January 13, 2015

Last Thursday Governor Charlie Baker delivered an inauguration speech that was consistent with his campaign and nonthreatening to the state's Democratic "values." He could even have sung, to the old Willie Nelson tune, "My heroes have always been Democrats."

That is because notwithstanding the presence of Republican luminaries Bill Weld, Scott Brown, and Mitt Romney, Governor Baker singled out only two political figures for admiration and emulation: Democrats Thomas Menino and John F. Kennedy. 

In praising the late Mayor Menino, Baker stated that "He believed that government was about high ideals. But he also equally believed that basic services mattered and that every detail counted." If Menino was the urban mechanic, Baker sounded like he has aspirations to be the commonwealth mechanic. Recounting a Registry of Motor Vehicles that takes hours to conduct a simple consumer transaction and a Health Connector that has "let down" "thousands of families" Baker promised his administration will deliver on the promises of government. 

As a balance to the inspiration offered by his predecessor Governor Deval Patrick, Governor Baker went back in time to the words of another inspirational Massachusetts Democrat, John F. Kennedy. Baker recounted the words of President-elect Kennedy as he addressed the Massachusetts legislature before departing to make his own inaugural speech in Washington, D.C. Baker offered his twenty-first century update on Kennedy's call that public servants conduct themselves with four important qualities: "courage, judgment, integrity, and dedication."

Baker not only spoke admiringly of Democratic icons, he attended to Democratic geography: the speech emphasized cities, places Democrats like to consider their strongholds but where candidate Baker campaign vigorously. He spoke of his Wednesday visit to Lawrence and reported a "renaissance is underway in their public schools." In advocating for more charter schools he stated "It's wrong for any of us to stand on a front porch or in a city neighborhood sympathizing with a mom or dad when they tell us their child is not getting the education to succeed in life and then oppose lifting the charter school cap or making the changes we need to ensure that every school is great."

What other localities did Baker mention? Dorchester, where Vietnamese leaders are helping to transform their neighborhood. The BASE in Roxbury, helping young men develop the skills needed to get a college scholarship. In Lowell, the United Teen Equality Center, working to turn around the lives of gang members.

Baker also promised to directly attack the opiate addiction that is a scourge not only in our cities but in every community in the commonwealth. As an example he offered the story of a couple from Easton who did all they could to help their son but who lost him to a heroin overdose. And who did he promise to work with to combat the crisis?: Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. 

As I wrote last week in Charlie Baker's Warrants, our new governor did not run to repudiate the ideological edifice constructed by the state's Democrats. He ran to fix it. The voters didn't reject the government built by the Democrats; they rejected the mismanagement of that government.

If Baker succeeds, oddly enough, he may save the Democrats from themselves. 

inaugural speech, Charlie Baker, democrats

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