Alan Chartock: I didn't vote for Baker last time, but I might next go-round

GREAT BARRINGTON — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has my admiration. He gives a damn about people. He opposes the Republican power grabs at the expense of the poor, and his decency illustrates why others in the Republican Party are in deep trouble, despite their hold on all the major branches of the federal government.

In the old days, the party of Lincoln stood for fairness and equity, but it is now the reactionary party. It is so far to the right that it might only be called "the war on the poor." Charlie Baker is saying no to that.

There are three electoral groups that determine who holds power. There are the Democrats who want, as a whole, to play fair. In the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Democrats as a group recognize the principle of equality of opportunity.

They want good public schools for all and lending libraries and decent roads, bridges and infrastructure. They recognize the right of all to have decent health care. I would make the case that Baker shares all those beliefs. Nevertheless, he is a nominal Republican. I would argue that he is made out of the same cloth as Nelson Rockefeller, John V. Lindsay and Michael Bloomberg.

After the Democrats, the next group of electors in this country are the Republicans. In contemporary times, these are the folks who often, but not always, sit at the top of the economic hill and often want to hold onto whatever they can, despite the fact that those at the very top couldn't spend what they have in several lifetimes.

Contemporary Republicans are split into many groups. There are these called "establishment" types who argue for big business benefits but who are a relatively decent group. Their problem is that their party has been hijacked by the Party of Trump. These voters are angry, and there were enough of them to squeak Trump through the Electoral College, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton got more votes.

The establishment Republicans of the deep red states are facing real danger from the Trump Republicans who want their people in places like the U.S. Senate. Put another way, the old regular Republicans are facing primaries from the radical far-right Republicans. And that brings us to the third group of voters, the people we might call the centrists or independents, people who, as voters, can swing both ways.

Gov. Baker is a man who I have always thought of as a "Republicrat." In deep blue state Massachusetts, Republicans, with some regularity, have won the state's top office.

People with names like Bill Weld and Charlie Baker win for a number of reasons. Voters don't want the same old same old. They want to remind the Democrats that, as voters, they are not owned. These are middle-class people who know they are paying too much in taxes. They believe in being fair, but they don't want to go over the ultra liberal line. When Donald Trump tries to take away their health care, Charlie Baker says, "Thou shalt not pass." Independents get that. They like his style. But, of course, when Charlie Baker does that, it means that he will never be elected president of the United States. He might pull a Lindsay or a Bloomberg and become a Democrat. That won't fly.

So we are lucky. He'll be governor until the whole thing bores him. He'll hold the line on the state budget. He'll negotiate with the Democratic leadership in the Legislature, and everyone will play nice. That's what the people want.

For their part, the Democrats can't seem to learn that the voters don't want to be taken for granted. They'll vote for great men like Deval Patrick or Mike Dukakis, but they will hold their noses when other Democrats are put forward. I didn't vote for Charlie Baker last time, but unless something dramatic happens, I will the next time.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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