Baker’s absence in Cleveland speaks volumes

Governor’s decision underscores divisive tone of Trump campaign

AS PROMISED, Gov. Charlie Baker didn’t show up for the start of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland yesterday. But Baker did weigh in on critical issues relating to race and urban communities just before the presidential proceedings in the Buckeye State got underway.

On Sunday, Baker spoke forcefully on Channel 5‘s On The Record, saying that he sees an “opportunity gap” in urban communities and has made efforts to include blacks, Latinos, and Asians in his administration at all levels.

“I campaigned a lot of time … in communities of color [in 2014],” he said. “That’s why we created an urban agenda…that’s how you get to … an opportunity to find common ground … to bridge that divide and engage the discussion … obviously there is more that we can do.”

“I think we have made progress, but we take this one pretty seriously,” the governor said of the state of race relations and opportunity in America.

Would that one could say the same about the party convention playing out in Ohio without him.

Baker has pledged that he would not vote for Trump in November in part because of the candidate’s divisiveness along racial and ethnic lines. Instead, Baker will likely cast a blank ballot or perhaps write-in a name for president.

Baker, the country’s most popular governor, according to national polls, is making a bold statement about the divided state of Republican politics. His decision to boycott the convention may even help make the way for a revived and refreshed national Republican Party in 2020, one where perhaps he could even be its standard-bearer.

But that’s way down the road.

When it comes to this year’s gathering, Baker is hardly alone in taking a pass on the quadrennial party assembly. Also boycotting the convention are past Republican presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. Even Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich — the unofficial host of the convention — is staying away.

Yesterday’s proceedings — which featured Trump’s wife, Melania, caught apparently cribbing Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic convention speech — did not conclude without a healthy dose of Hillary-bashing and a bit of racial dog whistling.

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Patricia Smith, who lost her soldier son, in the Benghazi conflict, blamed Clinton, then secretary of state, for his death. And David Clark, sheriff of Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, challenged the efficacy of the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that it provokes anger and reverse racism.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions will nominate Trump tonight. That will put an official end to any effort to dethrone Trump as the party’s nominee. With two more nights to go, the Republican convention saga continues.

Kevin Peterson is founder of the New Democracy Coalition, which focuses on civic literacy, civic policy and electoral justice. Darnell Williams is president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. They are coauthoring commentary pieces this week and next on the impact urban issues are having on the Republican and Democratic national conventions.