Stop beating up Seth Moulton

He’s always tilted at windmills; that’s what he does

LONG BEFORE Ayanna (Change can’t wait) Pressley defeated incumbent Mike Capuano and long before Joseph (I can’t wait) Kennedy III began ruminating about a run against US Sen. Edward Markey, there was Seth Moulton.

Moulton ran against incumbent US Rep. John Tierney in 2014 and won, becoming the first candidate to defeat a sitting Massachusetts congressman in a primary since 1992. He took a lot of heat for bucking the wait-your-turn mentality that tends to dominate in Massachusetts politics, but that didn’t stop him. He went against the tide – that’s what he does.

He served four combat tours in Iraq, a war he spoke out against.

He joined former governor Michael Dukakis in pushing for a rail link between North and South Stations – an expensive, transformative transportation proposal that is derisively dismissed as another Big Dig.

And Moulton had the audacity, in the eyes of many, to call for the ouster of Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the Democrats in the House. He felt it was time for a new generation of leaders to take control in Washington, yet many in the nation’s capital and some in his district criticized him for trying to undermine a female House speaker.

Now Moulton is on to his latest quixotic quest, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, arguing the country needs a younger Democrat who describes himself as progressive yet practical, someone who can bring the country together and not divide it. “It’s time for the generation that fought in the Iraq War to step up. It’s time for the generation that sent us there to step aside,” he says.

On paper, it’s a pretty good message. Diane Hessan, who is tracking the shifting attitudes of a group of 500 voters, says many Republicans on her panel are looking for an alternative to Trump but not finding it among the field of Democratic candidates, most of whom have moved far to the left on the big issues.

“Given that nearly 100 percent of my 500 voters are distressed about the divisiveness in our country, and nearly 100 percent would like a leader to bring us together, perhaps there is a candidate who can inspire us behind new common-sense, less hateful messages that both Democrats and Republicans could support? That may be our only hope for keeping the United States united,” she wrote in a column this week.

Few view Moulton as that guy – he’s had zero support in every qualifying poll for the debates since he entered the race in April – and the congressman has been lampooned for thinking he was ready to run for the nation’s highest office.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“America simply doesn’t see what he sees when he looks in the mirror,” said Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker. “Running for president was a premature — make that a rash — move….He has always treated the job he has like a steppingstone to his true destiny, and voters tend to resent that. His time as a congressman could be done.”

Maybe. But Kennedys have always treated their jobs in Congress like steppingstones to their true destiny, and it hasn’t hurt them that much. Moulton may be guilty of overreaching, but it’s nothing new. That’s just what he does.