“There’s no collaboration without trust,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a self-congratulatory final State of the Commonwealth Address last January, where he boasted of successfully building a climate of trust on Beacon Hill.
If true, what an extraordinary achievement, coming at a time when, according to long-term polling, trust in government in America has plummeted to “historically low levels.”
But – it’s not true.
Baker’s sky-high approval ratings attest to a high level of trust in his personal brand. That’s no small thing. But his claim of presiding over a political culture where “collaboration” trumps partisanship, mutual respect reigns, and unicorns stand by to provide fresh milk and honey to the thirsty and hungry doesn’t pass the rueful laugh test.
For starters, the Massachusetts public seems to have little trust in its political establishment at either the national or local level.
A recent UMass-Lowell poll showed a sizable minority don’t trust the electoral process; 28% overall believe Trump won the 2020 election (71% of Republicans drink this Kool-Aid), and get this – 31% think Clinton was the rightful winner in 2016, including a whopping 47% of Democrats. Fear, loathing and conspiracy theories know no partisan boundaries.
And when they polled favorable views of top local pols, only Baker, heiress-apparent Maura Healey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren topped 50%. The honeymoon (if there ever was one) is over for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at 45% approval, and US Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Seth Moulton are way underwater at 40% and 30% approval respectively.
By comparison, Market Basket draws 77% approval, with Dunkin Donuts at 78.
Other recent polling shows faltering trust in Beacon Hill’s ability to deliver tax relief and oversee safe distribution of drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants. Do we really need to wait for pollsters to tell us trust in the MBTA is cratering?
And while it may not be breaking news that voters are skeptical of the Beacon Hill establishment, there are plenty of signs that the pols don’t trust each other either.
The state education establishment shows little trust in Wu; wild guess, the feeling’s mutual. Ask any Jewish official how they feel about rampant anti-Israel bias in local political circles and the indifference of many of their colleagues to recent anti-Semitic incidents. Antipathy between the House and Senate is as bad as ever, if not worse.
Legislative leaders have so little remaining confidence in Baker’s management skills they are even making noises about violating a longstanding legislative taboo by taking more responsibility for MBTA management.
Other than that, it’s a regular freakin’ Summer of Love up there.
Guess what? For all the spin about Massachusetts political exceptionalism, there is no 30-foot-high social-media-resistant wall around our state keeping the nation’s uber-toxic politics out of our groundwater.
As Baker put it in his exit speech: “Trust is earned and collaboration is how difficult things get done.”
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