Democrats’ circular firing squad

Yes, there was the sure-bet presidential contest that slipped away. And both branches of Congress are firmly in Republican hands. But despite all that — or, perhaps more accurately, because of it — these should be good days for Democrats.

The new president seems about as clueless in office as he projected himself to be on the campaign trail — and he has poll numbers to prove it. Meanwhile, Republicans don’t seem able to agree on what to do and what they actually believe in now that they have, on paper, the votes to pass any measure they want in the House and Senate.

If you thought the opposition party would seize on the opportunity to make gains by showing itself to be the sensible and sane alternative to Republican bumbling, you haven’t met today’s Democratic Party.

Republicans may be hobbled by infighting, but Democrats seem determined to outdo them when it comes to displays of party disunity and dysfunction.

So it is that a race for mayor of Omaha has turned into a national story as Democratic Party leaders twist and turn after being called on to denounce the party nominee, a Catholic rising star in Nebraska named Heath Mello, because he has supported some pro-life positions. (Mello nonetheless says he supports Roe vs. Wade.)

The new Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez, had been “unapologetic” in his support for Mello, the New York Times reported. But after the abortion issue blew up, he beat a hasty retreat and issued a statement ripping Mello for his stance. The leader of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a major abortion rights advocacy group, had called Perez’s support for Mello — as well as that of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who headlined a rally for him — a betrayal.

“It took a mayoral election in Omaha, of all things, to reveal that the Democratic Party is capable of outdoing the Republicans in self-destruction,” writes Robert Sullivan in the Jesuit publication America.

While Sanders was pushing a big-tent approach in Nebraska, urging Democrats to stay practical and try to expand their base in more conservative areas, the Vermont senator went wobbly himself when it came to last week’s special election for a Georgia House seat long held by Republicans. Sanders wavered on whether Democrat Jon Ossoff was enough of a progressive, though he has since reaffirmed his support for him. (Yes, Sanders himself is not formally a Democrat, but he plays one on TV — and in presidential primaries.)

All of it is a bit too much for Rep. Richard Neal, the dean of the state’s all-Democratic House delegation. The Springfield pol tells the Globe’s Joan Vennochi that all the activist energy unleashed by outrage over the election of Donald Trump amounts to nothing if Democrats can’t gain control of the House by winning 218 seats.

“The energy is on the left,” Neal tells her in an interview. “But having said that, if you don’t start saying, ‘How do you get to 218?,’ the energy is for naught.”

Vennochi says Seth Moulton is another of the state’s House members who seems to understand that. The Salem congressman supported an unsuccessful challenge to the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi. Vennochi says Moulton has also challenged his own party on the issue of connecting better with middle-class voters — something that Moulton talked about last week in this Codcast interview.

Democrats seem gleeful at Trump’s missteps and the divisions within his party. But they seem to have lost sight of the fundamental truism about politics being a game of addition.

–MICHAEL JONAS


 

BEACON HILL

Five GOP lawmakers push a plan to rein in the cost of MassHealth by limiting eligibility, requiring participants above the federal poverty level to pay a portion of the cost, and appointing a control board to oversee the program which accounts for 42 percent of the state budget. (State House News)

The lawmakers overseeing a rewrite of the state’s voter-approved pot law are struggling with what to do with those with marijuana convictions on their record. (CommonWealth)

At a site in Quincy slated for a mixed-housing project, Gov. Charlie Baker announced he will seek a bonding bill for $1.3 billion for the state to invest in “workforce housing” in Gateway Cities. (Patriot Ledger)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial sides with the state supervisor of public records, who is pressing Baker to comply with the Public Records Law. The dispute is being kicked to Attorney General Maura Healey, who will have to decide whether the governor’s office is subject to the law. (CommonWealth)

Baker is filing legislation to crack down on revenge porn. (Associated Press)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A recount has confirmed the vote to turn Framingham into a city, with elections for mayor and City Council slated for the fall. (MetroWest Daily News)

Twenty activists were arrested outside the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston where they were protesting the detention of illegal immigrants. (Boston Globe)

The Boston City Council seems inclined to approve an exemption to a state law that would pave the way for Millennium Partners to build a 775-foot tower at Winthrop Square, despite the shadows it would cast on Boston Common and the Public Garden. (Boston Globe)

Hingham Town Meeting voted to loosen up a controversial leash law passed by selectman and will now allow dog owners to let their pets roam untethered in the town-owned Bare Cove Park on odd-numbered days. (Patriot Ledger)

The Fall River Housing Authority, in turmoil with the retirement of its executive director and the suspension of two top managers, tapped former executive director Thomas Collins as interim head to calm things down while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL/INTERGALACTIC

Former president Barack Obama returned to the public stage in Chicago, urging the next generation of leaders to step up. (NPR)

Reports of UFO sightings have more than tripled since 2001 and that may be a low-ball figure as the government no longer tracks such reports. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The Massachusetts Democratic State Committee is poised to kill a resolution that would have declared its opposition to Israeli settlements on the West Bank. (Boston Globe)

Former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich says in a new book that Donald Trump’s election as president shows the decline of a nation that has lost its moral compass. (Governing)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

President Trump is seeking to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from the current level of 35 percent, a move that could blow a hole in the deficit. (Wall Street Journal)

Online fundraising revenue for nonprofits jumped 14 percent in 2016, with email donations driving the increase, according to a new study. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

A study by the Harvard Business School finds increases in the minimum wage for food service workers raises the chances of some restaurants failing with mediocre eateries the most likely victims. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

The Baker administration says its 2018 capital budget will include $78 million to help with the demolition of a crumbling parking garage at the University of Massachusetts Boston. (Boston Globe)

U.S. News & World Report lists six charter schools in the Top 10 of its annual rankings of the country’s best high schools. Only Boston Latin School, at number 42, and the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough, at number 98, made it into the magazine’s top 100.

Two conservative student groups are suing the University of California-Berkeley for stifling conservative speech on campus. (The Daily Beast)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

UMass Medical School is laying off 65 people after losing a MassHealth contract. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

A mysterious malady is plaguing the passenger coaches of Keolis, the state’s commuter rail operator. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA is trying to speed up its Green Line trains. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

There are more than twice as many people employed in the solar industry than in producing coal, according to a report from the Department of Energy compiled before President Trump took office in January. (New York Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal judge in the civil case against the New England Compounding Center, which provided tainted steroids that killed 77 people around the country, has ruled the Federal Drug Administration and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy could be held liable for their failure to oversee the center’s actions. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Aaron Hernandez case is rocked by a court hearing over the release of his prison suicide notes, with rumors flying about their contents. (Boston Globe)

Cornell Mills, a one-time Boston city council candidate and the son of former disgraced state senator Dianne Wilkerson, has been charged with bilking would-be homebuyers out of thousands of dollars. (Boston Herald)

Law enforcement officials say the underground sex trade in the state is flourishing and is tapping technology to thrive. (Boston Herald)

A Plymouth man has agreed to pay restitution, perform 50 hours of community service, and write a letter of apology in a plea deal on charges he removed police memorial flags from overpasses along Route 6 on Cape Cod. (Cape Cod Times)

The Supreme Judicial Court upholds the firing of an assistant clerk at Salem District Court. (Salem News)

MEDIA

The national media really does work in a bubble. (Politico)

Huffington Post, the news outlet that famously refused to cover Donald Trump as a serious presidential candidate, is changing its name to HuffPost and promising to cover stories not covered by the mainstream media, or so says editor Lydia Polgreen.