JimC posted a short time ago with The Progressive Case for Steve Grossman. I was working on a similar piece and, in addition to seconding everything JimC said, I offer it now. Over the past few years I’ve had the chance to get to know Steve Grossman – and learn about his life – and I, a harsher judge than most, believe he’s a strong progressive Democrat who can achieve great things as Governor of Massachusetts.
I believe this because Steve’s life story shows a deep and abiding commitment to progressive politics. Steve was literally born into it. When he was just a baby his father and uncle hired African-American workers to work for the family business, Mass. Envelope. Virtually no family businesses like theirs were integrated in those days before Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King – and even the U.S. military was still segregated – but racial discrimination went against their values. The same values led them to believe unions were vitally important to worker empowerment and a just economy, so they brought the union in themselves early on, and in Steve Grossman’s lifetime that company has never had a problem reaching a fair deal with the union that represents its employees, a union that was proud to endorse Steve in this race.
Steve’s uncle Jerry, who died at 96 last December, was a leading anti-nuclear and anti-Vietnam War activist. He actually supported an anti-nukes candidate against Ted Kennedy in 1962. Jerry Grossman organized the largest rally in the history of Massachusetts, an anti-Vietnam War rally in October 1969 that drew 100,000 people to Boston Common. Unhappy because his Congressman kept voting for the war, Jerry Grossman recruited Father Bob Drinan of B.C. to run against him and Drinan won the seat. It was a tectonic shift in the Massachusetts Democratic Party, the first big step in its evolution from the Cold War, anti-abortion party where Tom McGee the elder held sway to the party of Elizabeth Warren, with its liberal platform, run today by Tom McGee the younger.
When Pope John Paul II decided he’d had enough of Father Drinan being too liberal in Washington, the Grossmans threw strong support to Barney Frank, that liberal rabble-rouser who got Ed Markey’s desk tossed out into the hallway on Beacon Hill and inadvertently launched the junior Senator’s rise. Jerry Grossman was on the board of the Mass. ACLU and countless peace organizations. He was a mentor and guru to countless progressive young Democrats in Massachusetts. His autobiography was called Relentless Liberal and that says it all.
Enough about Jerry Grossman, you say. What about Steve? Steve Grossman watched all this and soaked it up. He joined his local Democratic committee young and stayed active. He supported countless liberal candidates – many now-familiar names – and causes. Familiar causes too. He’s been here, in our community, fighting the same fights many of us have fought.
After the 1990 Silber debacle the party turned to him. He served as chair of the state party in a way that would make John Walsh tip his cap, I believe. He took a near-bankrupt party and restored its finances. He also traveled the state tirelessly and built countless relationships. He instituted rotating town hall meetings so everyone wouldn’t have to come to Boston for everything. He built a Democratic network in places that didn’t previously have one. In the first election after he took over, the Democratic majority in the state Senate went from 24-16 to a veto-proof 33-7 and we haven’t looked back since. How many vetoes were overridden during those 16 years of Republican governors?
Thanks in large part to Steve Grossman’s efforts, a Democrat (John Olver, specifically) won the Western Mass. congressional seat held for over 30 years by the moderate Republican Silvio Conte. The seat’s been Democratic ever since and today’s electoral maps show a solid bloc of blue west of I-91 except a cluster of towns in Hampden County. In 2008 and 2012 Berkshire County – which is something like 96% white – gave Barack Obama his highest vote percentage of any majority-white county in the nation (in the high 70s). Believe me, it wasn’t always like that. Western Mass. used to be a bastion of Yankee Republicanism. Before Rep. Conte the area was represented in Congress by a string of droopy-mustached Republicans stretching to the founding of the Republican Party.
Steve’s never stopped his party-building efforts or his advocacy for progressive causes. As state chair he worked to increase the role of women and people of color in the party, and was a strong supporter of Young Dems from that group’s creation. He’s been in the trenches with a great many people whose work I respect enormously. Steve and his wife Barbara were early, and outspoken, supporters of marriage equality. Barbara was a founding board member of Mass Equality, its first heterosexual member.
For a while, 20 years ago, Steve Grossman worked at AIPAC. That’s a four-letter word (acronym, really) to many liberals. Me too, most of the time. But the only reason AIPAC wanted anything to do with him was that they were on the outs in all directions. The Democrats were in office here, Labour in Israel. They needed someone with ties to both. He could have told them to go get stuffed in something other than a Grossman envelope. By not doing that, Steve Grossman was able to drag AIPAC, kicking and screaming, to official support for the Oslo Accords. Those accords got Yitzhak Rabin killed, and Israel/Palestine’s still a mess. But Steve Grossman fought the good fight and stuck it out at AIPAC until it was clear that he couldn’t keep the hardliners in check anymore.
Steve next chaired the DNC, a job he didn’t hesitate to leave when his father fell ill in the late 1990s – family comes first. Steve increased fundraising, which helped the Dems pick up – rather than lose – seats in the 1998 sixth-year midterms. (I’d love to see that feat repeated this year, but it’s only happened that one time since the days of Andrew Jackson.) At the same time, he put a system in place to avoid the sketchy donations that embarrassed the Clinton White House in 1996.
In 2004 he had the courage to support Howard Dean for President, even though John Kerry had been our sitting senator for 20 years and Steve had known and worked with Kerry since 1970.
For the last four years Steve’s been our Treasurer. The Globe editorial page gets a lot of things wrong, in my view, but they were right on in calling him the finest Treasurer in living memory:
- He’s created a program that’s enabled small businesses (particular those owned by women, minorities, and veterans) to get over a billion dollars in loans they might not have otherwise gotten.
- He’s promoted diversity and merit-based hiring at Treasury, while revising guidelines so the proxy votes of Massachusetts public pension funds are cast against corporate boards that don’t practice diversity.
- He’s improved the School Building Authority and worked hard to improve the bidding process, promote transparency and eliminate waste.
- And, oh yeah, he’s gotten our state its best bond rating ever.
Some of this stuff is not sexy, but it’s governance. Good governance. The kind that gives the lie to the Republican myth that Democrats can’t be good stewards of the public fisc. The kind that frees up money to spend on things we desperately need.
In the midst of it all, Steve also ran that family business. If he inherited Mass. Envelope, he transformed it into Grossman Marketing. A complete change in focus. Many family businesses founded in 1906 didn’t make it to 2006. Steve’s did and grew in the process; his vision had a lot to do with that. Through it all he maintained the company’s historically productive relationship with the union. Grossman Marketing also has offered its workers family leave time since the 1980s and give employees facing personal issues extended time off – paid and with their jobs waiting for them.
Some folks, I fear, have misinterpreted Steve’s calling himself a “progressive jobs creator.” People said, “Not impressed. He’s running as the pro-business guy. He’s the CEO candidate. It’s a Republican theme.”? Christopher, though, has shown wisdom on this question. Steve’s use of the expression is meant to negate an outright false Republican theme: that only by screwing workers, eliminating necessary regulations, and cutting taxes can we promote job growth.
When Republicans say “job creator,” they mean “rich guy with lots of investments who wants super-low taxes and minimal regulation, or else he’ll be forced to accelerate his process of eliminating good jobs in the U.S. with good benefits in favor of McJobs for all.” Steve Grossman – though his policy agenda and his life story – has offered a different path.
When we, as Democrats, envision a better America and a better Massachusetts, good jobs with dignity and higher pay are a big part of that vision. We want stable jobs that allow people to live a good life, rather than scraping through each month struggling to make the rent. Jobs that don’t leave you terrified you’ll be unable to afford food and housing if you get sick. The kind of jobs Steve Grossman’s employees have.
Here is a successful businessman who’s done right by his workers. He is, much more than Arthur T. DeMoulas, the epitome of a “good boss.” (Private note to EB3: By “good boss” I mean that Artie T. is a bottom-feeding scumbag who screwed over his unfortunate cousin, tried to bribe judges, destroyed countless lives, bought the local media, slaughtered puppies in satanic rituals, and used the last of the toilet paper. Bastard.)
But Steve Grossman’s more than just a “good boss.” He’s a good Democrat who knows that laws and policies must be in place to promote workers’ rights. He knows such things can’t be left to the whims of individual employers. He knows that a fair economy, one not marked by widespread precarity and rampant income inequality, is good for the majority and good for the society. He knows, firsthand, that the CEOs do pretty well too.That’s why he was the very first witness testifying before the House in favor of the earned sick leave bill in 2006. Eight years ago. (This year we’ll get it done ourselves – Vote Yes on 4!)
I don’t agree with Steve on casinos – I’ll be voting to repeal – but I agree with him on sick leave, and universal Pre-K, and supporting our teachers, and equal opportunity for all, and the need for capital investments and greater efficiency and more humane outcomes in our healthcare system. I also believe he’s got the energy and talent to lead Massachusetts forward, the fair-mindedness to always keep his door open to concerned citizens like us, and the values to fight for progressive causes I hold dear. He’s been there with us, fighting these fights, for over 40 years. And the day after tomorrow, win or lose, he’ll be working his tail off for the Democratic ticket. That’s why I’m proud to support Steve Grossman for Governor tomorrow and I hope you will too.