Presidential Election Could Energize Popular Vote Compact Favored by MA

Friday, October 30, 2020

Our nation is not fated to endure forever the kind of presidential election we are once again slogging through, a contest fought mainly in several swing states while the majority of states, including some of the most populous, are ignored by the candidates.  Nor must the U.S. forever be susceptible to the likes of a divisive incumbent who, knowing he cannot win a majority of all votes in the nation, conducts from the start a cynical, base-stoking campaign aimed at exploiting the quirks of our archaic electoral college system under which the candidate who gets the most votes in a state is awarded all of that state's electoral votes.


If enough states did what Massachusetts has already done, we could prevent the Electoral College from periodically producing a president who does not earn the most votes nationwide, as happened in 2000 with George W. Bush and in 2016 with Donald Trump, and as happened three times before that. We could accomplish through a series of identical state laws what otherwise could only be done in a much more challenging way, amending the Constitution, which requires the approval of three-quarters (38) of the states.  

The number of electoral votes a state possesses is determined by how many representatives and senators that state has in the Congress.  (With nine reps and two senators, Massachusetts has 11 electoral votes.)  Because every state has two senators, regardless of the size of its population, less populous, predominately rural states like Wyoming exercise disproportionate influence in the Electoral College.  These states will never vote for an amendment doing away with their advantages in the system, a reality that puts the three-quarters bar out of reach.

This post is about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and the National Popular Vote bill that is the heart of the Compact.

Massachusetts, 14 other states and the District of Columbia have enacted this legislation, which requires all of the electors in those jurisdictions to cast their ballots for the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.  Collectively, they have 196 electoral votes.  

Once enough states with a combined total of 270 electoral votes (a majority of the 538 electoral votes) have enacted the National Popular Vote Bill, the Compact will take effect and the winner-take-all method of awarding states' electoral votes will be rendered inoperative in subsequent presidential elections.  (Note: The winner-take-all methodology is founded in state law, not the Constitution.)

Success for the Compact is potentially close.  If the legislatures and governors of just four particular states adopted popular vote bills, the Compact would accrue 84 more electoral votes and move comfortably past the 270-electoral-vote finish line.  Those states, listed with their respective number of electoral votes, are: Georgia, 16; Pennsylvania, 20; Texas, 38; Wisconsin, 10.

The Compact is an "end-around" the immovable Electoral College.  It would work because Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution gives states exclusive control over how they apportion electoral votes.

Most of us do not recall that then Governor Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts version of the National Popular Vote bill (House 4156) into law more than 10 years ago -- on August 4, 2010 to be exact.  Both branches of the Massachusetts legislature had passed the bill by wide margins: 113 votes to 35 in the House, and 28 votes to 9 in the Senate.  A 2010 survey cited by the National Popular Vote project indicated that 72% of Massachusetts registered voters supported "the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states."  

Here's another mostly forgotten fact: 

Although our state's junior senator at the time, John Kerry, lost the popular vote to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election by 3,012,166 votes, Kerry came close to victory.  If 59,393 Ohioan votes had gone to Kerry instead of Bush, Kerry would have won the state and its 20 electoral votes.  Those would have put him over the 270 electoral vote mark and given him the presidency. (The electoral vote totals were Bush, 286; Kerry, 251.)

Michael Dukakis is the first high office holder that I remember speaking forcefully for the abolition of the Electoral College.  That was many years ago.  He had a chapter-and-verse argument against it that was as cogent as it was eloquent.  It boiled down to how inimical the College is to the workings of democracy because it results in voters in some states having more power and influence than those in other states and is thus a grievous affront to the concept of equality of all before the law. 

I could get my mind but not my heart around that argument -- until this year, the fourth of the Trump presidency.  I was sentimentally attached to the Electoral College for historic reasons.  The College was given to us by the founding fathers, our nation's wisest generation, and if we abandoned it, I thought, there might be unintended consequences we'd come to regret.  On top of that, I had the feeling there was a kind of a rough justice at work in having the presidency decided by farmers, factory workers, tradespeople, and old folks on Social Security in swing states like Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Trump was elected with 46 percent of the vote and his popularity, unlike that of most presidents, has never exceeded 50 percent in any reputable poll.  He has never shown an interest in expanding his mandate, in appealing to a swath of the electorate beyond the red-hatted MAGA legions.  If he has diverged this year from a narrow strategy of keeping the world's most powerful office by playing the bounces off the weirdly configured walls of the Electoral College ballpark, I haven't seen it.

In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2,864,903.  He could conceivably lose to Joe Biden by twice that amount next Tuesday and get re-elected.  I can't imagine anything that would spur more states to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact than a Trump victory of that nature.  If so, 2024 could be the first time  a presidential election was decided by popular vote -- too late, perhaps, to rejuvenate a democracy long malnourished and twisted around by an Electoral College darling.

Our AG's Other Role: Attorney for the Defense of the Planet

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Last week, I saw on the State House News Service that Attorney General Maura Healey was releasing a report on her efforts to stop the Trump administration from weakening and/or eliminating multiple environmental protections.  I followed the link and read the report.  It's titled, "Fighting for a Healthy Massachusetts: Stopping Illegal Federal Environmental Attacks and Rollbacks."  You should read it, too, if you haven't already.

A short time later, perusing the New York Times website, I saw this headline: "The Trump Administration Is Reversing Nearly 100 Environmental Rules.  Here's the Full List."  I clicked on it and slowly went through the list.  Here's a particularly nasty sample: early in his term, Trump revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into streams.  

My mind flashed to this statement by Trump during his first debate with Joe Biden, a line he repeated near the end of the second presidential debate last week: "I want crystal clean water and air.  I want beautiful, clean air."  


And Vladimir Putin wanted nothing more in 2016 than Hillary to win the presidency.  

Since January of 2017, Trump's first month in office, the Massachusetts AG's office, acting in concert with attorneys general from other states, has initiated more than 200 separate challenges to what Healey describes as "the Trump Administration's attempts to gut environmental protections."

Healey, et al., have gotten results. For example:

In 2017, a lawsuit she was a party to stopped Trump from rolling back restrictions on the use of hydrofluorocarbons, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.

In 2017-18, Healey (and others) successfully opposed the federal Department of  Energy in court over the department's plan to abandon energy efficiency standards for appliances and industrial equipment.  This action, she estimates, will save U.S. consumers and businesses $12 billion over time.

In "Fighting for a Healthy Massachusetts...," Healey writes: 

"The Trump administration is engaged in a concerted effort to delay, weaken and repeal critical environmental policies.  Unless stopped, that effort will jeopardize decades of progress in cleaning up the environment and protecting human health...

"The Administration is also taking aim at important procedures and safeguards that guide the federal government's decision-making about issues that affect our environment -- for instance, by seeking to undermine the role of scientific research and to eliminate consideration of climate change and health harms.

"On top of that, EPA and other federal agencies have drastically cut back their efforts to enforce the rules still on the books, giving a free pass to violators and creating more work for states."

No doubt the report was timed to hurt Trump's re-election campaign at a point when the presidential race is at its hottest.  Whether it will have an impact is impossible to say.  Unquestionably, it serves as a reminder of how health is on the ballot November 3: ours and our planet's both.

Even if Biden wins, we won't be in the clear environmentally because of how Trump, with Mitch McConnell's help, has installed scores of true conservatives to federal judgeships, including two -- and soon three -- to the Supreme Court.  

There are slowly moving but well funded efforts underway to shatter the basis of federal regulation-making on the ground that the Congress has delegated too much of its lawmaking authority to un-elected bureaucrats.

During the hearings on her nomination to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett was asked for her views on climate disruption caused by global warming.  "You know," she said, "I'm certainly not a scientist.  I would not say I have firm views on it."  

To another question on the same topic, Barrett replied, "I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial."

Not just cynical dogs who blog are finding that an ominous dodge by a lawyer advertised as a brilliant intellect.

Advice to Auchincloss: Success Isn't Maneuvering for National Import

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Jake Auchincloss, age 32, won the seven-person Democratic congressional primary election to succeed Joe Kennedy in the Fourth Massachusetts District and is heavily favored to beat the Republican nominee in the November 3 final, Julie Hall.  Based on the way he has campaigned -- promising to oppose President Trump's agenda at every turn -- we can expect Auchincloss to spend a lot of time in Washington on big national controversies.  If I had his ear, I'd counsel otherwise.  And I'd hold up the example of South Boston's Joe Moakley (1927-2001) on how better to become a serious legislator, a force to be reckoned with, an endearing figure, in the U.S. House.

Before his 28-year run in the Congress (1973-2001) in the old Ninth District, Moakley served as a state representative (1953-1960), a state senator (1965-1970) and a Boston city councilor (1971-72).  At the State House, Boston City Hall, and the Capitol in D.C., he was known for his geniality, sense of humor, common touch, dedication to constituent services, and ability to establish trust with members of the opposing party and, generally, anybody who held  an opposing viewpoint.  With the help of his friend and fellow congressman, Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Speaker of the House from 1977 to 1987, Moakley moved unobtrusively up the ladder until he was appointed, in 1989, as chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, which has critical, discretionary power to set the terms for debating and voting on bills.  He leveraged that power to deliver federal funding for such major projects as the clean-up of Boston Harbor and other big infrastructure works in Massachusetts.     

Jim McGovern, the congressman for the Worcester-centered Second Massachusetts District since 1997, got his start in politics as an aide to Joe Moakley and became an indispensable part of Moakley's operation during his time on the staff (1981-96).  Four days after Moakley's June 2, 2001, funeral at St. Brigid's Church in South Boston, McGovern sponsored a House resolution registering the "profound sorrow" of members upon Moakley's passing and recording the adjournment of the House that day "as a further mark of respect to the memory of the deceased."  Here, in part, is what McGovern said on that occasion:

"Mr. Speaker, I had a front-row seat to watch a real master in action. Joe was guided by the simple but powerful principle that no one is unimportant.  From the streets of South Boston to the jungles of El Salvador, Joe Moakley stood for and fought for fairness, and fought for justice.  He made sure that Mrs. O'Leary got her lost Social Security check.  He fought to make sure that our veterans got the health care services that they were entitled to receive.  He cared deeply about the environment, and he had a passion for civil rights and equal rights and human rights.

"And yes, Mr. Speaker, he was a Democrat and very, very proud of it.  He believed in the Democratic Party and he fought hard for the principles and values that he believed in.  But, as I am sure that my Republican colleagues will acknowledge, Joe respected and admired those who had different views and even a different party affiliation.  Joe Moakley was a people person and his influence and his power in this institution was based not merely on his seniority or his status on the Committee on Rules but instead it was based on personal relationships and friendships with men and women of both parties.   

"His advice to me after I first got elected to Congress was not to give the most fiery or partisan speeches or even to hire the most experienced or expensive press secretary, but to get to know everyone on a first-name basis.  Building coalitions and building friendships, he would say, was the surest way to be effective."

Close to a thousand persons attended Moakley's funeral Mass, including the nation's top Republican at the time, President George W. Bush, and the man then third-in-line to the presidency, the Republican Speaker of the House, J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois. Many thousands more watched the rites on television.  

Anne E. Kornblut, who covered the funeral for The Boston Globe, noted that Bush had met Moakley only twice, and only after becoming President, five months before Moakley's death.  Bush's advisors told Kornblut that the president's attendance "was motivated purely by personal respect" for Moakley.  She quoted Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary, as saying,  "He (Bush), on his visits with the congressman, instantly came to the same conclusions that everybody else has, about what a wonderful man Congressman Moakley was, his human touch.  The good-natured spirit that Congressman Moakley brought to the job moved the president."

A little more than five months ago, on April 21, a retired professor by the name of Richard F. Fenno, Jr., a native of Winchester, Massachusetts, who held a Ph.D. in history from Harvard, passed away at age 93 at his home in Rye, New York.  Fenno taught at the University of Rochester for five decades and wrote 19 books, most focusing on the U.S. House and Senate.  One of his final books, "Congressional Travels: Places, Connections, and Authenticity," was inspired, according to a New York Times obituary on Fenno, "by the national attention and bipartisan affection accorded to a relatively anonymous House member, John Joseph Moakley."

Intrigued, I purchased a copy of  "Congressional Travels..." online.  Here are three key excerpts from Chapter 1, which is titled, "A Story About Place: Joe Moakley's Funeral":

"...a House member's designation, as prescribed in the U.S. Constitution, is not Congressman, it is Representative.  And whereas 'congressman' or 'congresswoman' tends to call our attention to a House member's Capitol Hill activities and to his or her relationship with colleagues, 'representative' points us toward a House member's activities in his or her home district and to relationships with constituents."

"I believe that while the examination of Joe Moakley's activities and relationships in Washington provides, at best, a weak explanation of the ceremony after his death, an examination of his activities and relationships in his home constituency provides a strong explanation.  We could know all there was to know about Moakley's life in Washington and not explain the attendance at his funeral.  I will argue that he was not a memorable congressman but he was a memorable representative.  The story of his funeral should not be read as a national story at all.  It was primarily a local story."

"Joe Moakley can be known best as someone with recognizable connections to a place and to a constituency, for it is these connections -- and the strength of these connections -- that made him a remarkable politician.  Therefore, answers to the question 'What is he like?' cannot be found in Washington.  They can only be found at home.  Answers to the question 'Why did so many people come to memorialize him?' can only be found at home.  Joe Moakley was indeed, 'a heavyweight' -- not in Washington, but at home."

Professor Fenno saw Moakley as a "local hero," if you will, and not a figure of national import.  I think Moakley might have objected to that assessment; I certainly object. 

Toward the end of his career, Moakley said that he considered his efforts to cut U.S. military assistance to El Salvador and to force legal action against those responsible for the 1989 murder at the University of Central America in San Salvador, the capital, of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and the housekeeper's daughter to be his "greatest achievement."

All his life, no matter what position, situation or contest he happened to be in, Moakley stuck to his fundamental principles and instincts.  He followed his principles and instincts wherever they led them, and to the end point of wherever they led.  That made him a great representative of his district, a great champion of our nation's ideals, and a figure of historical importance.

I'm sure that young Jake Auchincloss would like to achieve great things, to perform deeds worthy of history books.  Assuming he'll get the opportunity to serve on Capitol Hill, I'd encourage him to resist the urge to be give fiery and/or partisan speeches every time a microphone or TV camera is available. I'd tell him to keep in mind instead the example of Joe Moakley, who never forgot where he came from (and lived his whole life), South Boston's Ward 7 peninsula, and who remained faithful all his days to the humble tenets of his upbringing and neighborhood.  

Bad Form to Hit a Guy When He's Down, but Somebody's Got to Do It

Friday, September 4, 2020

A great deal has been spoken and written about Kennedy's loss to Markey in the Democratic primary election for U.S. Senator this past Monday.  

The best, most succinct post-mortem I've read was in Politico, "Why Joe Kennedy's Senate campaign flopped":

I could not improve upon that.  But there are three brief comments I'd like to add:

One, Kennedy was not bold enough out of the gate. He seemed a bit sheepish, almost apologetic, about challenging the 44-year incumbent.  Result: The chance to make a strong and/or dramatic introduction of his candidacy was squandered.

Two, Kennedy's campaign photography never exploited his intrinsic physical/theatrical advantages, i.e., his youthful good looks and young person's energy/vitality.  Where were the billboards with the gigantic, side-by-side pictures of in-his-prime Joe next to ready-for-Medicare Eddie?  Scott Brown, who helped earn his way through college as a model, would not have made such a mistake.

Three, Kennedy missed badly when he fired at Markey in the second half of August for supposedly questioning his family legacy and "weaponizing" his family name in the video ad that went viral, "The Green New Dealmaker."   The ad was not the cheap shot Kennedy claimed it was.  Voters get that politics is a rough business.  They're stingy with sympathy when a politician gets banged up, especially when that politician has benefited from inherited wealth and privilege.

On the upside, I don't think all the talk about Joe being the first Kennedy to lose an election in Massachusetts has to mean anything in the end.  Plenty of successful high elective office-holders have come back from painful defeats to win the next election.  Think Charlie Baker, long the nation's most popular governor, who got spanked by Deval Patrick in 2010.

Defeat can be the best teacher if faced head-on, dispassionately. 

Joe Kennedy is a smart, selfless, experienced public servant, a person of impeccable character and integrity.  Idealism burns incandescently within him.  I hope it will not be long before his name appears again on a statewide ballot.

Footnote, re: Hometown Knockdown:   Alex Morse, now serving his fourth consecutive term as mayor of Holyoke, came up short Sept. 1 in his own backyard.  Holyoke voters favored incumbent Richie Neal in the Dem primary for U.S. representative in the First Massachusetts District by a 426-vote margin: Neal received 4,366 votes in Holyoke to Morse's 3,940.



Trump Would Never 'Get' Our Bump. Sad.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Three months ago, in the first week of June, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, then the president of the National Association of State Auditors, hosted a virtual conference of the association from her office at the Massachusetts State House. 

On the afternoon of the second full day of the conference, Wednesday, June 3, Bump could see, from her office window, a steady stream of protesters walking past the State House on Bowdoin Street, heading down the hill to Cambridge Street.  These were people outraged by the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.  

The sight of the marchers moved her so much that she incorporated her reaction to it into her prepared, closing remarks to the conferees the next day.  Describing the scene on Bowdoin Street, Bump, who served in the legislature as a rep from Braintree for eight years and has been state auditor since 2011, said: 

"For nearly 30 minutes, they streamed by my office window.  The peaceful protesters, many white, mostly young, signs aloft, loudly chanting, many with arms upraised, marching for a righteous cause, filled my eyes with tears, and my heart with a jumble of sorrow, hope, guilt, concern, gratitude and resolve.  The knee that indifferently snuffed out the life of George Floyd also unleashed a nation's collective disgust at, and, I hope, determination to directly confront the stain that we have sought to ignore since the founding of our nation. Our persistent, institutionalized racism can no longer be glossed over."

Bump continued, "So many individuals through the years have made their contributions to the righting of society's and government's wrongs.  I have liked to think, and had even managed to convince myself, that I have been on the right side of the moral equation, with my work in my community, with my votes as a legislator, with my actions as the state's auditor, pointing out inconsistencies in the criminal justice system and in access to services, and more recently deficiencies in police training.

"Whatever good intentions have motivated me, whatever good I actually have done, I now recognize, simply has not been enough to fulfill my obligations to my sisters and brothers of color or my country."  [bold face added]

She emphasized that "I have it within my power as a human being to be a stronger voice, to lend a firmer hand.  I have it within my power as an employer to set still higher standards, to instill greater awareness, and to provide a better example.  I have it within my power as an elected official to contribute to a better understanding of the ways that our government institutions fail to recognize and repair the damage inflicted by centuries of injustice.  All those things and more, I can, must and will do." [bold face added]

I became aware of these comments through a blast email from Bump's office on Friday, June 5.  They made a favorable impression and I made a mental note to maybe include them in a future blog post. Then I pretty much forgot about them until they came to mind, unbidden, while watching Donald Trump accept the Republican re-nomination for the presidency this past Thursday night.   

In that norm-shattering campaign speech from the grounds of the White House, Trump had not one gentle word, not one respectful or conciliatory gesture, for the millions of Americans hurt and angered by the killings of Black men by police.  I didn't expect Trump to take the soul-searching approach of a Suzanne Bump to the problem, but I was hoping he might acknowledge,  at least in  passing, the anguish, the frustration, that so many of his fellow citizens are experiencing.

Instead, it was clear that Trump will do everything possible over the next several weeks to make Joe Biden and the Democrats, not racial injustice and inequality, the issue.  

"If you give power to Joe Biden," he said, "the radical left will defund police departments all across America.  They will pass federal legislation to reduce law enforcement nationwide.  They will make every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon.  No one will be safe in Biden's America.  My administration will always stand with the men and women of law enforcement."

For their audacity and creativity, we have to give Trump and the Republican Party credit.  Their virtual convention was a masterpiece of positioning and communicating -- up there with the best TV infomercials of all time. I cannot explain that better than a letter-writer to The New York Times, Ramesh Harihara. In a piece published two days after the GOP convention, Harihara wrote:

"The Republican production effort was stellar -- from the quality of videos, to the locations, to the attempt to show President Trump as someone who welcomes immigrants and is not a racist, to painting Covid as something in the past, and the awesome fireworks and opera at the end.  As a marketer I admire professionals who can take a deeply troubled product, puff up your chest and make people forget the failures." 

Every day from now until Nov. 3, Trump is going to say and do something bold to make voters forget his failures and to focus instead on how awful life will be in "Biden's America." Tomorrow, for example, Trump's going to Kenosha, Wisconsin.  When there, do you think he'll be soothing, or stoking, the passions unleashed by the shooting, and paralyzing, by police of  Jacob Blake on Aug. 23?

When both the Democratic governor and lieutenant governor of Wisconsin made public appeals to Trump over the weekend, asking him not to come to Kenosha  -- "The city was on fire and we need healing, not a barrel of gasoline rolling in," said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes -- I knew there was no way Trump would not go.  Gasoline is practically his middle name.

To stop Trump's forward progress coming out of the convention and to beat him on Nov. 3, Biden will have to show some stuff, he will have make some moves, like we've never seen from him before.  Worried Dems are right.

Words Matter. Therein May Lie an Insight into Pelosi Boosting JPK III.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi served side-by-side in the House with Edward J. Markey, our state's junior U.S. Senator, for 26 years, from 1987 to 2013. That did not inhibit her last week from endorsing Markey's challenger in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary for U.S. Senator, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, III.

The speaker said she was motivated by appreciation of Kennedy's critical work in raising funds and campaigning for Democratic candidates for the House in 2018, which contributed to the party's regaining the House majority and to Pelosi's ability to secure the speakership for the second time in her history-making career.

Politico reported that an aide to the speaker said. "...Pelosi was also concerned after the Markey campaign started ramping up its attacks on the Kennedy name, 'going after Joe, his family, his supporters and the Kennedy family policy legacy.' "

Her support of the Kennedys goes back to her beginnings in Baltimore.  Her father, Thomas D'Alessandro, Jr., a former Baltimore mayor (1947-59), was a prominent organizer and campaigner for John F. Kennedy in his bid for the presidency.  That was 60 years ago.

The speaker had good reasons for injecting herself into the fierce contest between Senator Markey and Rep. Kennedy.  

She also had reasons enough to give the race a good leaving-alone:

One, Pelosi had made it a policy point in her new speakership not to get involved in Democratic congressional primaries.  As soon as she broke her own rule, progressives in her party, such as Andrea Ocasio Cortez, known nationwide by her initials, AOC, wasted no time in calling her a hypocrite.

Two, young Joe Kennedy -- let's call him JPK III -- never asked Pelosi for her endorsement.  (Do you go where you're not invited?)

Three, endorsements are almost always a mixed bag in politics.  For every analyst who thinks they matter there's another who asserts they're insignificant.  

Indeed, there was evidence that Pelosi's thumb on the scales gave an immediate boost to Markey's fundraising.  

The Boston Globe reported this past Saturday, Aug. 22, that: (a) "the Kennedy campaign said it raised more than $100,000, mostly in small donations, on the heels of the high-profile endorsement," and (b) "the Markey campaign raised more than $300,000, via roughly 9,000 individual donations, since Pelosi announced her endorsement of Kennedy."

The timing of the endorsement perhaps offers deeper insight into the speaker's decision.  But before I go into that, I want to state that Markey deserves to be returned to the Senate and that I have already voted early for him.

Pelosi endorsed JPK III shortly after a video advertisement for Markey went viral.  You may have seen or heard of this product, titled "The Green New Dealmaker."  It offered a new twist on President Kennedy's immortal statement at his inaugural: "Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country."

Highlighting how hard the pandemic has been on the nation's essential workers, the majority of whom earn low wages, Markey concludes the video by saying, "We asked what we can do for our country.  We went out, we did it.  With all due respect, it's time to start asking what your country can do for you." 

Given the state of our nation today, that formulation was not inappropriate, nor was it disrespectful of the Kennedys.  I don't get how it could have riled up the speaker to the point she'd violate her own policy and feed dissension in her House.

There was one thing about "The Green New Dealmaker," however, that I could see ticking Pelosi off to the point that she just had to speak out publicly on Markey v. Kennedy.

At a pivot point in the ad, an ultra-serious Markey comes into view, facing the camera head-on, and declares, "Well, they call me the dealmaker!"  

Shortly, he announces, "I put the deal on the table but the people make it impossible to refuse. With 500 laws on the books, do you think I'm gonna stop now?  [dramatic pause] They wish!"

Could it be this simple?  Ed Markey had an 11-year jump on Nancy Pelosi in the U.S. House and she got to be speaker.  Who's the dealmaker here?


It Was Probably Not a Great Idea, Anyway, for Morse to Take on Neal

Thursday, August 13, 2020

There's an aphorism often attributed (erroneously) to Sun Tzu, a Chinese general in the 5th Century B.C. who wrote a still popular book called "The Art of War." It goes like this, "If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by."

I think Springfield's Richie Neal, chairman of Ways & Means in the U.S. House of Representatives, just had a body-of-his-enemy-floating-by moment.

Neal's opponent in the western Massachusetts congressional district Democratic primary on September 1, Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, was accused in a recent letter from the College Democrats of Massachusetts of using his position as a part-time, visiting UMass faculty member "for romantic or sexual gain."

The letter, and an article on the letter, were published this past Friday, August 7, in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, a student-run publication.  The allegedly inappropriate behavior by Morse centered on three issues, the article stated:

"The first issue alleges that Morse regularly matched with students on dating apps, including Tinder and Grindr, who were as young as 18 years old.  These students included members of the College Democrats of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst Democrats and other groups in the state.

"The second issue, 'Using Democrats' events to meet college students and add them on Instagram, adding them to his 'Close Friends' story and DMing them, both of which have made young college students uncomfortable.' 

"The third issue, 'Having sexual contact with college students, including at UMass Amherst, where he teaches, and the greater Five College Consortium.' " (Consortium members are UMass, Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke and Smith Colleges.)

Morse, in a statement to the Daily Collegian, reportedly admitted to having "consensual adult relationships, including some with college students" and "apologized to anyone I have made feel uncomfortable..."

This past Monday, a campaign spokesperson for Neal denied that Neal's campaign was involved in the publication of the allegations against Morse.

Morse said in a later radio interview that he believes Neal's campaign was involved.  "I think this is what happens when you go against power," he told the interviewer on public radio station WAMC.

If Neal or anyone affiliated with his re-election effort were involved, that fact will almost certainly come to light, sooner or later.  There are too many persons in the College Democrats of Massachusetts for them all to keep that secret for long.  That's why I don't believe that Neal, et al., were involved: it would be too risky, it could blow up in his face, he could end up looking scared or like a bully.  

Neal is obviously the favorite in the primary, despite all of the energy and money progressive Democrats have poured into the Morse campaign, as they did into the (successful) congressional campaigns of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley.  

(I respect progressives as much as the next guy from Massachusetts. But, even if these accusations against Morse had never been hurled, I can't see how his candidacy gets over the fact that a Morse victory would take Neal out of D.C. when, after 31 years in Congress, he is at the height of his powers and most able to deliver the goods to his district and state.)

Neal has been a student of political warfare long enough to know that, as in most human endeavors, the most grievous wounds in politics are self-inflicted, and that patience and restraint tend to be rewarded.  It would surprise me not if Neal long ago committed to memory these words: 

"If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by."