(Looks Like Keller has a winner here. Don’t forget to buy your copy through the RMG Amazon store! – promoted by EaBo Clipper)
I’m surprised they haven’t tried to key Jon Keller’s car yet.
Apparently, Massachusetts’ liberal blogosphere is none too thrilled with the Boston political analyst’s new book The Bluest State: How Democrats Created the Massachusetts Blueprint for American Political Disaster. A major Bay State progressive site is currently in the process of publishing a chapter-by-chapter takedown of the book: on the site’s comment sections, Keller’s work is being demonized as the hate-filled rantings of a cranky right-wing hack who despises his state and his generation.
It appears that Mr. Keller has cut too close to the bone for these hypersensitive souls. Far from the mindless screed his detractors insist the book is, The Bluest State is a brilliant, heartbreaking, dead-on depiction of the ultra-liberalism that has made this beautiful Commonwealth so ugly.
Keller’s chronicle of left-wing baby-boomer arrogance and its harrowing consequences begins with the 1994 controversy over then-US Senate candidate Mitt Romney’s description of a campaign stop in Dorchester, Massachusetts: “I was in Dorchester not long ago. Someone said, `This is Kennedy country,’ and they handed a sign to me in front of my face. And I looked around and I saw boarded-up buildings, and I saw jobs leaving, and I said, `It looks like it.'”
The Bay State left reacted in horror to the remark: as Keller describes it, “[Romney] had entered the den of American liberalism and urinated on the shag carpet by singling out the defining symbol of an entire political culture’s self-esteem and pronouncing it a failure.” Yet, if one characterizes “Kennedy country” as a region whose residents haven’t been helped by the “compassionate” liberalism of its political leaders, Romney’s remark was perfectly accurate. “More than a decade after Mitt Romney gave his caustic take on the Kennedy legacy,” Keller writes, “the North Dorchester neighborhood where he was heckled by Kennedy partisans is still plagued by abandoned buildings and joblessness. Drug abuse and its criminal side effects are rampant. After rave reviews for Boston’s anticrime `miracle’ programs of the 1990s, violent street crime is once again soaring in North Dorchester and other poor city neighborhoods.”
The dark truth about Massachusetts–the truth that Keller’s vociferous detractors simply do not want to hear–is that “its most important vow–of a government in touch with and devoted to the working classes and the poor, delivering on its commitment to improve their lives and enhance their opportunities–has turned out to be a broken promise.” Under a political system dominated by superficially progressive Democrats who pay lip service to the problems of the state’s less well-off, “the poor [in Massachusetts] lack hope and live in Appalachia-like squalor, [and] even middle-class workers with salaries well above the national median struggle to afford inferior housing, hold jobs that barely subsidize survival, and wait in vain for meaningful help from the state government.”
The problems that face Massachusetts stem from politicians who came of age during the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s, “idealistic” folks who believed that the most important thing in life was their emotional objection to injustice and inequality, not their actual efforts to eliminate those ills. “The first wave of boomers,” notes Keller, “was graduating from college and turning Massachusetts college towns into prime breeding grounds for many of the progressive politicians, policy wonks, and cultural critics who make American liberalism what it is today…Massachusetts boomers grew up feeling special and politically superior…” Instead of honestly addressing issues of poverty, crime, and education, these boomers chose to live in the past, forever polishing the Kennedy plaque. As a result of this failure to make theoretical progressive principles real, Massachusetts “…has become an abandoned movie lot where great moments in American civic life and modern-day political liberalism were once played out, but no more.”
The elitist boomer class made provisions for the underclass, creating a vast welfare state that was only dismantled under federal pressure in the 1990s. Yet Massachusetts Democrats never saw fit to look out for the working and middle classes; it was far easier to demonize state and federal Republicans as hostile to the interests of both groups.
For many years, the only folks in Massachusetts who truly cared about the economic suffering of the working and middle classes were limited-government activists like Barbara Anderson; Keller notes that Anderson and her supporters “…had established themselves as the state’s most effective check on runaway taxation, far more formidable than the toothless handful of Republicans in the legislature.” Yet, the state’s political culture so assaults the non-wealthy that more and more middle- and working-class folks find themselves forced to flee the state.
They leave behind a state dominated by special interests, left-wing extremists who bring about peculiar results in two consecutive gubernatorial elections. First, Shannon O’Brien–an early favorite to win the 2002 contest–is forced by pro-choice hard-liners to endorse the liberalization of state parental-consent laws regarding abortion, a disastrous mistake that dooms her chances against Romney. Then, four years later, the hard left unites behind Patrick, powering him to primary and general-election victories. Keller’s depiction of Patrick’s path to victory is flawless: “…with well-tailored suits and an Ivy League syntax, Patrick quickly became the darling of the aging boomer activists and donors who occupied the liberal wing of the state Democratic party. His platform shied away from any serious, specific reforms…Instead, the platform hinted at more expansive social spending while decrying `dishonest’ tax cuts. His stump speech was a feel-good spectacular right out of the Kennedy era, replete with positive buzz phrases about reaching out to `people who have checked out’ to get them to `check back in.’…While early-fall  surveys showed [GOP opponent Kerry] Healey’s views on crime far more popular than Patrick’s, at the end of the campaign far more voters somehow found Patrick tougher on crime than his opponent. The personal appeal of Patrick’s candidacy had trumped its political weaknesses.”
Left-wing extremism is bad enough when contained in Massachusetts, but when it’s exported to other states–via failed Democrat Presidential candidates Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, not to mention the state’s ultra-liberal Congressional delegation–it’s far, far worse. Robert F. Kennedy had moved to the hard-left by the time of his 1968 assassination; Ted Kennedy picked up the extremist baton, becoming a cartoonish symbol of left-wing excess and stumbling his way through a 1980 Presidential bid. The state’s Congressmen have demonstrated a passionate admiration for our enemies, seemingly finding Hugo Chavez a more suitable leader than George W. Bush. Keller coins the phrase “Americaphobia” to describe the Massachusetts Democrat vision of foreign policy; it is this vision that doomed Kerry in November 2004.
Kerry lived in his own political world, oblivious to those who disagreed with his anti-Vietnam War activism, nonchalant about offending voters in other states by defying local cultural customs. Kerry had been arrogant and cold for years as a Massachusetts Senator; his laziness in office was offset by Kennedy’s willingness to respond to constituents’ needs, and his lack of effectiveness was ignored by the liberal Boston media. Keller labels Kerry a “…stunted figure, afflicted with a form of political autism, unable to genuinely connect with outsiders.” Massachusetts liberalism was Kerry’s cocoon; George W. Bush and 62 million voters broke that cocoon in half, to Kerry’s eternal anger.
Of course, it can be argued that Massachusetts liberalism–and the state’s parochial political culture–broke Romney in half during his four years as Massachusetts governor. After foolishly challenging his validity as a Massachusetts resident, the Bay State Democrat machine attempted to crush Romney in the 2002 election; having failed in that mission thanks to O’Brien’s pandering to the hard-left, Massachusetts Democrats obstructed Romney at almost every turn. It’s hard to blame Romney for seemingly losing interest in his job midway through his term: “Massachusetts voters put Romney into office out of despair over a moribund economy and a stagnant political culture unable or unwilling to craft workable solutions. That same culture gratuitously shunned Romney and his ideas because it couldn’t distinguish between its personal instincts and the public interest…”
Parochialism and liberalism have suffocated Massachusetts, giving us the ironic double-bill of unchecked political correctness and a good-old-boy political network responsible for such public-works horrors as the Big Dig. No wonder the state is considered a national laughingstock. No wonder the Massachusetts influence has been such a negative one for the national Democrat Party.
Despite the whining of his loudest critics, Keller does not hate the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In fact, he loves the state, and wishes our political system would be truly responsive to the needs of those in whose name the left-wing elites claim to speak. Keller shares some of the state’s predominant political attitudes; he considers himself pro-choice and rejects conservative arguments against same-sex marriage. Yet, he writes, “I’m also a liberal who’s been mugged. Over twenty-five years of covering Massachusetts politics, I’ve seen the dream curdle into something sour and sad. When it comes to political leadership–the kind that grows with the times, responds to change, stays in close touch with the real needs and aspirations of the people it represents, and shows the rest of America how it should be done–Massachusetts, once first among equals, is now Nowheresville.” He implores the Bay State political class to rise above left-wing orthodoxy, acknowledge that non-liberal ideas may have some merit, and–most of all–live up to the tenets of true progressivism (even if that means doing battle with powerful special interests such as teachers unions). Only by casting off the shackles of self-righteousness and arrogance can Democrats in Massachusetts become truly effective–and set a template that will lead the national Democrat Party back to respectability.
The Bluest State is not a mediocrity but a masterwork, a cry for change that will resonate long after the sniping of Keller’s enemies has been forgotten. Keller speaks with a voice that is far more profound than the tinny whining of his adversaries. It is his voice that will be remembered for years to come.