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We Just Might Be Starting to Reform Mass Politics by Nominating Outsiders (Observations on Dem Party Primary)

There will be much punditry in the coming days on what meaning we can cull from yesterday’s primary. My main takeaway: we just might be on the cusp of reforming party politics in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by nominating outsiders – those Democrats who are not supported by the closed Democratic Party apparatus.

I’ve got two examples and then a comment on the Gubernatorial race.

First, with 98% of the precincts counted, Maura Healey routed Warren Tolman for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General (62% to 38%). Healey is just the kind of candidate we need in statewide office and I’m tickled pink that she won. Now I know Warren Tolman (he was one of only two politicians that impressed me last year when I was running for the Democratic nomination in the 5th Congressional district). I like him and he’s clearly a smart and informed guy. But I completely disagreed with his campaign strategy of running to be an “activist” AG. It sounded to me that Tolman really wanted to be governor, so he ran for AG as a stepping stone.

Maura Healey, in contrast, focussed on her experience in the AG’s office, with civil rights cases, e.g., and actually prosecuting cases. You know, the stuff of an attorney general. Virtually all of the Democratic political insiders supported  Tolman. Even Gov. Patrick endorsed him earlier in the week. Why? Well they (a) knew him; (b) agreed with him politically; and (c) liked him. There you go. Great reasons for supporting a candidate.

Unfortunately, in Massachusetts we have a very closed Democratic party apparatus. They rarely support outside voices, preferring instead to stick with known quantities. Unfortunately, what this means is that over time these known quantities become beholden to those party insiders. This isn’t about ideology. No, Healey and Tolman agreed on all of the major progressive issues. So why did the insiders support Tolman? They knew him, agreed with him and liked him. And so they gave Maura Healey not a second look.

Put aside my differences with Tolman over the proper role of an AG for a moment. If two candidates are both competent, intelligent, hard-working and agree with me on the issues, I will always vote for the outsider. Professional politicians in this state (and in the country writ large) are at the root of our problems. Where there is concentrated power, seemingly unchallengeable and entrenched power, we must work hard to check that power. That just as valid in our state as it is on the national level.

For our second race, let’s move on to the 6th Congressional district where political newcomer Seth Mouton displaced the nine-term member of Congress, John Tierney as the Democratic nominee. Yes, Tierney had his ethical problems. That’s likely what did him in (it is notoriously difficult to unseat a member of Congress in their own party’s primary). But I’d still like to rejoice that we will likely have an outsider as a member of Congress. When was the last time that happened in Massachusetts? A long, long time ago for sure. Joe Kennedy (4th district) doesn’t count (a Kennedy can never claim outsider status). And Katherine Clark in the 5th district doesn’t count either (she’s been a politician moving up the ladder in Massachusetts for ages).

We also had an outsider running for governor: Don Berwick. Unfortunately, he couldn’t win in a three-way race against Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman. And regardless of how Coakley tries to position herself as a candidate not of the party elite, she’s a professional politician thru and thru. And a bad one too. Oh sure, I agree with most of her politics. But let’s face it: she’s the one who gave us Scott Brown. She’s the one person in the country most responsible for the Democrats losing a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. She did it by running an absolutely miserable campaign. Don’t want to be the attorney general anymore? Lost a Senate race? Okay then, how about governor? Please. That is the definition of a professional politician.

Sadly, Coakley will almost certainly lose to Republican nominee Charlie Baker in November. So please don’t forget Don Berwick. We’ll need him in four years to run against a Governor Baker. Such a shame.

Moral? Progressive Democrats need to stop listening to the political clique that runs things in Massachusetts, and start voting for new candidates, independent Democrats, into office. There are plenty of possible candidates who are just as progressive as those who are supported by the political elite, but aren’t hampered by the groupthink and political control of those who are running things. These prospective candidates can be smart and likable, but they’re not able to be controlled by Democratic clique. That’s why they’re not supported, even ignored by the party. And that’s precisely why we should be voting them in.

In another state we’d have a robust Republican opposition. And I’m most definitely not a Republican. Since the GOP is anemic in our state we as Democrats need to step up ourselves and reform our own party from within. We’ve just barely started. Now let’s get this ball rolling.


My First Book Review

Kurt Fusaris, a prominent political blogger from Arlington, Massachusetts, interviewed me about my views on gridlock and other issues discussed in his recently published book The Reagan Memes: The Path from Reagan Conservatism to Modern Day Gridlock (and how to get out of it). It’s an amazing review—not only because of its whole-hearted praise, but also because Fusaris was supporting another candidate at the time.
The original review was nearly 5,000 words long! Clearly, the author had plenty to say. In the interest of brevity, only selected passages are given. The original book review, in it’s entirety, can be found here.

Excerpts from the book review follow (with my emphasis added).


I had a chance to sit down with Martin Long, an Arlington resident running for Congress. Mr. Long is also the author of the newly published book entitled “The Reagan Memes: The Path from Reagan Conservatism to Modern Day Gridlock (and how to get out of it)”.  It is available now at the Harvard Bookstore for $24.95 and should be available through Amazon in digital format on its Kindle devices. The e-book version is expected to be priced at $19.95. Mr. Long is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Asked what inspired the book, Mr. Long answered quite simply and without batting an eye.  “The book was inspired by the fact that the Republican Party is weird,” he told me.

One thing is clear: whether Martin is elected to Congress or not, his book, “The Reagan Memes: The Path from Reagan Conservatism to Modern Day Gridlock,” is a must-read for anyone who truly wants to understand how Congress got as messed up as it is and how we can go about fixing it.

Mr. Long is a self-proclaimed “ideas” guy.  The Avocado likes “ideas” people (even if we don’t always endorse them).  When we talked, one of the first things he said to me was, “ask me anything . . . what have you got?  I don’t even have to prepare.”

I do not want to give away the whole book, but Mr. Long goes on to say that we need to go all the way back to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 to understand today’s gridlock in Congress.

“Essentially,” he says, “it comes down to six major themes that take their origin from Reagan’s first campaign.”  Those themes include: reduce big government, lower taxes, decrease regulation, trust in the free market, strong national security, and family values.

Martin Long’s book . . . is a real page-turner as well as an eye-opener.

The problem in Congress is that Reagan’s themes, which Mr. Long will acknowledge had their place when put in the right context at the right time (the last part of the 1970’s and early 1980’s) are now well past their expiration date. . . . It is only due to changing demographics and some changing national views on certain issues (e.g., the much broader acceptance of gay marriage) that we are starting to see the beginnings of a GOP that is imploding.

I asked him why he is running for Congress when there were so many other strong progressives running.

“Look, they’re all nice people,” he told me. Like me, he agrees that progressive Democrats can sometimes contribute to even greater polarization – and that simply doesn’t help produce meaningful legislation.

“My opponents are all about women’s rights and gay rights and strict gun laws, and so on . . . and again, that’s all very lovely, but none of that speaks to the heart of the problem.  Until you address and fix gridlock, none of those positions matter.”

Mr. Long goes on from there, explaining how the Reagan themes of lower taxes and reducing big government have also become misleading memes today.  Lower taxes sound good, but when the middle class and working class end up shouldering a lot more tax burden in the form of payroll taxes and increased local property taxes because the Republicans decide to give away more capital gains tax breaks, suddenly, it doesn’t sound like Republicans are really for lower taxes – certainly not for everybody.

“It all comes down to what is another of the Republican big lies,” he says.  Up until 1983, Social Security was pay-as-you-go. When you retired, your return would be equal to what you contributed.  However, in the 1980’s, Reagan did something sneaky. The nation was sold on the idea that Social Security was going to go broke soon and unless taxes were raised substantially, when the Baby Boomers retired, there would not be enough workers to support a large pool of new retirees. This was utter hooey, but many people bought it.  “What happened?” Mr. Long asked me rhetorically.  “That extra revenue went into the general fund and later (not so coincidentally) much of that same revenue went not to bolster Social Security – but instead, it was repurposed in the form of capital gains tax cuts and tax rate reductions  for the very wealthy.

So why then is Martin Long running for Congress? He’s running because, as he explains in the book, he knows how to take the lead on fixing the problem since he knows its roots.

While Mr. Long might agree with the assertion that electing more Democrats would help the progressive cause, a far better long-term approach (if one actually wants to end gridlock) would be to create more ideologically balanced Congressional districts, re-drawing the lines in every Congressional district such that there is more parity among Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters. This would necessarily force candidates to always run to the middle if they hope to get elected – and ultimately, it would compel them to govern and (gasp) actually legislate in the middle if they want to retain that seat.

Mr. Long told me that if elected to Congress, he would use the leverage and visibility a Congressional seat provides to use the national media in the effort to explain what is really going on and how to fix Congress. He said that only by continuing to beat that drum can we hope to truly sell that message and effect change.

I highly recommend that you read his book. . . .  In fact, I recommend that all members of Congress read this book now, in addition to future candidates for the House.

We truly like Mr. Long and what he has to say.  Regardless of how you vote, we are confident that if you take the time to read his book, you will learn something.

I learned a lot when I talked with Mr. Long and I learned still more after reading “The Reagan Memes”.  However this election turns out, we feel Mr. Long is clearly the smartest candidate in this race.