Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
My Republican friends are quick to bust my chops. There is always a subtext to our political discussions that I am naive, ignorant of the reality of being a “Democrat” in Massachusetts.
… Murray showed uniquely bad judgment in aligning himself with McLaughlin, a notorious political grifter. But the larger system of alliance-building through state and municipal government, greased along by dubious fundraising and the awarding of patronage jobs, is a deeper threat to Massachusetts. Murray has rejected McLaughlin, but he and other elected officials need to be far more forthright in declaring that the system of rewarding political supporters with jobs is morally wrong, unfair to other applicants, and damaging to the credibility of the state government. It simply shouldn’t happen.
But rather than promise to change the system, elected officials try to hide behind it. Everyone’s heard their alibis: How political supporters and their friends are merely “referred’’ to hiring officers, rather than hired outright; how rewarding a political crony is no different from any other managers putting their own people in positions of authority; how some of those hired through political contacts are actually hard workers who get unfairly stigmatized.
This is the legacy of Chelsea, Springfield, Lawrence, and other municipalities that have been so hobbled by corruption as to require state oversight. It’s the legacy of the Probation Department, the Legislature’s patronage dumping zone. And it’s the legacy of elected officials who played the game, either tolerating it as a price of entry or participating in order to build a network of supporters.
Murray belongs to the latter category.
Note: Before I go on, please take a moment to ponder why Lowell missed ending up on the list of shamed cities, above. Further, please know, Lowell is but a few bad choices from slipping backwards. I’m not that naive. Are you?
I’ve always felt that Tim Murray’s pick* (*not picked, see comments below) as LG was a nod to the “old guard” in the machine politics of MA. Deval Patrick was the outsider, who brilliantly upsurped the nomination from a bumbling Tom Reilly. Of course, Patrick had the help of a chunk of Obama’s team, before they had convinced Obama (likely, Michelle) to run. Square one in MA politics is, you pay the vig. Even if you give an IOU. Tim Murray is that IOU.
There is a long list of Lowellians fully enamored with Tim Murray’s, until recently, political trajectory. You could always sense the difference when the local Dems would go to a Patrick event or a Murray event. They relax around Murray. Watching the who’s who smile and nod at Deval Patrick at Western Ave Studio is starkly different from the causual camraderie displayed for Murray, at the Blue Shamrock. You hear the phrase, “one of us” thrown around in Lowell. For sure, Murray is and Patrick ain’t. If you’re confused, remember the “Blue Carpet” the LPD rolled out for Deval at the Owl Diner in 2010. The organizers of that performance were more than happy to slap Timmy on the back, later, when he came to town.
I should clearify, I get the patronage game. Meaning, there is a logic to it.
Often, I catch myself being disappointed with activists that fail to deliver or show up. It’s a malady common amongst ‘do gooders’ that tire of sacrificing time and energy, only to reap meager progress in the name of ‘the cause.’ When seeking to ensure the dedication of ’soldiers,’ it is much easier to reward politcal hardship with a paying gig. So many volunteers blindly jump aboard a campaign, “believing” in their candidate. As one of them, I see the few seasoned indigenous organizers. They are skilled in campaign tactics and any winning campaign has a gaggle of them around. These folks steer the idealists from event to event, canvass to canvass, and phone bank to phone bank. These folks never quit campaigning. They slow their pace in the off season, but they are always engaged. What does it take to keep them around?
Heading into the 2012 election, I’ve wondered how it will be? See, I was one of the original ‘hopemongers.’ An early Obama supporter, who jumped on the coat-tails of the ‘Draft Obama’ movement of late 2006. It will be very different in 2012, as Obama now is the machine that the Clinton’s were back in 2007.
Though, I don’t think MA Dems have ever really accepted Obama, as “one of us.” Not because of race, for you more cynical lurkers. But, he never moved into MA politcal circles with his own people. I’m not even sure Deval Patrick has. If you have no true politcal leverage in the midlevels of the politcal power structure, you can ride high. But, only for so long.
What’s really interesting, in this context, is Liz Warren. She is a politcal outsider, fully supported by Obama and delivered to us, by Obama. It’s like the President is skipping over the muck and mire of our state party, and installing reformers on top of them.
Imagine if the IOU implodes on itself. If Murray crashes, what type of Dem would rise to grab the nomination for Governor in 2014? Assuming we have a Senator Warren, an outsider, the power structure could be shifted in a way that would spell trouble for the ‘old guard.’
The next 10 years could potentially usher in a new type of reform minded Democrat in Massachusetts. Though, I’m not sure how they would cement control without falling into the same bad habits that the ‘old guard’ has. My Republican friends will remind me, “There is no free lunch.”
No doubt, there is “the wrong kind of Democrat.” But, it’s going to take a decade or more to find out, is it me or Mike McLaughlin?
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