Category Archives: U.S. Politics

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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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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Who benefits by serial allegations of corruption? The US Attorney’s Office

If federal prosecutors hoped the trial of John O’Brien might have focused our collective attention on the sins of political patronage, they seem to have failed.  It’s the power of the US Attorney’s office that increasingly draws scrutiny.  And not for the first time.

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Mass Politics: Ambition Welcome

An appreciation of political culture is very important to effective campaign strategy at any level. The way in which candidates deal with the question of political ambition (theirs and/or their opponents) reveals a lot about how well a campaign understands the cultural assumptions of voters.

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Jacoby is shaming the wrong partisans

In this morning’s Boston Globe Jeff Jacoby uses the unanimous Supreme Court decision in the buffer zone case to shame liberal politicians in Massachusetts. I wonder if it occurred to the hyper-partisan Jacoby that the same decision may well reflect an important difference between the High Court’s liberal and conservative justices.

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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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The Casino Question Could Help Baker

Charlie Baker’s biggest liability is his party label. Association with Republicans in Washington is to be avoided like the plague. The SJC’s decision to put the casino repeal question on the November ballot complicates the work of all the statewide candidates, but may help the Republican nominee for governor by steering the political narrative away from national politics.

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The Perils of Poll-Driven Journalism

Analyzing public opinion polls is tricky. One of the tricks to getting it right (in my opinion) is to never elevate the numbers above the known elements of the larger context. Media analysis of the early polls in the Massachusetts governor’s race has been a bit shaky in this respect and we here at MassPoliticsProfs will continue to correct misinterpretations of the now weekly polls in that race, but today I would like to use the analysis of new national polling data by the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza to highlight what I see as an increasingly common problem; the misinterpretation of context in the interpretation of polling results.

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Debate on 15% rule reflects conflicting perspectives, interests

As we approach the appearance of the Masspoliticsprofs in Worcester this weekend (apparently there will also be a few Democrats at the DCU Center conducting an endorsement convention for statewide candidates), I feel compelled to add my voice to that of my MPP colleagues regarding the infamous 15% rule. I am particularly interested in the differences between how political scientists and journalists view this sort of thing.

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Politics in the Blogosphere, June 9, 2014 Edition

Bad news, Progressives: Medicare is a failure, according to political scientist Peter Shuck. He writes about why government so often fails to produce what it promises efficiently. Is it fair to label Charlie Baker a progressive, as Tom Keane recently did in the Boston Globe? And are the super rich buying democracy and getting what they pay for?

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