Congratulations to Governor Baker. It’s a whopping victory, and proof that he has maintained the trust of a very broad segment of his constituency. As someone very underwhelmed by his leadership on climate, energy, and transit, that does not include me. No matter. He won big, and now we find out how he intends to use the public’s investment of trust in him. The Boston Globe has fantasized about the ways in which he might spend his ample political capital in his second term; I suppose growth and evolution are always possible, but I’m not holding my breath.
In any event, be they squeakers or blowouts, elections are about accountability: A public hearing on the record of the incumbent, and an airing of policy alternatives. I am very grateful to Jay Gonzalez for running a vigorous campaign that was always a long shot. Baker was popular early on, which becomes a self-reinforcing cycle in terms of press coverage. In my reading of things, Baker has avoided a proper tone of skepticism from the press. This was compounded with so much of the Democratic establishment co-opted by Baker. To be specific, I mean the Speaker of the House; Mayor Walsh; many other mayors, legislators, and Congressfolk who muttered kind words for Baker, even as he under-achieved or demurred on so many core progressive priorities. It is no surprise that the Bob DeLeo’s House finds it much more comfortable to deal with a Republican governor who doesn’t ask very much of it, as opposed to a progressive like Deval Patrick who challenged them to do better. For those Democratic electeds looking for a promotion, I’ll remember who did and who didn’t support Gonzalez when they come asking for my vote; it will show me something about the content of their ambitions.
Progressives should not feel like their efforts are futile. We continue to foster a political culture where a runaway Trumpsim — like in Paul LePage’s Maine — is impossible. Our problem is inertia: The inability to move forward on needs that are more pressing than we’d care to admit. For instance: Our transit system is hopelessly broken: On a day-to-day operational level; as well as lack of funding; as well as a failure to adapt to how we live our lives outside of a hub-and-spoke commuter model; as well as failing to address our need to rapidly, radically decarbonize the transportation sector. We have work to do, in convincing certain corners of the establishment that such change has an inevitable political consensus.
Jay Gonzalez took on the scope of these problems earnestly: Transit, climate/energy, early childhood education, and so forth. They aren’t going away. Somehow Baker has escaped having to own them. But I suspect we’ll look back and think, well, old Jay was right.
Good luck, Governor. Make no little plans.