Time to change the rules (a little)

Shortly after arriving at the DCU Center on Saturday morning, I had an opportunity to talk to an undecided delegate about my candidate for Governor, Juliette Kayyem. He asked me, in all seriousness, “isn’t she too direct?” I told him what I thought, which is that we have all become so jaded about politics that we now view forthrightness as a liability. By the end of the day, only 12% of the delegates endorsed this politics of forthrightness and this candidate whose candor struck some of them as a potential liability. I am very disappointed. As I thought about that one conversation in Worcester though, I realized that there is an essential flaw in our present approach to nominating conventions. The most important question before the delegates isn’t ever on the ballot.

The 15% rule and its power surprised no one. As we attended caucuses throughout the Commonwealth, candidates and delegate candidates and caucus goers understood that any candidate who failed to get 15% support among elected delegates would not appear on the primary ballot. My point here is not to rail against the rule. In truth, I support it with modification. The caucus process ensures that no one can buy their way onto a ballot in Massachusetts. It means that, in our state, politicians need to do the legwork necessary to meet activists and persuade them to leave their homes in the dead of winter and head out to high schools and say who they think should lead. There’s a beauty in the ritual and a core purpose that is consistent with basic notions of democracy.

Still, elected delegates have a role to play once they get to the convention and the rules of the convention itself seem designed to prevent them from playing it. Here’s what I mean: no one other than the campaign staffs themselves had a strong understanding of what was likely to happen on the first (and only) ballot in the governor’s race. The Kayyem campaign believed and told people that she had 15% support in the hall. Joe Avellone’s campaign, contrary to the anecdotal evidence from caucuses, took the same position. Because no one really knew, delegates were not in a position to decide what the ballot should look like. Instead, campaigns rallied them for votes in their quest for the party’s endorsement.

That vote, however, was not really about that endorsement. The state party rules leave that decision to the second ballot (unless a candidate gets more than 50% on the first ballot). Instead, the first ballot vote at the convention was really about who would continue on — and the voters did not have enough information to make that decision. Said a little differently, a delegate might want Martha Coakley to be governor. At the same time, she might want Juliette Kayyem on the primary ballot for reasons of fairness or otherwise. If that delegate understood that: (1) Coakley was assured of a place on the second (nomination) ballot; and (2) Kayyem was in real jeopardy, she might choose to vote for Kayyem on the first ballot. Making that decision, however, requires information and there was a dearth of information on the floor at the DCU Center.

Many of us routinely sign nomination papers. We do so because we believe in having multiple voices heard in the primary process. With the right information, we might well make similar decisions at conventions. Instead, what happens is different. The campaigns work, as they must, to win. The campaigns all need to work to win and the candidates need to make the case as to why they should be governor. The problem is that their agenda is not the same as the substance of what the delegates must decide. The delegates aren’t choosing a governor; they are allocating space on the ballot for a primary.

In the end, what’s missing is candor. The prior system, where the second ballot could yield a ballot space, enabled delegates to exercise that responsibility in an informed manner. Consider the hypothetical delegate I described earlier. She could vote for Martha Coakley on the first ballot and then, after learning that Juliette Kayyem did not have 15%, she could vote for Kayyem on the second. So, too, throughout the hall delegates had an opportunity to think and vote meaningfully on the question they actually get to decide: the identity of the candidates on the ballot in September. Under the present system, they do not get to do that. And, in the end, it means that they all left Worcester having decided a question that was, quite literally, never on the ballot.

There’s some irony here. Steve Grossman and Martha Coakley are more reminiscent of Shannon O’Brien and Scott Harshbarger than of Deval Patrick. In Worcester, the convention marked a retrenchment in the party as we left with two very old school candidates heading to September (with, of course, the Don Berwick exception). At the same time, that decision exposed a significant problem with the rules. Convention delegates have real responsibility. The party should change the rules so that they can exercise that responsibility in an informed manner. The decision of which candidates continue on is simply too vital to be a coda to an essentially meaningless battle for the party’s convention endorsement.

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Juliette Kayyem for Governor (why #iamforkayyem)

Josh Davis:

The Democratic state convention is just days away. It’s time to stand up for Juliette Kayyem — http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/06/11/kayyem-refreshing-candidate/i3Ryn7jWgpBgHiJ9i4uqAO/story.html

Originally posted on joshdavisthinks:

Juliette Kayyem should be the next Governor of Massachusetts. Among all the candidates, she offers the most thoughtful, creative and inspiring thinking about the direction the Commonwealth should take. And, unlike the other leading candidates, the office is not simply the next step in a career. Instead, Juliette wants to be Governor because she perceives an opportunity to make the Commonwealth a better place to live for all of our citizens. Poll numbers say that too many of us still don’t know who she is. So, by way of this blog, I offer a brief introduction and then a more fulsome explanation of my strong support of her candidacy.

Juliette brings a wide range of experience to her campaign. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Juliette joined the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice, where she worked for not-yet Governor Patrick. She later served in…

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From 2012 — Colorado (my blog following the Aurora shootings)

Josh Davis:

I thought this old piece worth sharing again as we face another day of senseless shooting enabled by guns. #notonemore

Originally posted on joshdavisthinks:

Many of us have spent a lot of this weekend trying to make sense of madness.  We now live in a world that includes the reality that a night at the movies can explode in gunfire, just as we learned last summer that a morning at the supermarket could.  As the list of places that explode grows, so does our sense that there must be something we can do together to make us safer.  At the same time, we must also understand that we (as a country) have an incomplete understanding of mental illness and an inability to figure out what to do about assault weapons.  Some part of what happened in Colorado is beyond explanation.  Some part is a consequence of our failure to recognize and treat illness, on the one hand, and to regulate the distribution of assault weaponry, on the other.  The time is now to face…

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Juliette Kayyem for Governor (why #iamforkayyem)

Juliette Kayyem should be the next Governor of Massachusetts. Among all the candidates, she offers the most thoughtful, creative and inspiring thinking about the direction the Commonwealth should take. And, unlike the other leading candidates, the office is not simply the next step in a career. Instead, Juliette wants to be Governor because she perceives an opportunity to make the Commonwealth a better place to live for all of our citizens. Poll numbers say that too many of us still don’t know who she is. So, by way of this blog, I offer a brief introduction and then a more fulsome explanation of my strong support of her candidacy.

Juliette brings a wide range of experience to her campaign. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Juliette joined the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice, where she worked for not-yet Governor Patrick. She later served in his administration in the Department of Homeland Security. She left that post to join the Obama administration, also serving in Homeland Security. In that job, she was responsible (among other things) for taking charge of the government’s response to the BP oil spill. She then returned to Massachusetts, where she taught at the Kennedy School, worked as a columnist for the Boston Globe (she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), and served as a CNN commentator (including being a voice of reason throughout Anderson Cooper’s coverage of the Marathon bombings).

Juliette believes in government’s capacity to do good. I can think of no more important quality in someone who wants to lead a government, and no other reason to be involved in politics. Ultimately, politics is about possibility and leadership is about finding meaning in that possibility. Juliette wants to improve our government and believes that it can, among other things, better educate our youth (beginning with universal pre-kindergarten), encourage people who go to school here to stay here and build their careers and families (her program is called “start up and stay”), and engage meaningfully with challenges posed by the realities of climate change so that our state can prepare and prosper.

Real leaders also have the courage to speak for those whose cause is important, but not popular. Juliette believes in criminal justice reform. Specifically, she thinks that we should not be sending people to jail for crimes that are symptoms of addiction. Instead, she favors treating addiction and helping people make their way back from the edge and into the workforce. Her willingness to speak in support of such change is testament to her political courage — the kind of courage that is a meaningful differentiator in politics.

The thinking, some of it described above, that Juliette has put into her policies shows not only creativity and courage, but an energetic approach to the challenges that face the Commonwealth. And her energy is alone testament to what kind of leader she will be. Consider the campaign itself: in less than a year, Juliette developed sufficient grass-roots support across the Commonwealth to finish second in the caucuses among committed delegates (Grossman was first). The only way to do that is by being everywhere and by wining support everywhere you go — and Juliette has been constantly on the move since the day she announced her candidacy. That constant effort is paying off, and that energy (which augments her natural charisma) will translate into the kind of momentum that elects good people in Massachusetts (think Deval Patrick and Elizabeth Warren).

Politics, though, is also about competition and it wouldn’t be right for me to not also say that my support for Juliette comes from a very competitive place. I really don’t want to go back to a time when our Governor seemed inevitably to be a nice-enough seeming moderate-ish Republican. And I am completely persuaded that nominating any of the other Democratic candidates will give Charlie Baker a very serious chance of winning.

We have lived through an important election with Martha Coakley at the top of the ticket, and it did not turn out well. Although Scott Brown is now New Hampshire’s problem, The Coakley for Governor campaign already serves as a reminder of why he was elected to the Senate here. I am a real admirer of Steve Grossman’s. By way of confession, I ran for delegate to the state convention, committed to Steve, when he ran for Governor the first time. I do not believe, however, that he can inspire the kind of impassioned effort at the grass-roots that we will need to win this election. Obama is not at the top of the ticket this time around. The nominee simply has to be able to generate passion among voters. Juliette can do that; the others cannot. If the party nominates Coakley or Grossman, I will (of course) support them, but I supported Shannon O’Brien for similar reasons and remember very clearly how that turned out.

One story to demonstrate what I mean. The College Democrats gathered in Western Massachusetts and heard from all of the candidates. Afterwards, they took a straw poll. Juliette won — by a two to one margin. Ultimately, enthusiasm among young voters translates into volunteers, and that translates into turnout and that leads to victory. By that standard, that straw poll is the single most important comparative signal to date in this race and it points in only one direction.

That is the logic behind my support, but politics is never just about logic (or even policy). The best leaders inspire us and make us believe that working with them and with each other will actually improve our world. Juliette is that kind of leader — and that kind of leader turns our collective belief into policies and laws that make things better for future generations. I have watched her talk to lots of groups and to lots of people, and I have seen her listen to groups and to individuals, and I can report that she generates enthusiasm and excitement wherever she goes. Her innate ability to inspire, combined with her intelligence, creativity and courage, make her a genuinely singular candidate. She will be a remarkable Governor. Let’s help her win.

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Some wisdom from my stepdaughter @grinnell

My stepdaughter, Katy Tucker, has started the Her Campus Grinnell page.  Here is her latest article.  It’s pretty great stuff no matter your age or gender.

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Civil Rights Program Next Week

Please see the attached invitation to the Federal Bar Association’s program celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. I will be presenting.

Civil Rights Act FBA invite (final)

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Talk on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Please see the attached invitation to a talk I will give celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. All are welcome to attend what promises to be a very interesting program.

Civil Rights Act FBA invite (final)

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