As demonstrated by the victories of Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren, Democrats have done what Deval Patrick asked them to do: have some backbone, stand up for what they believe in, and win. As Patrick said at the party’s convention in Charlotte,
Democrats “believe in an economy that grows opportunity out to the middle class and the marginalized, not just up to the well connected….We believe that government has a role to play, not in solving every problem in everybody’s life but in helping people help themselves to the American dream.”
But downticket at the state level, although Democrats clearly won, what they believe in and how much backbone they have is a little less clear, in part because of their perpetual supermajority in the state Legislature. Because they always win, they can say they believe in almost anything, including at times, planks from the GOP’s platform rather than their own.
Exhibit A, the 2012 campaign flyer of House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
You’ll notice that the flyer starts off with the Republican myth that Republicans and Democrats are equally responsible for the gridlock in Washington and then goes on to claim the comparative amity in Boston as the result of the Speaker’s own statesmanship. An unseemly gesture for nearly any Democrat, I would say, especially one whose role has required him to implore his Congressional delegation to pry loose federal funding to help keep the state afloat during and after this GOP-induced recession.
Sure, I get he was facing a Republican opponent in a general election and therefore he was running toward the middle. But surely nobody thought his victory was in doubt (he won with 70 percent of the vote). So why the big GOP bear hug, which goes on to list as major accomplishments EBT card reform and immigration reform, two GOP initiatives that were hardly about opportunity for the marginalized?
It’s not that the Massachusetts Legislature never reflects Democratic values. To pick just one example, how about this year’s law requiring oversight of for-profit colleges? These schools use deceptive recruiting tactics to lure low-income Americans into taking out enormous loans for low-quality programs. The result? The students are deep in debt and frequently without real job prospects, federal taxpayers have wasted their money, but the schools are sitting on a mountain of profit. (You may not be surprised to learn that these schools were a pet cause of the Mitt Romney campaign.)
So, regulation of the exploitive for-profit college industry – a worthy achievement. Many of us are looking forward to hearing more stories like these. We’re less interested in the number of Democrats than their willingness to stand up for what their party believes in.