Author Archives: Maurice T. Cunningham

About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.

Faith and Philosophy in Gov. Patrick’s Immigration Decision

Governor Deval Patrick’s remarkable press conference announcing that Massachusetts would welcome unaccompanied immigrant children continues to reverberate through the commonwealth. His actions and remarks carry implications for how we think about religion and politics, for political philosophy, and for our political institutions.

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Deval Patrick’s “City Upon a Hill”

Politicians from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan have invoked John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” phrase for political effect but few have embodied the phrase in the manner of Governor Deval Patrick, who seemingly alone among America’s governors is willing to extend a welcome to immigrant children who have flooded across our Southern borders. Winthrop’s speech was much more than a memorable phrase; it was a Model of Christian Charity, a call for those who enjoy the blessings of life to care for the less well off. Deval Patrick is brave in his willingness to live up to the commonwealth’s foundational document.  

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Martha Coakley Wins the Day

The Democratic insider narrative on Martha Coakley has been great AG, awful campaigner, way ahead in the primary due to name recognition, but “she could unravel at any moment in a tough general election race.’’

Perhaps we’ll see about the general election but Democrats, give Coakley some credit: she can be a pretty sharp campaigner as she proved yesterday in response to misogynistic statements by a sports talk radio host.

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Remembering Ernest Gruening

I’m just back from a vacation to Alaska and family fun to a political scientist means you visit the State House. There on the walls were duplications of newspaper stories proudly recalling Alaska statehood in 1959 including photographs of one of the most important politicians in achieving statehood, Ernest Gruening.

That name may have faded from memory but it should be recalled and honored. Senator Ernest Gruening was one of only two United States Senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which permitted President Lyndon B. Johnson to escalate the War in Vietnam. Johnson’s case for war, by the way, was based on lies, if that should sound familiar at all.

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Our Immigrant Future

Recently I’ve been working on an article on political cultures in Massachusetts and returned to the Yeomen, a group I’ve discussed here before. The small town Yeomen of years past are gone but the Tea Party carries on. I’ve compared the Tea Party to the Know-Nothings but that was very unfair to the Nineteenth Century Americanists. The Know-Nothings were actually forward looking on many policies in Massachusetts, including economic, women’s rights, and school integration.

In their Nativist dislike of immigrants however, the Know-Nothings and Tea Party are similar. And listen, who could have guessed that the Irish would turn out alright? But we had better keep the welcome mat out for Latino and Asian immigrants in Massachusetts; they are our future.

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Who Were Those Delegates Anyway?

During the recent debate over the utility of the party conventions some critics like the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh criticized the conventions for excluding decent candidates like Juliette Kayyem, while Professor Ubertaccio and I defended the right of political parties to make their own nominating decisions. One columnist’s back-room insider is another professor’s dedicated party activist perhaps.

A more important issue though might be, who are those delegates anyway? And what do they represent?

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Republican Revolution? Not This Way

Before and even after the recent state party nominating conventions my colleague Professor Ubertaccio and I engaged the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh in a friendly and spirited debate over the fifteen percent rule. Underlying the points we were making is a healthy respect for the role that political parties play in our democracy. Political parties are not popular with the public and some columnists but as Professor Duquette explained recently, they have many essential functions.

So I read with interest Jim Sullivan’s piece in Capital on June 27, The Republican Revolution Is Underway. Maybe.

Four million dollars in five years to help Republican state legislative candidates sounds pretty good. But the money isn’t going to the Republican State Committee, it’s going to a SuperPAC and affiliated non-profit that will operate outside of the state party framework. Is this any way to build a party?

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Our Ancient Faith

Last year for America’s birthday I compiled some of my favorite quotations from Abraham Lincoln about the Declaration of Independence. They appear below. Lincoln revered the Declaration and proclaimed it “my ancient faith.” The scholar Garry Wills in his book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America argued that Lincoln placed equality in a central place in our national discourse where it had not been before. This has been exposed in a sense by some conservative scholars but, too late; Will says we understand the Declaration the way Lincoln taught it.

The Declaration is still revealing itself to us and perhaps always will. It is adapted in calls for equality from oppressed groups, as in the Seneca Falls Resolution calling for women’s rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” At his “I Have a Dream” speech Dr. Martin Luther King opened with language recalling the Gettysburg Address and stated that “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

That was Lincoln’s creed, and his ancient faith.

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Another Jacoby Unforced Error

Sometimes, as when Jeff Jacoby recently equated anti-gay marriage advocates with Black civil rights champions, his columns are so odd as to be dismissed as not serious. Sunday’s column was one of those. Jacoby argued that the victory of Thad Cochran over Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in the Republican Mississippi Senate primary was proof positive that Cochran’s appeal to African American voters showed Black voting access is a “right that is no longer endangered anywhere in America, not even in Mississippi.”

You pretty much have to ignore the concepts of reference point and context to make Jacoby’s argument.

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Surging Independents? Nah

I was scrolling through MassterList Tuesday morning when I noticed that Evan Falchuk has filed enough signatures to get on the ballot as an independent candidate for governor. If he gets three percent his United Independent Party gets party status in the commonwealth. MassterList reported “You see 60 percent of representatives in the House are running unopposed and a similar percentage in the Senate are running unopposed,” Falchuk told WGBH News. “There is a great need for new, smart, independent people to get involved in our politics.”

From this you might gather that there is a public outcry for right-thinking citizens to band together, reject the Democratic and Republican parties, and coalesce in some sort of party of the decent, hard-working, commonsensical majority.

Wrong.

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