Charlie Baker’s decision to not seek a third term as governor of Massachusetts has drawn a range of reactions and set off speculation about who might jump in to succeed the Swampscott Republican, since his lieutenant governor, Karyn Polito, has also ruled out a candidacy.
But before the gubernatorial sweepstakes toggles to full throttle— as it undoubtedly will before Santa takes flight— let us take a moment to say what’s on the minds of many unenrolled — and a good number of Democrats, too: We’ll be sorry to see Gov. Baker leave the stage. He has been an effective leader for the Commonwealth and a voice of reason and compassion within a once-respectable party that is now mostly bereft of such attributes.
While this space has on occasion been critical of the governor—and likely will be again, as needed—Baker’s leadership and good nature throughout his tenure have been admirable. His steady hand and even temperament throughout the Covid-19 pandemic were welcome balms to the ravages of the virus and a much-needed counterweight to the callousness and outright buffoonery that emanated daily from the Oval Office throughout 2020. Much like his counterpart in Boston’s City Hall— Labor Secretary Walsh— Gov. Baker brought a sense of calm and order to the local Covid-19 response. And while the hindsight of history will no doubt find room for harsher critiques, there was never any doubt in these quarters that Baker and his team sought to lead us through the haze with a sense of urgency, good intentions, and integrity.
There is more than a pinch of melancholy, then, to contemplate Baker’s exit, accompanied as it will be by a staggering state GOP that seeks to denigrate its own distinguished statesman at every turn. Animated by the basest impulses of the Trump cultists— whose adherents have zero-tolerance for those who won’t bend the knee to their idol— they choose irrelevance over reelection. You’ll find here no pangs of sympathy for those wild-eyed yahoos, who represent — at best— a tenth of our state’s electorate. There are many hard-left Dems, no doubt, salivating over the spectacle to come: a crash-and-burn of historic proportions as comrades Diehl and Lyons preside over a plunge into ignominy. They’ll likely get an eyeful.
But might the larger column of citizens— the one that claims neither party as our own— be forgiven if we don’t exult in this moment? While regular turnover in Beacon Hill’s executive suite may be a virtue, so, too, is the power balance that comes with a bipartisan exchange. There’ll be no chance of that under the once-extremist and now-conventional wing of the GOP that continues to cough up legislative seats like a phlegmatic elephant that’s downed one-too-many draughts at the Golden Dome.
It’s hard to blame Baker, Polito, or any other rational being for not wanting to debase themselves with the mud bath that would be a Republican primary. Still, it would have been nice to send a message to the nation— not to mention the Trump dead-enders within our own borders— that Charlie Baker’s brand of governance and politicking still has an audience and a future someplace in this land. Legions of unenrolled voters— and many Dems – in these parts would’ve broken rank to see to it.
In any event, many people in our city and Commonwealth will lament Gov. Baker’s departure next year. We wish him well as he and his team set forth to lead the state into their final lap.