Regarding Massachusetts, I have to say Bill's comments hurt, because they're true. I worried, mostly privately, about that lack of direction in January of 2007. We have to remember that things got so ridiculous in the years of Mitterdämmerung (04-06), that the big things we wanted out of a Patrick administration seem kind of technical, unglamorous: Keep health care on stable footing; root out the obvious hackery in state government; set basic progressive priorities in education and the environment; and yes, same-sex marriage.
But it's true, there weren't three or four glaring action items around which we could all rally. (Casinos sure as hell weren't on that list.) It was the barnacles of sixteen-years-plus of neglect and cowardice that needed scraping. The Big Dig Culture didn't accumulate overnight; $22 billion wasn't spent all at once. We didn't let the 'Pike and MBTA get themselves into this mess by anyone's express policy agenda. The central issue was how power and accountability were distributed in the government. That's not an easy thing around which to organize and focus a movement. It really does matter who controls the executive, and where they feel they derive their power and legitimacy, i.e. their “mandate”.
This will also be true for the next President, who will have to renew a sense of decency, mission, and professionalism in government. We've had a Department of Justice that became a Department of Political Vendettas; an Environmental Protection Agency that refused to protect the environment; a FEMA which couldn't manage emergencies; and so forth. The hole is deep. Musharraf of Pakistan was criticized for the weakening of institutions under his undemocratic rule; we have seen something like that here.
But the big issues on the national scale are indeed legislative. We should start organizing and pushing on the issues that are likely to require all of our pressure, in order to counteract the corporate interests to the extent we can. Averting climate disaster is not optional; covering the uninsured is a moral necessity.
I'll have more on that health care bullet point soon.