Regardless of who succeeds in the election for governor or any other office, in the commonwealth or anyplace else, it’s important to reflect critically on the press storm that propels races. Political scientists can argue all they want about the chickens and eggs of media and politics, but the reality is that a significant percentage of the few participating Massachusetts voters are heavily persuaded by their preferred outlets. And since most disseminating voices get their info and background from the daily rags, that leaves the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, and a handful of others statewide to serve as foundational sources. Finally, the former often reads like a John Birch Society newsletter, and the smaller papers from New Bedford to Springfield cover areas much tinier than Boston, so that leaves the Globe as the default influencer of influencers.
We’re the first to admit that by this time in any election, the paper of record is like a nagging roommate, its every breath or slightest move enough to make you want to choke a stranger. With that said, considering the past few weeks of coverage in the race between Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker, it came as scant surprise that Globe editorial arbiters picked the Republican. The choice isn’t out of character; long before the paper pummeled Coakley endlessly, from the front page to the op-ed section, the honchos who shape narratives there displayed much affection for steroidal capitalism. It makes sense for them to coddle Baker, a guy so filthy rich his introductory campaign announcement featured him casually walking the vast property around his manicured home for two whole minutes. Even in the primary, when the Globe was not exactly needed to help GOP voters distinguish between Baker and Tea Party doormat Mark Fisher, they bowed lower than expected:
[Baker has] the skills Massachusetts voters often look for in a Republican gubernatorial nominee: He’s a creative manager, committed to rooting out waste and finding new ways to solve problems … He’s not the kind of Republican who considers government the root of all problems, or an inherently flawed enterprise. The result is a cooler, more deliberately laid-back candidate [than he was last time, at least].
All things considered, there’s some kind of irony in the Coakley camp emailing supporters, as it did over the weekend, that “CHARLIE BAKER COULD PROFIT FROM [AN] INSIDER DEAL AND STATE TAX CREDIT.” While the Dems amplify Globe reports that “Baker pushed for a $9.5 million state tax break for a company he is a director for,” the paper that best reported that and other insider shenanigans came to admire his plutocratic gusto. One way to consummate that love affair is with an endorsement week whopper, and so that’s what we got.
For beginners, you can’t speak gubernatorial baseball in Mass without pitching the old logic that we must elect someone to balance out the crush of blue on Beacon Hill. In the Globe‘s words: “One needn’t agree with every last one of Baker’s views to conclude that, at this time, the Republican nominee would provide the best counterpoint to the instincts of an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.” Compounding that generic setup, there’s also an interesting premise that will come as one heck of a surprise to anyone anticipating difficulty paying rent next month.
THIS YEAR’S race for governor unfolds beneath mostly sunny skies. In the last eight years, Massachusetts withstood a brutal recession far better than most states did. It came through a terrorist bombing more unified than it had been. Greater Boston’s innovation economy is thriving, and a construction boom is reshaping the skyline.
To be fair, editors also note that “in cities and towns far removed from the shiny new towers of Cambridge’s Kendall Square or Boston’s Seaport District, the economic picture looks much dimmer.” For people in those places – and presumably the invisible poor folks who live and toil in the shadows of such downtown magnificence – the Globe has found a savior …
During this campaign, he has focused principally on making state government work better. The emphasis is warranted. And in that spirit, the Globe endorses Charlie Baker for governor.
It’s not complete bullshit. Baker, after all, is hardly a Republican monster, and in the endorsement his work “first as secretary of health and human services under Governor William Weld and then secretary of administration and finance under Weld and Governor Paul Cellucci” is celebrated, as it should be. Baker, the story goes, “learned how agencies work (or don’t) and how budgets are balanced (or not).” Soon after, however, comes the insane part where the editors get down on their knees and pray before the altar of healthcare profiteering:
Subsequently, Baker led the turnaround of the once-troubled Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. It wasn’t a one-man operation. It involved some help from state officials, and some employees lost their jobs. But the overall outcome was beneficial: Despite difficult circumstances, an insurer that was near financial ruin became known as a top performer in its industry.
By Globe logic, the fact that individuals grow filthy rich treating sick people is awesome, so long as they call themselves businessman. If your name is Coakley, the standards are different:
Her office has been closely monitoring health care costs for years, an effort that culminated this year inan agreement with Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest and most powerful health provider. That deal would allow a controversial takeover of South Shore Hospital to go forward, in exchange for Partners’ submitting to limits, across its entire system, on its ability to raise prices.
Beyond healthcare, the Globe didn’t care as much about making a gubernatorial endorsement as they did an endorsement of charter schools. Coakley’s hardly public ed crusader Diane Ravitch, but let the record show that her reluctance to express extraordinary interest in school privatization irreperably damaged her in the Globe‘s eyes:
Lawmakers seem to have cooled lately on education reform. Coakley’s positions in this area, such as on raising the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, appear to be a work in progress. Baker would provide full-throated support for the kind of high standards, accountability, and innovation that will give all children in Massachusetts the opportunities they deserve.
The list of the Globe‘s offenses goes on, including yet another plug for “[extending] educational reforms” and, of course, a justification of the paper’s marginalization of viable third-party candidates:
The implication is that, if the state Republican Party can’t reliably compete with the dominant Democrats, maybe a more centrist party could. Still, it’s a long shot, and some of the most vexing problems that Falchuk identifies in Massachusetts — such as the difficulty of getting new housing built in towns whose residents fear taking on more schoolchildren — are utterly unconnected to any partisan identity.
They’re right about one thing: After generations of successful lobbying and pay-to-play precedents, issues like housing probably are more the domain of businesspeople than of party politicians. By choosing Baker, Globe editors have demonstrated just how strongly they feel that that’s a positive development.