Gov. Charlie Baker: Choose collaboration over partisanship

January 5, 2019

BOSTON (AP) — The 191st session of the Massachusetts Legislature and the 116th U.S. Congress were both sworn in this week and Gov. Charlie Baker was quick to draw a sharp distinction between the way politics is played in Boston and Washington.

Baker never mentioned President Donald Trump or Democrats in Congress — or Republicans either — during his second inaugural address, but lamented what he called the “bickering and name calling” that he said dominates much of today’s public debate.

Baker, a Republican who refused to vote for Trump, said Massachusetts has chosen a different path: Work together and good things can happen.

“In this era of snapchats, tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts, putdowns and smack-downs, I’d ask you all to remember that good public policy is about perseverance and collaboration,” he said Thursday.

Later in the half-hour speech, he returned to the theme, arguing that many of the state’s signature achievements in recent decades were collaborative efforts.

He said the story of Massachusetts achieving the highest-in-the-nation rate of health care coverage was written “across two decades, 10 legislative sessions, five governors and four presidents.”

He said by putting the public interest ahead of partisan politics, lawmakers have helped make Massachusetts a better place to live.

“These days, too much of what pretends to be debate is just rhetoric or character assassination. And every time someone joins that chorus they steal time, attention and focus away from finding common ground, creating solutions and doing the work that matters,” he said, adding, “let others engage in cheap shots and low blows. Let’s make our brand of politics positive and optimistic, instead of cruel and dark.”

Baker’s appeal to bipartisanship is driven by a number of factors, not the least of which is political necessity.

Baker is a Republican in a state where Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate, every seat in the state’s Congressional delegation and every other statewide office.

In other words, he needs the support of Democratic leaders in both chambers to get anything done.

The bipartisan plea also fits nicely into Baker’s technocratic approach to government, which is focused in part on literally making the trains — subway and commuter rail — run on time along with a host of other nuts and bolts priorities for his second, four-year term.

The tone contrasts sharply with Washington, where Democrats have taken back control of the House in part by pledging a heightened scrutiny of the Trump administration.

Baker’s speech won applause by one of the top two Democrats in the Legislature — House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“I think that he hit upon most of the items that needed to be hit upon,” DeLeo said.

Baker’s comments also came a day after Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she was launching a committee to explore a run for president in 2020.

After being sworn in on Thursday to a second Senate term, Warren flew out to Iowa for a weekend’s worth of organizing events in the state with the nation’s first presidential caucuses.

Warren is known in part as being a chief rival of Trump, with the two repeatedly trading barbs on Twitter.

Although Warren has pointed to a few bipartisan achievements — including a law she pushed to increase access to hearing aids by eliminating unnecessary regulations and lowering prices — she’ll be hard-pressed to avoid the more bare-knuckled aspects of politics that Baker lamented in his speech.

Warren also has a dimmer view of Washington than Baker has of Beacon Hill.

“I believe that Washington is corrupt,” she told reporters this week after attending the swearing-in of Massachusetts lawmakers. “I see it firsthand.”

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