It’s Always Foolish for Progressives and Democrats to Fall for “Bipartisanship”

It has to be considered one of the biggest “WTF” stories of the young year:

Teamsters Local 25, the powerful [labor] union that represents more than 11,500 Massachusetts workers and that backed the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, endorsed Republican Governor Charlie Baker for reelection Thursday.

“He’s proven to be a great steward for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” president Sean M. O’Brien said in a telephone interview, cheering Baker’s job-creation efforts in the state. “He’s lived up to everything he said he was going to do on the job. I’m a firm believer that you support the best people for the job.”

O’Brien — who leads a union that represents UPS workers, Massport employees, school administrators, and people in many other sectors — also praised Baker’s bipartisan chops, saying, “It’s a good thing when you reach across the aisle.”

The nod marks an extraordinary shift for a union that worked to defeat the Republican in 2014…The endorsement left other major union players in Massachusetts, who are deeply tied to the Democratic establishment, either tongue-tied or dismayed.

And for good reason. Baker has already put the screws to labor in Massachusetts, and if he is elected to a second term, you can bet the bank he’ll continue to do so. It’s the Republican way, after all.

It appears that O’Brien suffers from the disease I call JKS—John Kasich Syndrome. That’s the ailment that causes non-right-wingers who should know better to see decency and dignity in Republicans who, like Kasich and Baker, have enough savvy to avoid sounding as sleazy in public as Trump.

It’s odd that this union choose not to judge Baker by the company he keeps. The Republican Party, as an institution, is as fixated on busting unions as it is on cutting taxes for the rich. Have these folks forgotten about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s atrocious assault on unions during this decade? Has Baker said one word in condemnation of such chicanery?

One wonders if the eventual Democratic nominee for Massachusetts governor will press Baker on his party’s egregious history on unions, and specifically why he continues to align himself with what can be appropriately described as a shithole party. Baker’s vaunted popularity is tied to his ability to blur the difference between Democrat and Republican; hammering away at Baker’s continued allegiance to the GOP could theoretically sever that tie.

It’s quite likely that Trump’s continued antics will make it harder for Baker and (other self-styled centrist Republicans) to get away with the “I’m a member of the GOP, but not really!” shtick, even as the national Democratic Party appears to be pulling its punches on Baker. As Massachusetts Democratic State Committee member Lee Harrison observed last year, Baker’s centrist image is fundamentally false:

So what’s going on? High ratings, but few accomplishments, and clearly no vision. Isn’t it time we compared Charlie’s actions with his well-crafted “moderate” image to see whether it’s all just a con? Remember, he came to government in 1991 as a highly touted manager from the conservative Pioneer Institute. So, to paraphrase John Mitchell, Nixon’s attorney general: “Look at what he does, not what he says.”

Let’s start with Charlie’s exalted reputation as a manager. Last June, with the stock market breaking all records, S&P downgraded Massachusetts’ creditworthiness for the first time in 30 years, a decision the Boston Globe said, “has the potential to tarnish Governor Charlie Baker’s image as a good steward of the state’s finances.” By contrast, Deval Patrick was able to raise the state’s bond rating at the height of the Great Recession.

Many also think Charlie, unlike Trump, really cares about people. But he refuses to endorse the Fair Share Amendment, which would raise $2 billion for public education and infrastructure by placing a 4 percent surtax on portions of incomes over $1 million. And his proposal for new mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders not only goes against current research but also candidate Baker’s vow not to support such discriminatory actions, proving once again we have to look at what Charlie does, not what he says.

Of course, Teamsters Local 25 ignored all this inconvenient stuff. Will voters?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.