Mathew Helman: Charlie Baker Hopes You Have A Short Memory
Monday, October 07, 2013
Baker has given us little reason to expect that his 2014 campaign for Governor will be any different than his failed 2010 campaign that we rejected. In fact, Baker still has many unanswered questions left over from 2010. He is clearly betting that we will have memories too short to recall why Massachusetts rejected him in 2010.
To help boost your memory, here is a refresher course on why Massachusetts just said no to Baker in 2010.
The Big Dig
Baker spent 2010 desperately trying to pass the buck and dishonestly trying to deflect responsibility for his senior role in the Big Dig financing scheme. Instead of being forthright about his role, Baker notoriously claimed that he was only “one of about fifty people” in the decision-making process. Baker insisted: “My approval meant nothing.”
Baker’s dishonest attempt to minimize his role in the Big Dig ran counter to a Boston Globe analysis of documents from Baker’s time as a Beacon Hill insider. The Globe analysis found that “Baker was the chief architect of a financing plan to sustain the project during its peak construction years, just as federal support was diminishing substantially.”
It is bad enough that Baker was the “chief architect” of a Big Dig financing scheme that handcuffed other urgently needed investments in transportation and for which Massachusetts taxpayers are still paying the tab. But it is even more damning that Baker would so strenuously attempt to mislead Massachusetts voters about his role in the process. That behavior raises fundamental questions about Baker’s integrity. It should further put Massachusetts voters ill at ease that Baker began his current gubernatorial campaign exactly where he left off with his failed 2010 effort, by dismissing questions about the Big Dig instead of forthrightly addressing the issue.
Despite Baker’s attempts to portray himself as a political moderate, he has held several extreme positions that fall well outside of mainstream Massachusetts on a wide range of issues.
Baker ran for Governor in 2010 as a staunch ally of the gun lobby, highlighting his score of 94 on a gun lobby questionnaire. Further, he used the word “misguided” to describe gun safety efforts. Baker’s support for the gun lobby isn’t just a leftover from 2010. On September 25 of this year, Baker told NECN’s Jim Braude that he would oppose a measure limiting individuals to one gun purchase per month.
Baker also notoriously ducked questions on climate change, joining right-wing Republicans across the country in ignoring science. As Baker succinctly put it, “I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t.” Baker shockingly added, “I don’t think whether I believe that or not matters.” Given that Massachusetts’ economy relies in significant part by science, technology, and related research, development, and innovation, our economy could be hurt by a Governor who, like Baker, has refused to acknowledge basic science like the impact of human activity on climate change.
In 2010, Baker not only opposed an important LGBT equality measure, but he joined extremist social conservatives in derisively mocking it. When a bill was debated that would expand Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination laws, Baker joined right-wingers in deriding the legislation as “the bathroom bill.” Even Baker’s own gubernatorial running mate opposed Baker’s extremist position on the issue.
Baker not only expressed praise in 2010 for the “contribution to politics” of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, but he also supported a “birther” for Congress. You may recall the fringe “birther” movement that questioned whether President Barack Obama was an American citizen, promoting the debunked conspiracy theory that he was born in Kenya and that his Hawaiian birth certificate was a forgery. That conspiracy theory had a champion in Massachusetts in the person of Republican Congressional nominee Bill Hudak. Despite Hudak’s extremist, fringe beliefs far outside mainstream Massachusetts, Baker still saw fit to attend a Hudak campaign event and express support for his candidacy in 2010.
Out of Touch
Baker had difficulty in 2010 when it came to relating to Massachusetts voters and when it came to understanding the challenges faced by some in the Commonwealth.
In a discussion about the cost of living in Massachusetts, Baker raised eyebrows when he suggested that his $1.7 Million CEO salary was “middle class,” noting to a Boston Herald reporter, “My kids are gonna have to find their way in the world the same way everybody else's middle-class kids are gonna have to find their way in the world.” Nobody is suggesting that Baker hasn’t earned his impressive financial wealth; but, Baker has to be extremely out of touch with everyday Massachusetts families to think that his family is “middle class” on a $1.7 Million CEO salary.
In a particularly embarrassing episode for Baker, he wanted to require homeless people in Massachusetts showing up at a homeless shelter to show “proof of residency.” After two days of unyielding criticism, Baker was forced to backpedal on the proposal.
While many families across Massachusetts spent 2010 struggling financially amid the recovery from the Great Recession, Baker took a kick-them-while-they’re-down approach. As Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham wrote, “It worries me that [Baker] calls US Senator Scott Brown ‘absolutely right’ to oppose hundreds of millions in extra federal funding for state unemployment benefits and disability services, a position that could hurt tens of thousands of people in the state.” The financial struggles of thousands of Massachusetts families clearly did not resonate with Baker.
These extreme policy positions, out-of-touch incidents, and embarrassments constitute Baker’s record. Baker no doubt hopes you’ve forgotten all about them, but they mattered in 2010 and remain relevant as we head toward 2014, especially given that Baker has given us little reason to believe that his 2014 campaign will be anything other than a played-out re-run of his failed 2010 run that we resoundingly rejected.
Mathew Helman currently serves as Communications Director of ProgressMass. Mathew, a proud product of the Framingham public schools, has spent over ten years working in Massachusetts government and politics.
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