Another piece in today’s Globe also stands out to me: in this article, Romney gets generally high marks for his handling of the Big Dig crisis, just as he did for handling the 2002 Olympics. While I disagree with most, if not all of his policies, Romney’s performance over the past two weeks has convinced me of this: we need to elect Democrats who have the private sector experience like Romney, but we should also make sure they have a conscience and, ideally, have operated in sectors outside of the private/business world.
Some good examples? Mark Warner, John Edwards, Maria Cantwell. They were all private sector actors who also believe, for the most part, what many of us Democrats believe. If we get more of these kinds of people into our ranks, and get less of the career-politician-types, we can rule for decades and fundamentally change this country, just as the Republicans have done over the past 30 years by making “government” a dirty word.
So, how do we start here in Massachusetts? It’s very easy: elect either Chris Gabrieli or Deval Patrick, and make sure Andrea Silbert is their running mate.
Let’s speak truth here: most of us spend our daily lives working in the private sector, receiving direct or indirect benefit from both the social service/non-profit sector, and relying on the public/government sector. These three candidates have thrived in that sector, and they are the ones we ought to be putting out there to the voters.
Succeeding in getting elected does not make you an expert in making people’s lives better, and it ought not to be a ticket to higher office. Unfortunately in Massachusetts, that’s not the case. We are so enamored with elected officials (or we used to be, and that impression has been perpetuated by the media) that we automatically assume that they are the “best” candidates for the job. Granted, being elected does prove something more than your campaigning skills, and getting re-elected does not happen, for the most part, unless you’ve delivered something for your constituents, either tangibly or by standing for something 50.1% of them believe in. The most recent evidence of this presumption occurred in 2004 when the only prominent names listed as possible successors to Sen. Kerry were Bay State congressmen.
But let’s look again at Scot’s column: he notes, correctly I think, that someone like Matt Amorello had no business being appointed to the Turnpike chairman’s position, save for his being a failed congressional candidate and former Republican state senator who needed a job. Same goes for the Blutes and Buckinghams of the world, as Scot points out. Scot further notes that in the Dukakis administration, expertise usually trumped politics. (Note: is Scot right? I was in elementary school then, and wasn’t even living in this state…)
Now, some may say that my comments here are a slight on Tom Reilly’s and Tim Murray’s qualifications for the offices they’re running for. You’re right. I have no doubt they are accomplished, effective politicians, and they are both clearly smart because they are admitted to the bar (despite the bad lawyer jokes, you do have to be more than a good test-taker to become a lawyer). Tom Reilly, in fact, is an excellent prosecutor. But does he have the ability to understand what a food pantry in Greenfield is going through when its federal grant dries up or its source of donations shrinks as fewer people choose to live there and instead migrate to the cities? And when I say “understand”, I mean does he really KNOW, as opposed to have compassion for the situation. Maybe, but it may in large part be due to the fact that he has the ability to pull together people who can advise him on such a situation; he has no direct experience in meeting a bottom line, save for working within a budget prescribed to him by the Legislature – a concept that is approached differently than when a small bodega owner needs to figure out how to buy supplies and price the goods.
My concerns here also relate to the promises politicians make, and how they are able to keep them. While the candidates for Governor are necessarily talking about a whole host of issues, the candidates for Lt. Gov. are speaking to a much narrower scope of issues. Let’s look at each:
1. Tim Murray: wants to be an advocate at the state level for cities and towns, wants to expand commuter rail. He has released plans on both.
2. Andrea Silbert: wants to lead the state’s economic development efforts so that we create jobs, and has released an action plan thereon; wants to bring more federal dollars back to Mass. and use it to expand regional rail; and wants to be the advocate for those without a voice, especially homeless families, and she wants to end family homelessness (note: ending homelessness through innovative strategies is a hot issue these days, and NPR is doing a series on it. Mike Bloomberg in New York is launching an effort to end homelessness, but appears to want to do it in a more compassionate way than the Guiliani efforts were.)
3. Deb Goldberg: wants to use her family’s experience starting and running Stop and Shop, as well as her experience as a Brookline Selectman and in life in general, to help get Massachusetts moving again.
Of these three, Andrea Silbert is the one who fits best into the mold I have deemed the most helpful for our state. She’s run a successful business that had a direct impact on thousands of lives, and she has worked in and with the private and public sectors. It’s just my opinion, but I want someone like her and like Deval or Chris.
Admittedly, there are drawbacks to having a non-governmental Governor. They can get frustrated with the bureaucracy, or have unreasonable illusions about how things work and how much harder it is to get things done. This could be particularly true this year if Deval or Chris wins, because they will be coming in with such high expectations of cleaning house that they will invariably not be able to live up to them and there will undoubtedly be stories at the 100 day mark of just how many things have NOT been accomplished. But that’s not enough of an argument to have a career politician in there, not at this point in our history. Massachusetts needs people who will attract the best and brightest into government again. That means someone who will be able to get lawyers to leave cushy law firm jobs, executives to leave their posts, young college and master’s degree grads to go into government before going to work on Wall Street. Do you really think that Tom Reilly is going to be able to do that and attract that kind of new talent? Please. There are career hacks salivating all over the place because they’ve been waiting for 16 years for a Democrat to get into office so they could reach their jackpot position. Tom Reilly is not going to shake the trees of Boston’s best institutions to attract new people. It’s going to be more of the same. Contrast that with what a Deval governorship will do: bring in new, fresh faces from all over the region, perhaps the country. (Incidentally, I think if he wins, he’s immediately in the mix for 2008 discussion as a Presidential candidate. Patrick/Obama 08, baby!) Gabrieli might do so as well, but he isn’t the inspirational guy that will draw in young, smart, excited people like Deval will.
Career politicians are needed in some sectors, particularly the legislative leadership area. I am a big opponent of term limits and believe strongly that
old oaks weather the storms. Legislatures are bizarre places (I’ve worked in one, I know), and it takes a while to get ones bearings. So term-limiting isn’t the solution. (Although I also favor Parties term-limiting chairmanships in Congress, as that lets good people serve.)
So, enough rambling.
You want real innovation and leadership? Andrea Silbert, Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli should be top on your radar screen.