Monday, January 26, 2009

Salvatore Imperfetto

Our fleeing speaker of the house, Salvatore F. DiMasi, is imperfect. In fairness, I confess only to readers here that so am I.

That leads to a conundrum for partisans on all the edges. While not as delusional or dishonest as say a Coulter or Limbaugh, lefties too want surrogates who are political Mini-Me characters. We'd like legislators and other leaders who would act and vote just as we would in those positions.

As we willingly broom Sal out onto Beacon Street tomorrow, the worthiness of our expectations is low. How reasonable, we should ask ourselves, am I to expect him or Barack Obama or anyone to act out all that I think and feel?

Of course, on the face of it, that's absurd. Cue clich├ęs about each human being unique, life being filled with compromises, and the necessity of contacting our officials. Blah, blah, but not much more.

That may be true, but not convincing for so many of us, left, right or focused on a single issue. We surely are disappointed and sometimes bitterly when a President or other politician votes our goals here but with the forces of evil there.

Sal's a quintessential pol for Massachusetts and particularly for me. He leaves with the praise and fond memories of Bay Windows editors, GLAD attorneys and many active in the LGBT communities. For an Italian Catholic who came from a North End cold-water flat, he showed some real guts and humanism on gay rights, including same-sex marriage. Leave it to other reps and senators to clutch the hem of the local archbishops' hems over the years or to court anti-gay groups for support. Here, DiMasi unquestionably did the right things, long before they were accepted or popular.

Likewise, his sponsorship of universal health care here was brave and pioneering. It was yet another of instance of equity and a willingness to lead.

Now, the 63-year-old is sneaking out of the state house after 30 years. A grand-jury investigation and legal clouds move with him like Al Capp's Joe Btfsplk. That's not unusual for our legislators or those of numerous other states where heads of a chamber leave in disgrace or even head to jail.

Long before any serious allegations that he swapped influence, DiMasi was on my bad side. Most damningly, I found that the speaker derailed progressive goals and stymied financial stability in favor of corporations. Had he not stopped new Gov. Deval Patrick's sweeping reforms, we would be a more just and certainly financially sound state.

So, back to the original question. Is a Sal DiMasi a good guy or a devil?

He favored and advanced major and minor goals I wanted. Yet, he was a huge impediment to others and to the progressive governor's programs.

I fear the answer includes:
  • You have to work to cultivate the best possible candidates and get them to run
  • You support and vote for the best of those
  • You work with the resulting administration and legislators for what you want
  • You praise the good deeds
  • You go back again to change their minds where they do not align with what you want
So that would put Sal in the middle in lefty terms. That's where Mass Scorecard put him in how well he aligned with the Democratic Party platform. They gave him a gentleman's C, in the 70% range. My personal report card for him is similar.

That's almost certain better than the next speaker will do. We don't have any progressive champions rushing for DiMasi's job. Moreover, the severe economic constraints may prevent much of substance from happening for a couple of years. With little chance that the Republicans and DINOs will gain much more power, that puts us in a holding pattern.

Put another way, that's time to return to working on that list above.

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