On Leadership

“Lost trust reduces our ability to meet our great challenges, which certainly do include health care cost control and ending dependence on fossil fuels. Neither of those issues will be solved by one piece of legislation — they both will require sustained leadership over the next few decades and we should be very reluctant to do anything that will further undermine our ability to lead.”

I’m grateful that our Representative has given us this forum to debate the law about succession for Senators, and I’ve been thinking about this concluding thought Will has given us.  But I see some points here that are just don’t hold up when you think about the recent history of America.  While neither issue could be solved by one piece of legislation, Republicans can hold back reform for years by defeating this one piece of legislation this year.  They blocked it in 1993, and here it is sixteen years later that we are making an attempt at it.  Reagan and the Bushes gutted really good energy plans established by Carter in 1979, and now we are making an attempt at it with 30 years worth of more carbon in the atmosphere.  The Republican strategy is to deny real reform on health care and fossil fuels.  Why give them an advantage by letting us be down one Senator? It may not be likely that one vote will decide it, but why let them get one vote closer to beating us?

Speaking of trust as something to be guarded in case it is lost–Sal DiMasi already drove voter trust way down.  To appoint a Democrat to the Senate now might seem a little less than pure, but it is nothing compared to what Sal did.  Give the people good reform legislation at the national level and we will give you legislators more trust. After you make the deals that get us the reforms we need (and giving us full Senate representation ASAP is part and parcel of that), then we know you’ve got leadership.  Leadership is the result of leading, not the precondition of leading.

Will, you showed real leadership in putting out a plan to cut income taxes on people making less than $140,000 and making the wealthier pay more of their fair share.  The protectors of the millionaires yelled at you for it, but you knew it was the right thing and you didn’t back down, even if other legislators didn’t have the courage to support it.  Massachusetts Democrats in the Legislature have the opportunity to show national Republicans that we progressives are not going to let them block or dilute reasonable legislation on climate change and health care.  We can give progressives like Durbin and Schumer another ally in the Senate now, when they need it, when the TVs are full of people crying about “socialized medicine,” when models of bipartisanship like Grassley are lying about “death panels.”  I tell you, Will, if we were to get a caretaker like Dukakis, we would be telling those Republicans that we know we have been right about these issues all along.  They’ll still yell and scream, but they’ll be a little less confident that they can change us by yelling and screaming.  Then Republicans might start to devise good policies to sell to the voters… (well, maybe this prediction is a little far-fetched!)

Be bold in getting a progressive agenda accomplished and voters will come to see progressive reforms as good and necessary things.

One reply on “On Leadership”

  1. Thanks, Joel, for this thoughtful piece.

    Based on the sampling on my website and in my e-mails though, it is not just partisan Republicans who have trouble with changing the rules in an ad hoc way — there is a truly “bipartisan” perception of unfairness and I really do feel that we have to weight that perception as a reality. We want to avoid perceptions of unfairness; they undermine our effectiveness in the long run, whether or not they are justified.

    I am terribly concerned to see us move forward on national health and climate legislation, but I really think we need to get down to brass tacks about how the choice we make on succession will or will not really affect outcomes on these issues. It’s not enough to just say the issues are mportant; one has to talk in more depth about where things really are in the Senate. I am hopeful that the next couple of weeks of discussion will be illuminating and I will take a position and lead based on that position as soon as I feel I responsibly can.

    I need to emphasize that I have not taken a position yet and am still listening.

    Again, thank you for all of your civil and thoughtful contributions on this site.

Comments are closed.