Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Endorsement for the Senate: Alan Khazei

When there's four candidates running to be the next Ted Kennedy, it's certainly understandable that the choice should be difficult. For the record, this is the first major race in which I have purposefully tried to stay uninvolved in a long time, wanting to glimpse this race like a regular voter -- instead of in a campaign role or as a volunteer. In that role, I've come to at least some final decisions.

As much as I expected to take a long time to make a decision in this race, two candidates helped me narrow down my choices. In Steve Pagliuca, we have a candidate who's tried to run as a liberal, but has a record that looks mighty similar to Mitt Romney. Additionally, at the Boston Herald Online and elsewhere, I've seen Pagliuca ads that say in giant letters, "Pags=Jobs." That naturally lead me to a question -- more jobs or less?

Pagliuca's company, Bain Capital, which is also Mitt Romney's company, has a history of buying up profitable businesses, slashing workforce, research and development, and making a giant profit off of those businesses regardless of whether they do well or not, because they sell those companies in the short term. Because of the short-term focus of Bain's business, there's actually a financial incentive for people like Pagliuca to set up these companies to fail. Many of those companies not only do decidedly worse after being accosted by Bain, with many fewer jobs, but they get saddled with the debt Bain used to buy them in the first place. That's right: Bain doesn't always pay for their takeovers, they make the companies they take over pay for it. Only in America.

Pagliuca's willingness to spend an enormous amount of his personal wealth in this race offers three possible movites in running: this is a vanity campaign, special interests or he's suddenly had a complete change of heart, after all these greedy years. Will anyone who knows about his business background be willing to take a bet on option number three?

Martha Coakley, on the other hand, has a fairly long record of service (though only two years as Attorney General), but not a particularly distinguished one. Routinely, she's sided against justice in order to appear more 'tough on crime.' In the Fells Acre case, she sided against a parole board's unanimous decision when the board itself consisted of three former prosecutors, two former state troopers and a former probation officer. She sided with a great deal of Southern States in arguing that the federal government shouldn't be able to force states to have new DNA evidence tested that could potentially prove prisoners innocent, even when they're on death row.

She also jumped when Senator Murray told her to, creating an expensive wire-tapping bill that would pave the way to purportedly clear the consciences of any state legislator who switches their vote on slots, without informing the Senate President that creating casinos will greatly increase crime and desperation, wire-tapping bill or not: This was not an example of an Attorney General deserving a profile in courage.

Finally, I fear her ability to transition from her duty to obey the law as a prosecutor to creating it in the Senate; her words and actions surrounding the Pitts-Stupak amendment only worsened those fears, showing a complete lack of understanding in legislative nuance. She said if she were in the House, she would have voted against the health care bill because it included the anti-choice amendment, even though that one vote would have killed health care reform and the anti-choice amendment wouldn't have passed in the Senate. Now she wants to get into the Senate to vote for the very bill which she would have killed, had she been in the House. She may one day be a good vote for Governor, but she's made it clear that's she's a bad vote for the Senate.

From this point forward, coming to decisions gets a lot harder. The choice between Michael Capuano and Alan Khazei is a difficult one. Both have worked tirelessly on behalf of causes that directly help those who have the least in life. Both have a great deal of national experience, one as a longtime member of the House and the other as someone who co-founded the national (and beyond) program City Year. Both would be strong progressives in the US Senate that Massachusetts could be proud of, though stylistically they would be different.

Capuano is very much a bread-and-butter liberal politician who's proven himself with years of service in the House. We need more of these kinds of people. The Globe, in their endorsement of Khazei, tried to come down on Capuano as a divisive career politician who was engaging in class warfare. As far as I see it, he was doing in the House the work that Ted Kennedy had done in the Senate for 47 years. Michael Capuano is far from divisive, he's just stood up for the kinds of people who have been attacked year after year since Ronald Reagan came into power in 1980. No one can replace Ted Kennedy and Michael Capuano is no Ted Kennedy, but stylistically, no one comes closer to him in this race.

Capuano is a bonafide constituent service guy who's willing to take the tough votes on issues that matter most. How can someone vote against that? Unfortunately, for Michael Capuano, Alan Khazei convinced me to do exactly that. Since no one can replace Ted Kennedy, it's important to vote for the person who has a special, unique talent that can't be learned or replicated and would be put to the service of the middle and working class. In that regard, Alan Khazei has proven himself.

At first, when I heard Khazei was running for Senate, I didn't know much about him or City Year. Among the things that I didn't know was the fact that if there weren't such a thing as City Year, there never would have been an Americorp. Not only was City Year a model for Americacorp, but if it weren't for Alan Khazei, there probably wouldn't be an Americorp after its creation, because Alan Khazei led the fight to save its funding (along with City Year's) when it came under a fierce attack by the the GOP while Bush was still in charge and the Senate belonged to the Republicans. Many Republicans hated Americorp and City Year, so sticking it to these programs was actually a surprisingly high priority at the time. Khazei showed an ability to rally people from across the country to save those programs, even reaching across the isle to get some quasi-moderate Republican Senators to come along, in true Ted Kennedy fashion.

Furthermore, Alan Khazei's willingness to get into issues on the stump that aren't directly related to the campaign show he's willing to stick up for what he thinks is right, regardless of the political consequences. In a country where politicians have become so vanilla and risk adverse, it's a particularly refreshing political trait. Alan Khazei's unique leadership and creativity, combined with his political courage, are at a drought on DC's Capitol Hill. It's important enough to get me past the few issues I disagree with Khazei on.

Either Michael Capuano or Alan Khazei is a good vote come election day, but Alan Khazei is the best choice, because voting for him isn't a choice at all. Should Alan Khazei win, we're still getting Michael Capuano, just in the House, where he'll not only continue to vote in the best interest of his voters, but continue to be an influential leader who's built up a lot of seniority in a day and age when Massachusetts is about to lose at least one of it's only ten remaining House seats. That may do little to console Michael Capuano should he lose and Alan Khazei win, but ultimately this election is about service -- and the people of Massachusetts are best served by having both in office, Alan Khazei being in the Senate.


Judy Meredith said...

Ryan I do respect you and your regular informed and sophisticated analysis, but this is lukewarm (at best)endorsement borders on being silly.

Quriltai said...

Huh. An interesting endorsement, and one that I can't agree with to an extent...though for fairness' sake it may not be a bad idea to date the Fells Acre case.

The last paragraph, however, makes it seem as if you won't vote for Mike Capuano because he's too good at what he did. If Khazei is as serious about the change as he says he is, why not vote for Capuano and then vote for Khazei this fall when he runs for another office?

USS Mass said...


Thank you for posting your thorough process of vetting the candidates. I am officially on the fence between two great candidates.
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Ryan said...


I'm just making the point that I think Capuano is still a good vote. I just think Khazei is a better one. Does the fact that I don't want to lose Capuano's voice factor into my decision? Possibly, but probably not, because if Capuano pulled a Bob Dole and announced he was retiring from the House either way, I'd vote for Khazei.

I only included my appreciation for all that Capuano has done -- and acknowledge the fact that, yes, I do think he'd be a solid Senator -- because I think that makes Khazei's impression on me all the more impressive.


If you took this as a lukewarm endorsement, that is not at all my intention. I think Capuano would make a very good Senator, but I think Khazei will make a great one. I tried to make that distinction. Should Khazei lose and Capuano win, I will very enthusiastically support Capuano, whereas I probably would only vote for Coakley or Pagluici.

Anonymous said...

why not brown

Ryan said...

I didn't think I needed to explain why I wouldn't vote for Brown (or Jack E. Robinson, for that matter). This blog is clearly a the writings of a democratic activist ;)

As for Brown, there are many Massachusetts elected Republicans who I respect, but I don't think I could ever get passed the time he went into a school auditorium, held an assembly and started swearing and yelling at the kids at the assembly. Regardless of his positions (many of which I strenuously disagree with), his actions have made it impossible for me to place him into consideration.

Daisy said...

I agree with your ultimate assessment that Alan Khazei is an exciting candidate, whose uniqueness in leadership and experience we are lucky to have before us right now.

I have been bothered by the increasing whispers to the effect of "If Khazei's so great, I'll vote for him later when he runs for something else".

If we don't vote for the great, and best, candidates we want who are RUNNING RIGHT NOW, we will never get the candidates that we repeatedly SAY we want.

Mike Capuano is a good Congressman and I respect him.

If Alan Khazei weren't in the field, I would probably vote for him.

But Alan Khazei is running today, now, because there is an open senate seat today, now.

This is an opportunity, a window in history, and I call BS on the strategery of justifying NOT voting for him ("He really IS great...") by saying you'll vote for him "later" (" I'll vote for him if he runs for Something Else"). Or engaging in the shady whisper campaign "'s a throwaway vote" [BS!].

I get the impulse (hey, we all want our candidate to win), but it strikes me as deeply cynical.

Vote for the best candidate, and if people of conscience DO this (instead of cynically triangulating their vote), the best candidate will win.

And to my eye, the very best candidate--an amazing candidate we are so fortunate to have running--is Alan Khazei.

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