A New MassGOP Platform
Ed Lyons
11

One Democrats response to One Republicans Platform

As a fairly left of center Democrat on most issues*, I certainly have a bias in terms of my ideology, priorities, and policy goals that would oppose most GOP platforms, including this one. That said, I strongly feel my homestate Massachusetts is ill served by a one party state, and have long cheered you on the sidelines for your efforts to create a truly moderate Republican party that can be viable at all levels statewide. A GOP that can punch it’s weight in the state legislature as well as statewide offices would do much to improve our own party, and I would argue, make it more progressive in the long run by creating greater opportunities for truly collaborative bipartisanship as well as forcing us to earn the votes of so many places and people we currently take for granted.

It is with that perspective in mind that I have some praise and (hopefully) constructive criticism for your platform. Starting with the lovely preamble. I essentially feel that this made many of the points I made in my first paragraph and would serve as a great model for the party to follow. Too many folks on your side are under the delusion that a Walker style ‘Reagan Republican’ would be viable in this state, and that it is your failure to nominate one that has led the GOP to its rump status in MA, forgetting that it had far more state senators, state representatives, statewide and federal offices during the Brooks-Sargent heyday of the 50s-70s before the Shamie’s, Rappaports, and Carrs hijacked the agenda locally and Fox News and Rush nationally. Great premable, it would really move independents, moderate Democrats, and even some good government progressives over to your side.

I think most of the values here clearly flow from that, though there is obvious tension with trying to keep the right wing in the fold. And I think the flaws I identify are places where your stated platform positions deviate from your own stated preamble. The first three points are fairly solid, amorphous enough to appeal to libertarians, small government conservatives, and social progressives alike. Government should be in the business of helping individuals flourish as part of a community, and those points are all about that.

Some of the additional positions after that seem to undercut this:

the respect for government, preference for the private sector point/private public sector parity/level playing field for all worked.

The first of these related points really reads like an ideological commitment to privatization under most circumstances, that in event that the government could provide a particular service and the private sector could provide the same service at the same cost that the private sector service is always chosen. Perhaps, even if it provided a worse service at a lower cost. To me, this smacks of an ideological commitment to privatization for it’s own sake, and while you may share that ideology, it would open up the door to being vilified as Kochers or outsourcers, and seems to belie the necessary work government can and should do.

There are many folks in the middle who feel that the state should provide some good jobs to good people who work hard and deserve a pension. Vilifying public employees makes sense for a red state like Texas or even a purple state like Wisconsin, but it just does not make sense here. Most folks in MA knows someone who works in state or municipal government that is a good employee doing a good job. They are our relatives and friends.

Other platform positions about equalizing private sector pay (I guess the Governor would get a CEO style salary in the millions then? Would the best teachers earn what college professors at Harvard do?) or clamping down on unions serve a similar point and pose a similar problem for attracting independents, moderate Democrats, and good government progressives.

Most liberals like me are outraged that DeLeo and other folks like him can put their relatives on the payroll to do no show jobs, liberals hate these things as much as conservatives do. And I think narrowing the platform to go after the real hacks, rather than indicting the whole of government is the right approach. Real life experience with privatization, like the Chicago parking meter deal, has often times led to crony capitalism and higher rates for consumers and taxpayers. It is not an intrinsic good on its own but something to be explored on a case by case basis. Privatizing jails has been a terrible idea, privatizing public transit may or may not be one, it worked for Hong Kong and could work here. That is how I would approach it, same with unions-as individuals and groups of people to be led and reformed not monolithic enemies to be defeated.

Respect for Religious Freedom

The religious freedom point really loses me. As a Catholic Democrat, I often take flack from my fellow lefties for my occasional defense of faith based initiatives, my opposition to abortion funding (even if I am otherwise pro choice), my defense of conscience clauses, and my opposition to more zealous attempts to strip religion from the public sphere. So I am not coming at this as an agnostic or secularist, but I still think this platform is so poorly phrased that it could allow Indiana style ‘religious freedom’ bills that discriminate against gays (something I know you are clearly opposed to) or allow ‘Hobby Lobby style’ businesses to argue they are religious and get away with unequal treatment. This seems like an obvious gift to your right wing base, and a generous gift to the Democrats as it is a serious turnoff to most Massachusetts voters regardless of party.

“A preference for work/honor dignity of the poor”

Both of these points say the same thing, but are phrased differently. The first is phrased as a sop to the right, work instead of welfare, etc. The second amounts to the same thing on closer examination, but phrased with Pope Francis style language that sounds loving while it condemns actual programs that have actually worked to lift people off poverty. My ma and my sis have been on welfare at different times in their life, both worked hard as hell to get off of it, I was on unemployment benefits and worked my ass off to get a new job and get off of it. I was on Obamacare and worked hard to get off of it, etc. Nobody wants a free ride, and its insulting to argue the poor are being forced by Democrats to have one. Its an old, outdated, Reagan talking point (Cadillac Wueens who never existed) and one that is really outdated.

Endorsing a basic income (perhaps along the conservative Charles Murray lines that consolidates and reduces government benefits in kind) or a Rubio style EITC expansion (in a weekly check enhancement form) is the kind of policy the GOP should be looking at for inequality, and strongly punishing white collar crime as much as drug offenses and holding big banks to the same fiscally conservative principles for honest accounting as they reserve for government. That’s a better way around this. I also think public housing reform that enables ownership and public school reform could be put in this platform point.

Abortion

Seems a little vague on some particulars, but frankly, it’s a lot closer to where MA voters are than either party platform is. I would say most folks are in the middle, they support choice for 1st and 2nd trimester, oppose it in the 3rd, and oppose funding abortion. I am considered a moderate or conservative by the BMG crowd for holding those positions, I have been would be called a baby killer on RMG for holding the same ones. And that’s where both parties should be. It isn’t murder, it sure as hell isn’t a sacrament either. You hit this out of the park in my book. This statement would make your party not just a bigger tent, but the bigger tent on this issue. And a bigger tent wins more elections.

Education

Nothing new here, pretty standard and close to what Baker and Pioneer want, and a missed opportunity in my book.

Frankly, I think there is room for an anti-MCAS party. There is a lot of cross party opposition to NCLB, Common Core, and standardization from the top. I think the focus should be on strong, local, schools. Everyone should be able to go to a good one regardless of zip code. And it should be funded as such, based on need and not just property taxes. Changing that funding formula is the golden bullet. It matters far more than charter v public, teacher union v reformer, or all the other false dichotomies. Poor communities will always have poor schools so long as its linked to property taxes.

And to me, a classroom based, teacher and parent collaborated curriculum is better than a one size fits all teach to the test model. That would be a real third way, and not the tired cliches of either party within the state at present (Baker had bad ideas, Coakley had no ideas). And as a proud product of the liberal (small L) education core at U Chicago and the diverse Cambridge public schools, I hate any policy that focuses on STEM to the exclusion of teaching to the whole person. And to me, teaching to the whole person is not what your platform currently proposes. But, I do think it is open to rethinking the status quo which isn’t working in the urban systems. So a mixed bag.

Health care

Obviously, I prefer single payer or a public option, and actually think the latter gels with a conservative piecemail approach since it would force costs down and increase standardization of delivery. But the failed VT experiment proves that single payer might be out of the reach of any one state any time soon, so lets all agree to work on optimizing Romneycare for the present. I think this does that, particularly when paired with your analysis of the Connector#Fail.

Criminal Justice Reform

This should be shouted from the mountain tops and is a place where MA could be a national leader, where MA Republicans could look both maverick compared to national ones and more forward thinking than the local Dems (many of whom like the patronage jobs the status quo provides as the Probation scandal showed!). Also hit out of the park.

Infrastructure

Also hit out of the park

Critical Omissions to Reconsider

Innovation Compatible Governance

Lastly, I think your points about IT in government, in the connector paper and peppered throughout these platform positions deserves its own platform point. Its something completely unaddressed by both parties and will be a real problem. Having the GOP be the party that does it would spur the Democrats to compete on who is the most innovative and tech oriented at governance, and would be a win win for all. GOP gets to win over Kendall Square, Democrats get to take ideas from the millenials who are currently voting for them and put them into practice.

I would also strongly endorse Uber and similar programs that are future oriented and progressive that also break up local clout heavy monopolies.

Housing

The biggest quality of life and affordability issue in the state, biggest issue for young people, hindered by old school Dem pol ways of doing business blocking innovation, and you didn’t discuss it at all! Zoning law reform to open up housing to true market principles is also something young folks like me priced out of Cambridge would love to see! Many of us liberals are downright libertarian on common sense stuff like this. Build up, build in, build big. The fence measuring town crier era way Massachusetts does housing has to end.

Transit

It deserves its own section! You want to win over urban voters you gotta fix transit and do it in an innovative way. Look at some of the stuff Curtatone has done in Somerville with mixed development tethered to new transit. This is non partisan innovation at its finest in government, and an area where folks like DeLeo and Coakley are totally out of ideas.

Supporting an Olympic Referendum

I will vote for any politician who opposes this boondoggle and supports my right to choose on this question, the GOP according to your preamble and other positions should do this as well.

Sorry for the length, but I figure you needed a taste of your own medicine ;)