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We need more politicians like Charlie Baker

By Joseph Silber

Section: Opinions

November 10, 2017

The political gridlock in Washington today has reached unprecedented levels. On one side of the aisle, you have Donald Trump blowing up the Republican Party, taking it into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable populist direction, thus forcing two high profile GOP senators, Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), to announce their retirement. On the other side, the Democratic Party is in even worse shape, as seen by former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Donna Brazile’s remarks in her new book, “Hacked.” Brazile revealed that the DNC had reached a joint fundraising agreement with Hillary Clinton in August 2015, six months before the 2016 primary season even began, reigniting an old feud between Bernie Sanders’ supporters and the Democratic Party establishment. The civil wars within both parties have many Americans feeling hopeless about the government as a whole.

But in Massachusetts, things are different. A heavily Democratic-leaning state, Massachusetts voters surprised many by electing Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, as their 72nd Governor in 2014.

Three years later, Baker stands as the most popular governor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with the latest Morning Consult poll, released Oct. 31, putting his approval rating at 69 percent in the Commonwealth, with just 17 percent disapproving.

You may ask: how is a Republican governor in a deep blue state so popular?

The answer is simple: he puts his constituents first. Whether it’s reaching across the aisle to work with the Democratic-controlled state legislature, or leading the opposition to the Congressional Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Baker has shown that it’s possible to be an effective politician and operate from the political center.
Peter Ubertaccio, a professor of political science at Stonehill College, gave his assessment of Governor Baker’s performance in an interview with the Boston Globe: “He’s not an ideologue, and voters here, at least in their governor’s office, prefer managers and problem solvers…He strikes folks as a decent guy and a good manager, and that just fits the moment.”

Baker, who is widely favored to win reelection in 2018, has played the role of a fiscally conservative, yet socially progressive governor, a position that is widely popular amongst wealthy states such as Massachusetts (6th wealthiest), New Jersey (4th), and Maryland (1st), all of which vote Democratic on the national level yet have Republican governors. As governor, Baker has opposed efforts by the Democratic-led legislature to enact a so-called “Millionaire’s Tax,” which he argued would drive business out of the Commonwealth. At the same time, he has worked tirelessly to pass common sense gun control measures, including a bill last Friday to ban the sale of “bump-stocks,” which became known to many after last month’s tragic shooting in Las Vegas.

Unlike Congressional Republicans, who remain fixated on passing purely partisan legislation, Governor Baker, along with other moderates in blue states like Larry Hogan (R-MD), have shown that working with Democrats to advance the interests of their constituents is widely popular amongst the general public. Hogan is right behind Baker as the second most popular governor at 66 percent approval.

One could make the argument that Baker and Hogan represent liberal states, and that it’s easier for them to reach across the aisle than most Congressional Republicans. What that theory ignores is that most voters want to see bipartisanship, regardless of state: ruby red states such as Louisiana and Montana have centrist Democrats serving as governor, for example. Swing states like North Carolina have two Republican senators and a Democratic governor, while Michigan has two Democrats in the Senate and a Republican governor. Whether it be conservative states like Louisiana, swing states like North Carolina, or liberal states like Massachusetts, voters are willing to split their ballots in order to elect the best possible candidate, rather than simply vote based on party affiliation.

The successful tenure of Governor Baker should send a powerful message to the strictly partisan members of both parties in Congress: stop running to your corners and start working across the aisle for the benefit of the American people.

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