It’s decision time in #MA5. We’ve got a really quite unbelievable field, drawing upon a deep bench of earnest, experienced, thoughtful legislators. Pat yourself on the back, Massachusetts, you done good. As David and others have said, I’ll be proud and delighted to mark the oval for any of these candidates in the general election.
I’ve been leaning toward Carl Sciortino for a long time. And honestly, a lot of it is personal. I’ve met Carl several times — in fact, every once in a while I’d run into him on the 96 bus. The man takes the bus, OK? That counts for something, since public transportation is a big deal — for reasons of climate, economy, and quality of life. Carl once said to me that if he were to be a single-issue politician, it would be for public transportation - particularly the Green Line extension. Fortunately, he’s definitely not a single-issue pol; he’s done work on gay rights/marriage; choice; he was the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association’s Legislator of the Year in 2010; — etc. He supports single-payer health care without being an Affordable Care Act or Chapter 58 saboteur — a position basically identical to my own. His constituents can speak to this better than I, but I believe he’s known as a responsive State Rep.
Critically, he’s been very willing to defy leadership on principle — most recently on the essential investments necessary for transportation infrastructure and early childhood education. Our Governor was right, and Carl was right to stand with him. There are many so-called progressives who were more interested in keeping nice with the helplessly unimaginative, blinkered Speaker Bob DeLeo. Carl spoke up, pushed for, and got a better bill, an investment closer to what’s necessary.*
Does this remind you of anyone? Someone who said “They can tell me where to sit. But nobody tells me where to stand.”
And by the way, like Ed Markey in 1976, Carl is young: He is now 35. Presumably he will have time to develop seniority and influence. Before the recent series of legislative shakeups, Massachusetts had a tremendous advantage of influence and seniority. It will take time — decades — to build that back up. We should be taking that into account as we elect a new generation of leaders to Congress.
There are a bunch of folks who could be good legislators, who certainly will vote the right way, master the issues and develop a good legislative portfolio over time. But it really depends on what kind of person you want in Congress. Do you want a movement figure, like Elizabeth Warren or Jim McGovern? Do you want a serious but unspectacular back-bencher, or do you want someone to try to change the conversation, to change the assumptions about what’s possible? Do you want an Overton window changer? I think that’s Carl. He’s young, he’s gay, cheerful and cheerfully liberal. If Carl gets elected you might well hope for a pro-puppy and unicorn wave election to sweep out the Tea Party in 2014.
Now, as with anyone, I have reservations. I am wearied by arguments about who’s the “true progressive”, the most progressivy-progressive that’s ever progressed! Progressives disagree with each other on a lot of things. At the very least, I don’t like being reduced to a stereotype — and Carl shouldn’t be so content to define himself with labels. And I definitely don’t like the fact that his campaign lost its own messaging to the rather over-eager Adam Green and his Progressive Change Campaign Committee, probably violating the spirit of the People’s Pledge in the process. I don’t happen to agree with his criticisms of Katherine Clark’s wiretapping bill, which was after all requested by the state’s SJC in order to be able to solve gang crimes. I think his positions against the MCAS have been a bit too absolute. No one’s perfect.
As for the other candidates, I concur with David’s thoughts below. I do tend to agree with the Globe that Spilka does not seem like someone who’s cut out for big ugly national politics. I suspect that she, Brownsberger, Clark, and to a lesser extent Koutoujian, are not so used to dealing with a place that really doesn’t function very well. Insofar as Carl has been content to be a bit of a Beacon Hill outsider, I feel like he’s actually better able to play the kind of ideological hardball that — like it or not — is the game on Capitol Hill. I find it cute and naive that — like Obama — some of the other candidates think their thoughtful approach is going to change that culture. But it’s not the Democrats’ fault in the first place: They didn’t create that game. To my mind, the question is how to assess the current game correctly, and co-opt and refocus it to our advantage. Ted Kennedy always got that. Elizabeth Warren gets it. Ed Markey gets it. Carl gets it – I feel like he’s got a little more fight in him, a little more piss and vinegar behind the sunny smile, than the others. He’s shown it in the Massachusetts legislature.
I think Carl’s the man for the moment, that his heart is in the right place, and that more than any of the other candidates, he’ll exercise outsize influence on our political conversation, even as one out of 435 in the US House. And in time, he’ll be able to acquire the actual seniority to very effectively serve Massachusetts, like Ed Markey, Barney Frank, and Ted Kennedy before him.
*(Yes, the tech tax revenue still needs to be replaced. It’s still legislating, still sausage-making at its essence.)