Scotty, We Hardly Knew Ya

In 2009 I went to work for Scott Brown in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy.  At the time I had no idea what I was getting into.  I was just coming off of running for city council at-large in Boston were I got my clocked clean thoroughly. The day after going down in flames I got a condolence call from Scott Brown that basically said good job in your run, sometimes it takes a couple of shots to win, and then he transitioned into telling me to get in touch with his people because they could use my help in Boston for his campaign.  And I did just that, taking on the responsibilities of coordinating his campaign in Boston and some of the communities in the greater Boston area; it was a glorious ride!  As a lover of politics and as someone who bleeds red literally and figuratively, I watched barack and devalwith no small amount of envy, the democrats run great campaigns for Governor in Massachusetts in 2006 and then an awe-inspiring campaign for President in 2008.   Those efforts seemed like more than political campaigns to me; they were movements with dynamic candidates leading the charge.   Those campaigns were maddening in their effectiveness. Here they were campaigning on policies that I personally believed to be incredible harmful for my state and country and they were just rolling to victory.  However the special senate election in 2009-2010, was my revenge!  Scott Brown for OPx-largeThis time my side had the movement behind us and we had the dynamic candidate with a message, and it was the democrats that were on their heels and were completely unprepared to handle what was happening.  That campaign was awesome: a real insurgency, a motivated campaign team with thousands of extremely motivated and highly effective volunteers.  Election Day was one of my favorite moments in politics as we shocked the world.

As I look around at the political landscape today, including last year’s election, I am once again depressed, as I ask myself what happened to all the hope and promise (no pun intended).

How did it go from awe-inspiring to where we are at now?  There has been a lot of talk about Republicans needing to reach out to minorities and developing infrastructure to compete with democrats in urban areas and I agree with all of that; in fact I have written about it.  But we need to do more than that; we need to develop a new message.  A message that is about improving people’s lives, and dare I say it, a message that conveys hope and change.  After all those sentiments do not belong to the Democratic Party– they stole those from Republicans.  It was Ronald Regan’s “Morning in America” theme that reaganwas the first modern-day campaign to wrap its message around hope, promise, and prosperity and that message would go on to dominate national politics for 12 years from Reagan’s two terms to Bush 41’s term.  In 1994 Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans were the originators of talking about bringing change to Washington with the “Contract for America”, and that message allowed republicans to end the forty years of democrat control of congress.  It is time to take these themes back and develop a new playbook to win elections.  The old playbook of crime, welfare reform, and taxes is no longer enough.  Talking strictly about entitlement reform, although that very important, is not enough.  We must begin to craft our message around improving the lives of voters so that the voters will begin to understand they have a personal stake in the parties’ electoral success.

I want to be clear I am not advocating for Republicans to become “Dem-lite.” That makes no sense and is not very successful from a political stand point.  I believe in drawing stark contrast between Republicans and Democrats.  However I do believe Republicans need to do a better job showing how our policies relate to all demographics that make up the American electorate.

In 1952 Senator Robert Taft, known as “Mr. Republican”, addressed a capacity crowd of steel workers in Pittsburgh, during which he centered his message on the interest of his audience. Taft said, “We offer the American workman a return to honesty and integrity in Washington, a reduction in his tax burdens, a stimulation of the process of improved production to increase his income and standard of living and a foreign policy which will protect his security.” The senator had a message about an agenda that promised to protect the middle and working classes through economic growth and national security while also safeguarding the concerns of the business community.  The audience, which had both workers and management, gave him a standing ovation.

In Scott Brown’s first run for the Senate he had a message that supported individual freedom and opportunity over one size fits all government control and he won.  In 2012 the Dems controlled the message and they won.  Our ideas are better. When we message them right, we win!



The Return of Taxachusetts

They’re back…..higher taxes are returning to Massachusetts and average folks are beginning to feel the effects.   A close friend of mine called me up late one night to do some complaining about her financial situation.  My friend is a lawyer working at a very good firm and she and her husband have recently purchased their first home. I was the recipient of this late night venting because I am known among my circle of friends as the political guy who knows all about politics and how government works, and the subject of her rage that night had to do with her property taxes.  She had just found out that the city of Boston was changing the way it does its property assessments and that change will end up costing her and her family more money.  She then began to reveal how frustrated she felt in her efforts to get ahead in life financially and how the cost of living was having a negative impact.  Unfortunately it was up to me to break the news to her about the Governor’s budget and tax plans.

This month Deval Patrick, in his second term, has done what he DSC_0107.JPGprobably wanted to do in his first term: propose a huge new tax increase.  The Governor is proposing that the state’s single rate income tax go up from 5.25% to 6.25%.  The Governor’s new tax plan also calls for the elimination of 45 income-tax deductions.  Mr. Patrick seeks to eliminate such dedications for any profit people would receive for selling their homes, on adoption fees, college scholarships, T passes, and children under 12.  Massachusetts under this plan will also see a raise in business taxes, and residents will have to pay higher gas taxes, turnpike tolls, and excise taxes for our vehicles.  It all equals about 1.9 billion a year tax increasein net tax hikes.  All of this comes on the heels of Federal tax increases and Congress allowing the payroll tax reductions to expire during the fiscal cliff deal.  That payroll tax was allowing families making between $50,000 to $75,000 to save about $822 a year.  A lot of the Governor’s plan has to do with the ever-increasing cost of our state’s health care program (see the Wall Street Journal’s review & outlook article:  “The RomneyCare Bill Comes Due,”Jan. 23rd 2013).  Seeing how ObamaCare is modeled after RomneyCare one can only wonder when the Bill on the federal level comes due, how much higher will our taxes go up?

Which brings me back to my friend, whose family is the classic example of that middle class family politicians from both parties say they are fighting for.  She and her husband supported both Governor Patrick and President Obama in all of their elections.  They took great pride in watching both men on TV and cheered their speeches.  Whenever I would push her in asking just what policies of the Governor and the President she supported I would just get platitudes and general statements about them standing up for people and bringing the type of change we can all believe in…whatever that means.  My friend was also very quick to dismiss any conservative counter-opinions to the President and Democrats in general and she believed the tea party Tea Party to be just a bunch of crazy racists.  As my friend and I talked that night and she began to see how the policies of people she supported electorally were starting to affect her own personal economy, financial goals, and dreams, she began to question some previously-held conceptions.  When we ended our conversation, she began doing to some research of her own, including looking at some of the things folks from the tea party were saying about our government.  Although I am highly confident my friend will never be a tea partier, she no longer believes they are just crazy racists and that maybe, just maybe, there are people out there whose opinions may differ from ours but it may be worth actually listening to what they have to say before we make up our minds. After all, details matter even for altruistic ideas and great speeches.