Politics doesn’t have to be about blood sport

Boston mayoral race is about change -- now that's exciting

THIS WEEK marks 40 weeks since I launched my campaign for mayor of Boston—the first of the 2021 election cycle—and just 11 weeks to go until the September preliminary election.

There’s been unprecedented civic engagement in the mayor’s race—with more than 40 candidate forums to date, held in-person and virtually. After thousands of conversations on the doorsteps of Bostonians, and hundreds of events in all corners of the city, one thing is clear: Boston is energized by this historically diverse candidate field and this moment of tremendous consequence for our city.

So I was surprised, and a little alarmed, by Tuesday’s CommonWealth headline, “When is the Boston mayoral race going to pick up?”, which featured a reductive description of Boston’s election as “boring…blandness” in comparison to New York City’s “intensely acrimonious” election. I recognize my bias in declaring that the Boston mayor’s race has been and remains fascinating. But it is downright harmful to feed into the Trump-fueled notion that it’s only worth tuning into politics for personal conflict and drama, or scandals that reinforce trauma in our communities. 

Growing up, I never gave a thought to getting involved in politics, a field I believed to be the domain of loud and combative men. But having seen the ways that our systems fail far too many families, with the same conversations about the same issues, year after year, it’s not enough to push for changes to policies—we need transformative politics. Fighting for our values and vision doesn’t have to mean tearing other people down. To the contrary, we need to build community and build coalitions to foster the trust that’s needed to deliver bold change.

I’m proud to be running for mayor with a vision to make Boston a city for everyone—through a discourse that’s not aimed at attracting spectators to a blood sport, but engaging community members as stewards of our shared future.

Journalism is key to shaping this dynamic—in short, it helps when journalists use their powerful platforms to lift up policy distinctions and visions rather than wait for inter-candidate brawling. The last mention of the Boston mayoral race in CommonWealth was weeks ago, covering the details of a text message poll. To date, there has not been one single article from this platform examining the differences in track record or policy commitments across the candidate field. 

This is a shame, because we candidates are putting in the work to highlight our distinctions and unique visions. Last week, my campaign took a deep dive on Boston’s pressing housing affordability crisis and how city leadership can create solutions. Every single day, we held a press conference or event to discuss a different facet of the bold solutions Boston can deliver for housing stability, affordability, and homeownership. We’ve proposed the first city-level Green New Deal in the country and fare-free transportation as cornerstone ideas that have sparked national conversation.

Community organizations have been taking the lead to vet candidates and turn up the sizzle too. At a mayoral forum hosted last week by the Jamaica Plain Progressives, Boston Branch of the NAACP, Mijente Boston Asamblea, Right to the City Vote coalition, and Chinese Progressive Political Action, candidates spent nearly two hours rotating through timed questions, Final Jeopardy!-style questions testing our Boston city government knowledge, and hot-seat inquiries directed at individual candidates—from moderators and fellow candidates. 

Make no mistake: This is an exciting race full of candidates with clear policy differences. The 2021 Boston mayoral race presents a perfect opportunity to set a new standard for building trust in politics and in our communities.

Meet the Author

Michelle Wu

City Councilor, City of Boston
After all, the excitement of politics shouldn’t just center on the drama that erupts during the campaign cycle—the bold changes we have the potential to achieve together are much more exhilarating.

Michelle Wu is an at-large Boston city councilor and a candidate for mayor.