The platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party contains many laudable, progressive proposals. Single-payer healthcare, for example, has been in the platform since the early 1990s. With single-payer, as with Medicare, patients still choose their physicians but there is just one insurer -- the Commonwealth. Regardless of the platform commitment, the healthcare law that the Legislature delivered in 2006 (Chapter 58) bears absolutely no resemblance to single-payer. Instead, it mandates the purchase of health insurance from the private sector.
In addition to single-payer, the platform states that the party "continues to strive for the public funding of elections, thereby eliminating economic barriers for qualified candidates." Of course, such striving as there may have been since the Democratic-controlled Legislature repealed the Clean Elections Law in 2003 has been utterly invisible and inaudible. The party now controls all six constitutional statewide offices, from Governor to State Auditor, and almost 90% of the seats in the General Court: Against whom is it supposed to be striving?
Curiously, the platform also proclaims that "Massachusetts Democrats condemn the tax cuts that leave cities and towns to fend for themselves with only the regressive property tax as the primary source of revenue." But it was Massachusetts Democrats in the Legislature that enacted those tax cuts. What our cities and towns need is less condemnation and more action.
No progressive would deny that the platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party contains many worthy aspirations. But the longer those aspirations remain locked in the platform, the stronger the case grows for a breakaway from the party. But where could disaffected progressives find a political home? The results of the 2006 general election may point the way.
Two things have become clear following the 2006 general election. First, the Massachusetts Republicans have abdicated the role of principal party of opposition. Secondly, the Greens are on the rise. Without the benefit of bid donors or a friendly press, the Greens’ level of support has grown -- in 2006 it was double their 2002 showing. In the race for Secretary of the Commonwealth, the Greens’ Jill Stein won 18% of the votes, which is twice the percentage that Jamie O’Keefe garnered in his well-run 2002 bid for State Treasurer.
In the 2006 elections, there were contests in only one-quarters of the legislative districts. That’s right -- most of the seats in the Legislature went uncontested in the general election. There were contested Democratic primaries in just 15% of the districts, and most of those were for open seats. (i.e. the incumbent was not seeking reelection). The truly staggering fact is that in
Is there a realistic possibility that Massachusetts could achieve contested elections and acquire a real opposition? Yes -- such things are possible. In
As the experience of the Progressive Party in
There is no secret formula for winning legislative elections. It is a question of concentrating on a handful of winnable seats, seizing sudden opportunities (such as special elections), training and supporting candidates, focusing on several simple and coherent policy proposals, identifying Green voters, and getting out the vote on election day. Easy? No. But straightforward? Yes.
So in the next few years, there is clearly room for the Greens to assume the role of effective opposition in