Month 4, September 2013
"The way to get started is to quit talking, and start doing." – Walt Disney
In the fourth month of this diary of my independent campaign for Governor, things that were previously unclear have now come into sharper focus. Two candidates announced they would be running in 2014, and both are favorites for their respective Democratic and Republican party nominations.On the Democratic side, there is Attorney General Martha Coakley, who famously lost her bid to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate in 2010. For the Republicans, it’s former health insurance CEO and private equity investor, Charlie Baker, who lost his race to defeat Deval Patrick for Governor in the last gubernatorial race, also in 2010.
Their campaign launch announcements came via video. Baker didn’t meet with press until some days later, at his home, north of Boston. Coakley spent the days following her announcement doing quick drop-ins at diners, where she “met voters,” which from press accounts seemed to be comprised of “Hi, I’m Martha Coakley, I’m running for Governor, and I’d like your vote.”
Both candidates have spent most of their time talking about how they are remaking their images for this race, but unfortunately very little on actual substance. A cartoon in The Boston Globe poked fun at the two, showing both sitting next to each other in beauty salon chairs. Discussion has been around the kind of “redemption” the candidates hope to get from voters – not so much what they’d actually do for voters. It’s a reversal of John F. Kennedy’s great call to his generation. Today it seems it’s “ask not what a candidate can do for our country, ask what voters can do for the candidate.”
But this independent campaign has always been about what we can create, together, when we move beyond these tired, partisan ways of doing business. With the growing number of independents we’re seeing nationwide, never has there been a better opportunity for real, genuine debate and dialogue on the important issues we face. Never has there been a greater need to restore the confidence and faith we must have in our government in order to make real, meaningful progress.
One topic voters talk about when I and my volunteers travel around Massachusetts is the high cost of healthcare in our state. In my 14 years in the healthcare industry, as part of a team that hired hundreds of people in Massachusetts, the cost of health insurance was one of the most important challenges we faced. But you don’t hear the two party candidates talking about perhaps the leading cause of this – a key issue independent voters are so hungry to hear more about.
That leading cause, plain and simple, is that the health insurance and hospital industries in Massachusetts have become highly concentrated. Nearly 80 percent of health insurance premiums go to only three large insurance companies, and nearly 70 percent of health care spending is with hospitals affiliated with increasingly large hospital systems. Market power like this breeds anticompetitive behavior, and monopolistic practices that hurt consumers, small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as doctors, nurses and their patients.
Our state government has meticulously documented these practices, but has done little to address them. Worse, the leading Democratic candidate is the regulator responsible for this industry, and the Republican candidate a former CEO of one of the biggest players in that same industry. On one of the most important issues facing our state, they cannot be counted on to take meaningful action. Turning a blind eye to issues like this that play such a critical role in our growth and economic security is flat-out wrong. This complacency and “this-is-just-the-way-we-do-things” mentality hurts all voters, regardless of party.
More than 53 percent of voters in Massachusetts have chosen to be “Unenrolled” – preferring to be independent of the two parties. Voters say the parties don’t represent their priorities, and don’t like how every issue is seen as an ideological test.
But times are changing. Maine elected an independent Governor, Angus King, and after re-electing him as Governor next elected him in 2012 to the U.S. Senate – where independent leadership is sorely needed. A rising tide of independent politics is emerging throughout the northeast, in particular, and Massachusetts will be at the heart of this new, vibrant independent movement.
In Massachusetts, for example, in both our campaign and our growing United Independent movement, we have a strong and growing team. With seven staff and an increasing number of volunteers all across the state, we are, unlike any other candidate, running a statewide, truly grassroots campaign.
This dynamic and dedicated team is fueled by an unshakable belief that through our determination and hard work we will not only win, but redraw the map of politics in Massachusetts. This really can happen – and that’s incredibly inspiring.
And this leads to the larger point: The world is how it is either because we make it that way, or because, through inaction, we let it get that way. As a voter, wherever you live, you have to decide – will you complain about our broken politics, or will you take action? Will you tell your friends, donate a few dollars, or volunteer? Or will you just click “like” and move on?
Never have the stakes been higher. Never has the opportunity been greater to create a new future. And never has it been clearer that now, finally, is the time to act.