U.S. Political Divide Is Largest In A Century!*

(* = by one arbitrary measure I just came up with)

After this year’s elections, the country could have fewer states with split partisan representation in the Senate since 1910. If my somewhat cursory research is correct.

Today, 14 of the 50 states have one Democratic and one Republican Senator. (I’m counting Independents Bernie Sanders and Angus King as Democrats, since they caucus that way.) The others each have two Senators from the same party: 16 have two Democrats, and 20 have two Republicans.

Fourteen split states is not unusual–at least, since the direct election of Senators began roughly 100 years ago.

However, that number was inflated by the extraordinary 2010 midterm elections, which saw Republicans win seats in usually blue-leaning states. Those states have, arguably, grown more blue in the past six years; plus, Democrats have a likely advantage because of turnout in a Presidential election.

The result: 11 of the 14 split states have a Senator up for re-election this year, including nine Republicans. Six of those Republican seats (Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin), and both Democratic ones (Colorado, Nevada), seem to stand a fair chance of flipping to the other party. In all of those cases, the state would no longer be split, but would have two Senators from the same party.

Of course, that could be countered by Senate seats flipping in other states–the states with two of the same party. But, only one seems like a close call at the moment: North Carolina, where incumbent Republican Richard Burr is considered more likely than not to win another term. Upsets are possible in Alaska, and Arizona, but those would indeed be upsets.

The bottom line: it’s fairly likely that the number of states with split Senate representation will drop to single digits–and possibly as low as six.

I did some scrolling through Senates, and I’m pretty sure the number hasn’t dropped below 10 since 1956–when, incidentally, there were two fewer states. (Alaska and Hawaii were admitted in 1959.) And that was just a brief stint at nine, in between Oregon Independent Wayne Morse’s decision to caucus with the Democrats in 1955, and the election of Kentucky Republican John Sherman Cooper in late 1956, to fill the vacancy caused by Democrat  Alben Barkley’s death. (The more you know!)

The number might have briefly dipped to nine at some point earlier in the 1950s; it doesn’t look like it to me, but I can’t say I gave it a real scholarly level of review or anything.

And before that, you have to go back, I believe, to the 61st Congress, which met in 1909 and 1910. There were only 46 states; the state legislatures appointed Senators, and the country was still pretty cleanly split between the solid Democratic South, and the solid Republican everywhere-else. Only six states–Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, and Oregon–had split Senate representation.

And here’s the kicker: the number could actually get even lower after the 2018 elections.

Obviously a lot could change, but right now the six seats that look most likely to flip parties in 2018 are all in split states–mostly products of Democrats winning red state seats in 2012, that will be hard to defend in a mid-term election. Those include Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia; Nevada’s Republican-held seat is the other question mark.

All of this is to say that we might–might–be on the cusp of moving to an essentially unprecedented divide between solid-red and solid-blue states, in Senate representation.

NH Primary Prediction Contest

I’ll step up and say it plainly: I have no idea what the results of tomorrow’s NH primary will be.

But here’s your chance to show that you know better than me. Simply predict the order of finish and vote percentage that each of the major candidates (8 in GOP, 2 Dems) will receive, in both parties.

You get 10 points for each candidate in the correct finishing position. You lose 1 point for each percentage point off in either direction, for each candidate. Highest point total wins.

What do you win? Winning is its own reward, bub. But I will sing your praises here and on social media.

Plus, my picks are below, so you can at least brag about doing better than me.

Post your picks here in comments, along with your name, or email your picks to me at contest@DavidSBernstein.com by  cialis efeitos colaterais bula here cheap masters essay ghostwriter for hire online https://www.csb.pitt.edu/rating/level-english-essay/41/ source https://tetratherapeutics.com/treatmentrx/levitra-ili-viagra/34/ argumentative essay flow chart handbook for term papers https://peacerivergardens.org/proof/free-critical-essay-database/25/ https://explorationproject.org/annotated/case-study-similar-meaning/80/ enter college essay entry topics for persuasive speeches mature follicle size clomid synthroid dosage increase https://norfolkspca.com/medservice/buy-real-viagra-in-canada/14/ cheap personal essay editing for hire online https://vabf.org/reading/creative-writing-key-points/250/ source url https://willcoxwinecountry.org/linkedin/dissertation-process-checklist/47/ stats homework solver go here baby thesis in education homework urban dictionary avodart psa https://eventorum.puc.edu/usarx/viagra-administration/82/ https://scottsdaleartschool.org/checker/aqa-coursework-moderation/33/ go site go here can buy viagra in india without prescription bloody stools augmentin 6:00am Tuesday February 9.

Remember to include all 10 candidates (8 GOP, 2 Dem), and both their order of finish and vote share.

Good luck!

 

My picks:

1. Trump 26%

2. Rubio 19%

3. Kasich 17%

4. Cruz 13%

5. Bush 12%

6. Christie 7%

7. Fiorina 4%

8. Carson 2%

 

1. Sanders 53%

2. Clinton 47%

Getting Used To The Idea Of Trump?

My weekly Dateline DC column at WGBH News takes a look at the upcoming Iowa caucuses; please take a look at what I think you should watch for there.

As I was writing it, something interesting may have been happening: Republican voters might have started getting accustomed to the idea of Donald Trump as a serious Presidential candidate.

Skeptics like me have thought it likely that the party’s flirtation with Trump would thaw as voting begins — and it still might. The theory was that Trump’s unique qualities as the anti-establishment candidate were being aided by the relatively indistinguishable large field of other candidates, which was full of very qualified but not star-quality people. And, in turn, Trump’s unique star power was delaying the emergence of any of those candidates. But eventually that has to happen; eventually the field will narrow enough that a Rubio or Bush or whoever will have everyone’s attention.

And, of course, eventually GOP voters would pay attention enough to realize that Trump does not actually believe in the things that they believe in — just as in the 2008 cycle, Republicans holding a hagiographic idea of Rudy Giuliani as leadership incarnate eventually learned his past views on guns, immigrants, abortion, and homosexuals.

And meanwhile, Trump was not gaining any traction at all, particularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he was stuck in the mid- to high-20s for many months. That suggested a significant resistance among the bulk of the GOP electorate.

But just in the past week or so a flurry of polls have collectively shown that Trump has climbed to the low- to mid-30s in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

That might just be a short-term bump, as some of the other candidates have been beating up on each other in ads, as they vie for survival in the anti-Trump sweepstakes.

But I suspect that it indicates that GOP voters, having seen him treated as the frontrunner for so long, are becoming significantly more accustomed to him in that role. That seems to be reflected in the rising numbers who view him as likely to win the nomination, and as capable of winning in the general election.

We’ll see how that survives the attacks that have finally begun against him — including a strong ad showing him boasting of his pro-choice positions — and the still-likely emergence of a single so-called “establishment lane” candidate from among Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich.

But for now, consider me less skeptical about Trump’s chances to win the nomination.

John Henry, Annotated

I have taken the liberty of annotating Boston Globe publisher John Henry’s apology with my thoughts. Bolding is added by me. I will issue an apology to the Globe later for reproducing the text in full.

The Globe’s responsibility to this community is to bring it the news. I would like to share some news now about why we have failed to meet this objective for many readers over the past 10 days, how we are working to fix the problems, and a bit about the root causes.

First, I want to personally apologize to every Boston Globe subscriber who has been inconvenienced.

An op-ed is not a personal apology. A personal apology is done to, you know, one person. Directly. To an individual. Personalized.

We recognize that you depend on us, and that we’ve let you down. We’re working around the clock on a variety of fronts to solve this. To that end, I also want to thank everyone at the Globe who pitched in to get some 20,000 Sunday papers delivered last weekend.

First of all, the admirable devotion of the newsroom employees was not something that Globe management did “to that end” of solving anything. More importantly, how about thanking the actual delivery people who delivered the other 150,000 or so on Sunday, and 100,000 or so every other day, struggling through the botched routes they were given? Or the customer service people who tried to deal with the complaints? Why just the newsroom staff?

Getting a daily newspaper to your front door is a complicated exercise in logistics — this is something the Globe has been innovating in for more than 150 years.

Gosh, 150 years sounds like an awful lot of institutional experience. It would be awfully surprising if a company that’s been doing this exact task for so long would end up underestimating how difficult that task is.

Our region is full of old houses, curvy roads, and hidden cul-de-sacs. It takes resources, people, and technology to bring a paper from our presses to you every day. That last mile relies on a team of dedicated delivery professionals who know just the spot where you like your paper placed, what your house looks like, the name of your dog.

Yes, yes, that was the problem, people are cancelling their subscriptions because the delivery person wasn’t calling out their dog’s name. Listen Johnny, we know that getting a newspaper to subscribers is difficult; it didn’t become way more difficult last Monday. Please get to the point.

I don’t think any of us who receive our daily newspapers think enough about what servicing such a route entails. One single person generally takes responsibility to see that our papers — even amid record snowfall — are delivered (frequently in the dark) 365 days a year. 365 nights really. Your carrier is, in fact, often the public face of our company.

I think the last bit goes too far, but this and the preceding paragraph certainly do suggest that the billionaire owner of the Boston Globe believes that the performance and continuity of the individual carriers are very, very important to the customers’ experience with his company’s core product. This has not, however, led Mr. Henry to consider improving the wages, terms, or conditions for those critical individuals.

The importance of this role is why, since joining the Globe, we have been determined to improve our delivery systems and customer service.

Who is this “we,” Johnny-boy? Is this the royal first-person plural, or do you mean you and CEO Mike Sheehan, the unnamed co-conspirator in this essay, who you hired despite concerns that, as a newbie publisher, you might want a top guy with some daily newspaper experience?

When I purchased the Globe two years ago, more than half the subscribers who were not renewing their subscriptions told us it was due to delivery service issues. Week after week, I reiterated that fixing this had to be one of our highest priorities.

It sounds to me like the publisher/owner and the CEO were demanding an improvement in delivery services, but did not themselves have any experience or knowledge in that part of the business. It remains unclear who they relied on, or what process they used, to determine a proper course. Sheehan has acknowledged that he did not get involved in the delivery portion of the business. In recent media appearances he declined to say who was involved. Henry likewise makes no mention of anyone herein. I have to say, I am quite curious to know whether they availed themselves of any of the company’s 150 years of institutional knowledge of the delivery operation, as they set to the task of mucking it up.

Before I arrived, the Globe had moved away from operating its own delivery service. That was a mistake.

Aha! Blame the New York Times, who outsourced delivery right after the last of the Taylors left, in 2001. Well played. Also: Yankees suck.

Instead, the Globe instituted a somewhat expensive plan to try to remedy the reported problems. By the beginning of my second year it was apparent the service was not improving. So we began to look for an alternative delivery service.

So outsourcing was a mistake, but we didn’t consider bringing it back in-house.

We settled on ACI Media Group, generally recognized as the best in the business. The firm’s first bid not only contained the service improvements we were looking for but was substantially cheaper — more in line with other regions in the United States.

I’m more willing than some I’ve seen to cut the Globe some slack on the vendor selection. Problems ACI had with the Orange County Register, for example, were a special circumstance. I also believe that it is often possible — especially in a logistics-heavy operating center like delivery — to both improve service and cut costs. What sends up a warning flag for me, however, is the implication that Globe management expected the delivery of a vast regional newspaper, in one of the country’s most expensive metropolitan areas, with the inherent difficulties of Boston’s weather and road structures, to be in line with costs of delivering newspapers elsewhere.

We thought we’d found what we were looking for, but this overnight transition was much harder than anyone anticipated. Until Globe staffers embarked on an effort to save more than 20,000 subscribers from missing their Sunday paper, we had underestimated what it would take to make this change….

This entire two-sentence passage is mind-blowing to me, and suggests a level of utter incompetence that should truly frighten anybody who, like me, dearly hopes that the Globe survives the denouement of the great age of newspapers. Globe management embarked upon a huge reboot of one of its central operating functions — not just a new contractor, but new routing software, new distribution nodes, new carriers, and new routes. They planned it as a one-time full switch-over, directly affecting all of the print paper’s paying customers. When the time came for the switch, the operation was reportedly without carriers for some 150 routes, and the routes were so badly drawn it was, from what I hear, one of the reasons carriers cited for staying with PCF. That much should have been known even before the first of thousands of customers began overwhelming the customer-service lines with complaints; carriers began quitting over the insane routes (as Henry notes below); and the carriers and their supervisors began reporting the late or incomplete routes. The idea that management was still unaware of the scope of the problem five days into it, with the critical Sunday edition already rolling off the presses, is just a stunning admission of mismanagement. The implication that they might have remained oblivious had the newsroom staff not experienced it first-hand is jaw-dropping.

…. People want their paper every day in a particular place at a particular time. It might be 6 inches to the right of the first step.

Wait wait wait wait wait — this is what Henry thinks they underestimated??? Holy sweet Yeezus. I mean, what the serious everloving fuck. First of all: yes, Mr. Newspaper Owner/Publisher, the people who have paid to have your product delivered to their house before they leave for work in fact want your product delivered to their house before they leave for work, the crazy bastards. (I would have thought somebody at the Globe would have made a note about this bizarre expectation at some point in the past 150 years.) Secondly: I am fairly confident that the people who sat on hold trying to get through to your customer service line were not waiting to tell you how many inches the paper was from their step.

One thing we did not underestimate, however, is the importance of routing. The new company initially used software that simply could not do the job. The routes that software plotted were so circuitous and inefficient that newly hired drivers quit after only one or two days — our staff ultimately volunteered to jump in to help. ACI has already begun the process to replace that software.

If the Globe’s management did not underestimate the importance of routing, then how did they not know by December 28 that the software could not do the job? Vendor management at Boston Globe Media Partners sounds stellar. “Routing is very important!” “Shall we test the new routing software before implementation?” “No thanks.” Boy, I’m sure the staff must be feeling mighty confident that next January’s move of the entire newspaper operation will go without a hitch. (Speaking of the staff, this is the third mention of their pitching in. Meaning no disrespect to the very skilled and dedicated people over there, A) I’m tired of hearing about it, and B) I hope Henry’s giving them bonuses along with all this acclamation.)

So where do we stand at this point? We have worked with both ACI and our former distributor to reestablish service in the fastest possible way by dividing the entire region between them. The firms are at this moment working together to manage routes and will have a roughly equivalent number of newspapers to deliver over the next three years.

So, not a full retreat, but a half-retreat, to the inadequate previous vendor.

While it has been very painful to have daily service interrupted, I do believe this hurdle will ultimately reward everyone because there will be two newspaper distribution firms in the region.

With only one service provider in any industry, often services and costs are far from ideal for customers. In this case the customers are The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers. These papers will now have competitive services to choose from that will decrease costs and improve service.

I think what’s more accurate is that when there was one major service provider, that provider could hold down carrier costs; when there were suddenly two carriers, some areas lacked a sufficient number of drivers willing to work at the crappy low wage structure to staff both; the competition to fix the shortage of carriers would have driven up costs. Instead, we’ve gone back to a carrier monopoly in the regions where that shortage manifested.

Subscription revenue is going to be the primary source of revenue in the future for newspapers. It will make or break journalism in this country as we know it. That’s what makes this past week so frustrating.

I’m not going to get into a debate over the future of newspapers here. But I have seen an awful lot of frustration, from customers and from those precious newsroom staffers you keep mentioning, and for them it had nothing whatsoeverto do with the future source of newspaper revenue. It was frustrating because people couldn’t read the damn newspaper. So if, for you personally John-John, it was frustrating for a different, monetary reason, that’s something you might want to keep to yourself in the text of your apology to those people.

Many of the people who support journalism in this region have been slapped in the face simply trying to get their daily newspaper. Some will give up on us a result.

I’ve also seen, however, a New England spirit here in the past 15 years of steely resolve no matter the wait. I hope you will have the patience now to bear with us as we iron out this integral part of our business.

Look, I doubt the Globe is going to lose a huge number of subscribers over this, but it’s not because of some great New England steely resolve; it’s because the Globe is all they’ve got. The Globe is it. Some of the small locals and regionals are doing good work, but they’ve been killed by market forces. The Herald is a joke; its newsroom staff should pitch in to go door-to-door preventing their paper from getting delivered. If you want a decent local newspaper — and especially if you want one in print — you have to get the Globe delivered. And, by the way, people absolutely should: my many and frequent critiques notwithstanding, it’s a very, very good newspaper, staffed with a really impressive batch of writers and editors. It is also incredibly vital to the region’s civic health — which is why so many of us worry and fret about whether its current management is capable of steering the Globe through a very tenuous-looking future. I have said many, many times that I am convinced that even total mismanagement will not be able to actually kill the Globe. I am suddenly a little less certain of that assessment, and this apology doesn’t exactly help.

 

 

My Top Five Best Bostonians

Last year I had a stroke of genius, as I often do. There should be a web site, I thought, where everybody can collectively rank the greatest Bostonians of all time, by voting on a battle-generator web site like the Boston Phoenix used to use.

I thought, and still think, that this is just a brilliant, fantastic idea — which does not mean that I thought anybody else in the world would enjoy it. I just thought that I would.

Fortunately for me, the person who most frequently supports my brilliant ideas, even when they might not actually appeal to anybody else, had become editor of Boston Magazine. Thanks to the fantastic Carly Carioli, who I cannot thank enough, and the efforts of many others at BoMag, that site was eventually brought forth into existence.

And now, the official Boston Magazine ranking of the 100 Best Bostonians of all time is out, in print and online. 

I’m pretty damn pleased with the whole thing.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the official list matches my own personal opinions. So, below is my own Top 5 (which will probably also be posted at BoMag).

Feel free to comment or question!

Oh, and go spend some time voting at the site — it’s still up and running, and a lot of fun. At least, it is for me

MY TOP FIVE BEST BOSTONIANS

1. Louis Brandeis
Boston’s greatest have always been about the active pursuit of community justice, and the Kentucky-bred Brandeis exemplified this — against considerable odds, as a Jew.

2. Josiah Quincy III
Boston’s Great Mayor laid the groundwork for the city to become not only highly functional, but tight-knit and intermingling. That has been the basis for much of what has emerged from the city since.

3. Lewis Hayden
If you believe, as I do, that William Lloyd Garrison is a no-brainer Top 10, then what about the black abolitionists who risked far more and received far less recognition? Hayden — another Kentuckian by birth who thrived in Boston — stands out to me as the greatest of a remarkable generation of reformers.

4. Elizabeth Peabody
Advances in education have been among Boston’s greatest contributions to the world — and also one of the foremost reasons that the city has produced so much greatness. With all due respect to her mentor Horace Mann and so many others, Peabody shines brightest of Boston’s education pioneers.

5. James Otis
Of all the revolutionaries, Otis stands out both for the esteem in which he was held by his contemporaries in the movement, and how impressive his beliefs and actions look from our 21st century vantage point. (He declared the inalienable rights of blacks in 1764.) His sanity, unfortunately, did not last to the actual revolution, but it might never have happened without him.

Hating On The GOP, From The Right

It’s still too early to say how they’ll actually vote, but so far Republican voters seem to be even more intent than usual on liking an outsider, anti-GOP-establishment Presidential candidate.

To be sure, the Republican rank-and-file have long lusted after a pure-hearted conservative warrior, untainted by the compromising realities of governance, willing to feed the preferred belief that moderation leads the party to certain defeat. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson are politically superior to Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and others before them, but are essentially selling the same thing.

I think their greater success to date stems at least in part to the movement-conservative marketplace’s fundamental incompatibility with a successful Republican Party — which the national GOP has taken great strides towards becoming, in the past few election cycles.

For about a decade I’ve written and talked about the effect of what I call the “movement-conservative marketplace,” which is the vast industry making money off of right wingers. Some of it is familiar to those outside of its influence: FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, the National Rifle Association’s political committee, and the like. But much of it you are less likely to stumble across if you’re not among its consumer base. There is a wide-ranging, multi-billion-dollar industry of political committees, think tanks, publishers, web sites, newsletters, and more. (See this 2009 article for more description of how this works.)

That marketplace thrives on discontent. It requires dangerous enemies to warn against at all times, because that’s what the market rewards. That includes Mexicans at the border, Muslims on the attack, and anti-Christmas warriors; it also must include the politicians failing to protect you against these evils.

It is demonstrably true that this marketplace thrives when Democrats have control of the government; they are the easy and obvious opposition to fight against. The marketplace had a massive growth spurt during the Bill Clinton Presidency, stagnated or declined during the George W. Bush years, and exploded during the 2008 Barack Obama campaign and his subsequent years in office.

But that success — via Republican failure — has been blunted as the GOP has made gains. Since 2010 Republicans have held the majority in the House of Representatives (no more fundraising off evil Speaker Nancy Pelosi!), and most of the state governors’ offices.

And, beginning in January 2015, Republicans held a majority in the US Senate as well. Even the Supreme Court remains majority Republican-appointed.

The only Democrat left with any power, it seems, is Obama. And in his lame-duck final year, even he has a diminished power to generate money-making levels of fear and loathing.

As a result, I would argue, the movement-conservative marketplace has increasingly trained its hyperbolic hatred against Republican politicians (and Justices), for betraying their conservative voters. The vitriol against so-called RINOs is not new by any means, but my sense is that it has increased significantly within the marketplace this year — a year in which the greatest celebration in that marketplace came at the ouster of one of the most successful GOP party-builders of my lifetime, John Boehner.

Consumers of the movement-conservative marketplace have been buffeted all year with animus against the feckless establishment Republicans, who are blamed for failing to stop same-sex marriage, ObamaCare, Planned Parenthood, Syrian refugees, Common Core, debt increases, illegal immigration, the Iran nuclear deal, and any other bogey men in the arsenal.

So, no wonder those same consumers want to be seduced by those standing athwart that Republican establishment.

And, naturally, that same marketplace has been, for months, praising those anti-establishment candidates. Of course they are. Not only do Trump and Cruz better fit the narrative they’ve been weaving all year, but as noted above, the marketplace has a strong vested interest in seeing the least electable Republican seize the nomination.

They’re likely to fare far better, financially, with Hillary Clinton in the White House than with Marco Rubio there.

Again, this is partly just an accelerating trend. As recently as 2010 GOP National Committeeman Ron Kaufman could argue to me with a straight face (though I wasn’t convinced) that Southern Republicans tend to respect the “next in line” order of selecting a nominee. By 2012, Kaufman’s man Mitt Romney was struggling to get 30% in those states, against Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul.

But I think it’s accelerated in part because of the GOP’s success in 2010 and 2014 — and the resulting anti-GOP reaction from the movement-conservative marketplace.

That doesn’t have me convinced that an anti-establishment candidate can actually win the party’s nomination. That remains to be seen. But I think it’s worth considering  as we contemplate the current state of the race.

Quick Look Around

Should be a slow campaign news week — with Christmas coming, the whole week is pretty much a news-dump opportunity.

But slow news weeks mean that those who are paying attention will focus excessively on what little is available. Thus we have much ado about schlonging, Trump’s dickish verbification of a Yiddishism that probably shouldn’t have be thrown in a female candidate’s face.

Trump’s attempt at potty humor also crapped out, as he tried to make sport of Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break and instead offended all peeing voters.

Something tells me this too will pass.

That was more interesting, though, than Lindsey Graham dropping out of the 2016 Presidential race yesterday, to nobody’s surprise. He had pretty clearly run just to get to speak in a few nationally televised debates, and last week’s (early JV warm-up debate) was almost certainly the last he’ll be invited to.

Probably more important: CNN’s Teddy Schleifer tweets that “Steve Chartan, the chief strategist for the House Freedom Caucus, is joining Ted Cruz’s official staff as Legislative Director.”

Cruz is doing a very good job of consolidating the evangelical and Tea Party conservatives, which should make him a very strong force in the delegate-heavy Southern primaries.

And, no surprise in this news about Clinton’s oppo research , but I just need to say that Team Hillary’s limitless devotion to sleezy David Brock baffles me.

Least edifying thing in the 2016 Presidential campaign yesterday: World Net Daily asked Phyllis Schlafly whether Donald Trump is the last hope for America.

Oh and the FDA came out with a less-discriminatory but still discriminatory rule on taking blood from The Gayz.

Anything else you want me to comment on?

Back To Blogging

Hey folks, I’m going to really try to get back to blogging for 2016. Aren’t you lucky! (Maybe I’ll even get around to redesigning it to look decent. We’ll see.)

Be sure to let me know what types of things you’d like to see me use this space for. I’m sure I’ll be commenting on the Presidential campaign, other political action, and policy matters.

And, I’ll point to where you can read or hear my verbiage elsewhere. For example, today you can read my latest “Dateline DC” column at WGBH News. I wrap up last week’s passage of the omnibus and tax extenders package, from the perspective of the New England delegations.

By the way, some of you may have already received the January, 2016 issue of Boston Magazine, with the “Best Bostonians” feature that I’ve been working on for quite some time. I’ll have more to say on that, but let me know your thoughts!

Anyway… watch this space, as they say.

Today In Mitt: Misunderstood

Lots of digital ink has been spilled today about Mitt Romney’s new stab at authenticity, in the afterglow of his speech last night at Mississippi State University. Denizens of Romneyland are lamenting that, last time around, voters never really got to know the real Mitt, and rejoicing the appearance of the genuine article.

That’s nothing new: the same refrain has played after every one of his campaigns — including his 1994 run for US Senate, in which Ted Kennedy portrayed him as a cruel-hearted job-killing plutocrat. Even his one successful campaign, for governor in 2002, was later re-invented as a misunderstanding: a conservative mistaken for a moderate.

Repudiating the previous Romney is always part of the media strategy for re-branding the product for new times and circumstances. Sometimes, the new Romney marketing rings true to those who know him, for a while. That only lasts until the marketing strategy shifts again.

My favorite example came in early 2011, with the campaign-oriented release of the paperback version of No Apology. When the hardcover came out the previous year, Romneyites were thrilled at what they thought was a shift back to the Mitt they know. But, that was before the Tea Party movement shook up the GOP, routing establishment candidates in 2010 primaries, and signalling that the successful Republican Presidential nominee would need to embrace the hard populist right, which Romney had distanced himself from a year earlier. As I wrote at the time:

Romney certainly appears to be targeting those voters in the paperback’s new introduction, in which he bemoans the “elite” liberals’ destruction of everything the Founding Fathers stood for — especially “freedom,” a word that appears 25 times in the introduction. “Constitution” shows up 11 times. The Tea Party gets mentioned by name, as does the Glenn Beck–promoted 9/12 movement — even Joe the Plumber gets a shout-out.

The friends of Mitt who had been seeing the real Romney a year earlier could only shake their heads and shrug their shoulders when I asked about this new language coming from him.

It’s worth noting, as Romney rolls out more of his anti-poverty platform, that the original No Apology, supposedly a great insight into his true priorities, has almost nothing to say about the problem. The book includes exactly one paragraph noting that, despite the poverty-busting effects of free-market capitalism, “our record is not perfect.” He notes that “Far too many American families live below the poverty line,” especially racial minorities. He even observes “a growing gap between the highest-earning households and the lowest” — which he partly attributes to college education.

In another section of the book, he goes on at length about the cultural harm done by out-of-wedlock births. In that section he seems to imply a link with poverty, though he doesn’t make it explicit  and clearly doesn’t quite believe it. Elsewhere (in rejecting the link between economic circumstances and need for higher school spending) Romney argues that “child poverty has actually declined and child health has improved” in recent decades — the same time frame over which out-of-wedlock births surged, to his dismay.

In any event, poverty is addressed nowhere in Romney’s 64 action steps for America, listed at the end of the book. Nor is poverty mentioned anywhere in his “Index of Leading Leading Indicators,” which he puts forward for identifying the country’s strength and progress.

Poverty, simply put, has never been a high priority of Romney’s until now. Does that make his sudden interest in it inauthentic? No more than anything else candidates prioritize on the campaign trail. But it’s at least a little telling that its absence from his rhetoric in 2010 didn’t strike anyone as inauthentic.

 

Today In Mitt: I Was Nice To The Poor Once

The front page of Tuesday’s Washington Post has the latest take on how Mitt Romney hopes to achieve, in his 2016 Presidential campaign, the “authenticity” that has eluded him for his entire political career. As this and other reporting has made clear, Romney is sad that last time out,voters perceived him as indifferent to the sufferings of those less well-off than he. To convince them otherwise, he intends to emphasize the good works he did as bishop of his local Massachusetts ward of the Mormon church.

He demonstrated that approach in his only big public appearance since jumping into the 2016 fray: a speech aboard the USS Midway, at the Republican National Committee gathering in San Diego.

It’s a telling approach. Here you have a man who has been in the public eye for many years, forced to hark back to a period of his life some three decades ago for evidence of his concern for the disadvantaged.

Romney’s pastoral role with his Belmont congregation ended in 1986; he then served as president of the Boston Stake until 1994, when he ran for US Senate.

Observers, who are likely to view Romney’s anti-poverty crusade cynically as an attempt to re-brand from the 2012 “47%” disaster, may understandably wonder what the man’s been doing for the poor lately. Surely a man with his wealth, power, influence, and prestige — and, let’s face it, free time — could have started some sort of charitable foundation or institute or something. If Bill Clinton and George W. Bush could do it…. heck, even John Edwards did it, and he took inauthenticity to heights even Romney couldn’t scale.

There is, in my view, a fundamental barrier here. Romney, I would argue, can be very compassionate and generous to those in need. There are plenty of illustrative stories; he has also, to the best of my understanding, given great sums of wealth to charitable causes.

But, those efforts are directed almost exclusively toward those with whom he has a clear connection — one of his own, you might say. That usually means members of his church, although occasionally the connections are through his place of residence, or his workplace, or his friendships.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, or even terribly unusual. But I believe it has long made it very difficult for him to convince people that he cares about anybody outside of his personal circles.

That’s problematic, but especially so when those circles — the extremely wealthy, and members of the Mormon church — are viewed as quite small, atypical, and somewhat foreign to most people.