't understand how someone can hold a position like Johnston and not engage his brain for a moment before running off at the mouth.

    And by the way, I don't consider a statement saying he "may have" gone too far to be a retraction. A retraction is, "I was wrong."

    This reminds me yet again why I'm a registered independent in this state.

    • In partial defense of Phil

      On one hand, Healey can stake out a reasonable law-and-order appeal on immigration. She may be right or wrong on legality or practicality, but either way I've not seen anything Healey has said to make me think that she's been racist.

      On the other hand, the issue itself does indeed appeal to racist sentiment in the electorate -- just read Howie Carr or The Sages. I think that's what Johnston was reacting to.

    • Think about that!

      "This reminds me yet again why I'm a registered independent in this state."

      The best way to change the party and get like-minded people in office is to do it from within. Reregister as a Democrat and attend next year's caucus in your town. Throwing rocks from outside does little good.

  4. Crimeandimmigration

    Just between us, when a Republican uses the phrase "crime and immigration" as if those two were inextricably linked, that's a form of race baiting.  There just has to be a nicer way to point this out.

    I’d also like to give Kerry Healy the benefit of doubt in this respect:  The use of race-baiting language doesn't necessarily mean the speaker is racist or xenophobic.  But it does mean he/she is willing to appeal to that leftover corner of a voter’s subconscious that associates "foreigners" (or people of color) with fear in order to motivate that voter.  It's been going on for years; a page in the conservative playbook that they go back to again and again.  I’m an old guy, so I remember that when Nixon ran on a “Law and Order” platform, we all knew what that meant:  There had been rioting in black neighborhoods, and he was tapping into white fear.  Thanks to Lee Atwater, we even have a phrase for this:  “Willie Hortonizing”. 

    Crime is always a legitimate issue – along with hundreds of other issues that face voters.  But what Republicans are using the word “crime” as shorthand for is different than what I’m thinking about.  If we talk about crime during the campaign, let’s talk about potential criminal behavior by Bechtel et al (and collaboration by a series of Republican governors) during the Big Dig.

    Illegal immigration?  I don't remember that being on the radar screen until the national Republicans identified it as a wedge issue and got people all whipped up about it.  So now it's an issue (regardless of the fact that immigration laws are Federal laws, and this is a state office), and Healy is going to bring it up in the campaign, so it will have to be dealt with.

    If we can both point out why they’re bringing it up ("politics of fear vs. politics of hope" works for me), and also address it from a moderate viewpoint (“Do you really want to punish the children of illegal immigrants?”  “Shouldn’t there be a path to citizenship?”, etc.), then we win.

    Republicans only succeed when Democrats let them set the agenda, so there has to be a way to deal with the “issues” they bring up (choosing from Karl Rove's menu of "hot buttons"), without losing focus on what issues really are behind this amazing consensus that was on display Tuesday night.

    So I guess I’m conflicted as to whether crime and immigration are “legitimate” issues, but I know they’re separate issues.  I couldn't tell from the Keller quote whether he's talking about them as one issue or two, but keep your eye on the wording that comes from the Healy camp.

  5. Note for after November - let's get rid of Johnston!

    This isn't the first time Johnston has gone stream-of-consciousness on reporters in ways that made him (and the party) look bad.

    As far as I can tell he's a nice guy that means well, but the problem is - that doesn't cut it to be an effective state party chair.

    He has always struck me as an old school party hack - I know that is just invective label dropping but that's how I feel about him.

    Surely we could do better than he? 

    Time to start recruiting potential candidates...

    • There are great candidates

      but most of them have been slapped around so much by Phil and company, they have remained in the shadows (just the way Phil prefers it).  I have a great idea -- let's open up the party elections to the people who actively participate in the democratic process!  Instead of a few hundred state committee people, let's let the Dem voters decide who is the best representative for chair.  I know who my pick would be. ;-) 

      • Good point

        I like that idea, but I imagine getting a rules change like that would be just as hard as getting a new Chair elected, maybe the trick is that more of us activists in the blogosphere need to run for state committee and work from the ground up in the party...

        • We have a winner!

          more of us activists in the blogosphere need to run for state committee and work from the ground up in the party.

          Yes!  Start by getting on your town/ward committees, if you're not already.  Get to know people.  Then, try to get yourself elected to the state committee.  It takes time and effort, but it can be done.

          • State Committee

            I'd love to run for state committee someday.  How exactly IS it done?  Honestly, I have no idea!

            • Well....

              there have been quite a few changes lately.  I just checked the Mass Dems site, and the rules for running for a two-year seat are here.  Problem is, they changed all two year committee member positions to four-year memberbership. 

  6. I'm not usually one to get all crazy, but...

    I don't think Johnston's wrong. There was a better way of saying it, but I think immigration is an issue designed to bring out the worst in people.

    Immigration is  a phony issue. The only reason it's become an issue is because Republicans need something to scare the crap out of us. And the fact that such a large number of immigrants, illegal and otherwise, are a little darker hued than the rest of us is part of that.

    Nothing has happened in the past year to make illegal immigration any more important than it was in years past. And don't say 9/11 changed things, because this nothing to do with security and everything to do with a lot of unfortunate people who just want to work.

  7. ISSUE THAT MAKE YOUR BLOOD BOIL

    Phil Johnson got it just right and called Heally on it. He hit a nerve and they reacted. Everyone can agree that people who come into the country illegally to commit  crime are the real isssue..not immigrants who work hard,pay taxes and are trying to achieve the American Dream...

    lilly white Heally, who thinks its ok for her rich husband to get a huge tax break...wnats these otherwise productive residents..not yet citizens, to be treated like the prizoners at GITMO....

    because it makes some people's blood boil..and that is who she reahces out to..those who react with hate...

    because at the end of the day that is all the Republicans have..a campaign of fear and hate..

    and that is what the Chair of the Dem party was saying..just as plain and clear..because by doing that Heally avoids talking about the TRUTH!!!

    I for one am thrilled that we have a Party Chair with the GUTS to call the republicans to battle!!

    They do play by the Nixon-Rove handbook..all across the country and in every race..every year..its a winning hand..because Democrats don't usually fight back

    Johnston is not afraid to fight back..THANK GOD!!

    • Slowly, step away from the hyperbole

      Isn't it great that here here in New England, in the autumn, at election time we have so many wide open spaces ... entirely surrounded by teeth.

    • There is fighting...

      and there is playing into the hands of those who play the Karl Rove game.  Guess who loses in this time worn activity?  We all do.  Did Phil ask you to get a login so that you could come defend him?  Or is that you, Phil?  Fighting is a stupid meme.  Calmly articulating a point without handing over the keys to your office might be a good alternative.

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Tue 30 Sep 7:54 PM