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.

Probation Mess: Go for the Jugular, Charlie

Yesterday my colleague Professor Duquette counseled Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker to forego attacks on the Democrats over corruption. Professor Duquette’s reasoning was that an attack on the leadership in the wake of the Probation Department verdict would incite legislative Democrats to deploy their mighty organizations against Baker; thus campaigning on Democratic corruption would backfire on Baker.

Professor Duquette is wrong. Here’s why.

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Speaking of Immigrants

Joanna Weiss began her column on immigrant children in powerful fashion the other day: “What if the Irish potato famine happened today?” We do have that history and I’ve always marveled at how it was summarized by my late friend the Boston College historian Thomas O’Connor in his book The Boston Irish: A Political History “If there had existed in the nineteenth century a computer able to digest all the appropriate data, it would have reported one city in the entire world where an Irish Catholic, under any circumstance, should never, ever, set foot. That city was Boston, Massachusetts.”

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No White Hats

The long ordeal between US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien ended its trial phase yesterday with a verdict in favor of the US Attorney. Both sides as well as defendants-by-proxy Speaker Robert DeLeo and the Massachusetts legislature came out considerably diminished. It’s hard to look upon the fraudulent conduct at the Probation Department as business as usual; it went beyond that.  The US Attorney’s Office zealously pushing the limits in political prosecutions is business a usual, but unfortunately there is no Spotlight Team to stop them.

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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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