It’s official. DeLeo Out. Mariano In. We will see if Rep. Holmes gets more than ten votes.
Progressives would do well to read David Bernstein’s profile of Speaker DeLeo and talk to some of his constituents in Winthrop, Revere, and East Boston. They could learn a thing or two about how politics actually works at the local level. I teach and work with some of them. They’ll tell you that DeLeo sends flowers to every funeral, sponsors scholarships for high school seniors, and makes sure the potholes get filled. He makes sure money and jobs flow to this blue collar district and its cash strapped schools, senior homes, and health clinics. He made sure Revere jumped to the front of the line for a new high school. He started a robust internship program for interested RHS students that have largely gone to students of color. He gets stuff done for his district.
In the before times you could bump into him in line at New Deal Fruit, the Revere farmers market, or the immigrant businesses on Shirley Ave. He didn’t deliver sermons, he delivered services. He didn’t worry about fiscal probity. He got jobs and money for his district (and yes his supporters and relatives). In a job strapped district he tried to save the tracks, then made sure local union contractors got hired when they ultimately got redeveloped. He brought in Amazon to replace a closing candy factory. If the rise of Trump has taught us anything, it’s that good jobs, or even the mere promise of them, motivate voters more than fighting corruption or saving the climate or stopping racism.
Last I checked immigrants, prisoners, and children do not vote in the 19th Suffolk. Perhaps that’s why DeLeo only half heartedly fought for an already watered down criminal justice reform bill. Or why he let the Safe Communities Act languish despite his district having one of the highest number of undocumented families in the state. It could explain how his timid leadership on climate, along with a reticence to raise new revenue, squandered the progressive possibilities of the supermajority he commanded, particularly during the time when he served with a Democratic Governor. That moderation also kept his ideologically diverse caucus together against a Republican one.
Progressives could learn a thing or two about how he slowly accumulated favors in exchange for votes and how it grows him maintain power for so long. They should apply those lessons in raw politics toward electing a progressive speaker who can deliver on the progressive priorities DeLeo put on the back burner. Forget another do nothing Governor, we need a progressive speaker able to deliver for the state like DeLeo delivered for his district.