Baker really is a RINO

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S status was sealed last night: He is now an officially certified leading figure among the ever-shrinking ranks of major elected Republicans who question the sanity of their party. 

It came when CNN’s Don Lemon, whose nightly show has been part of the cable network’s four-year monologue on the destruction being wrought by Donald Trump, singled out Baker for approbation. Specifically, Lemon recognized Baker as a rare voice of Republican reason for his remarks at a Tuesday State House press briefing where the governor slammed Trump for stalling the transition to President-elect Joe Biden and called news that the Justice Department will get involved in voter fraud investigations “wildly inappropriate.” 

“Sanity, logic, reality,” Lemon said with his trademark earnest tone of solemnity. It came after rolling the video from Gardner Auditorium that we’re accustomed to seeing when Baker comments on new statewide COVID-19 positivity rates, not when he’s being held up as a national spokesman against the assault on democratic rule by the president of his party. 

Baker said blocking a smooth transition could not come at a worse time “than amid a deadly pandemic that the federal government continues to own primary responsibility for responding to.” He restated the fact that has been widely reported by every news outlet from Fox News to the New York Times that no evidence has been produced of widespread voter fraud. 

“I’m dismayed to hear the baseless claims coming from the president, from his team, and from many other elected Republican officials in Washington,” Baker said. 

With a melancholy mien, Baker talked of being a Republican for 40 years, raising money for Republican candidates, and knocking on doors for GOP candidates.

All that was missing was for him to end by reprising Lindsey Graham’s famous observation four years ago (which he has, of course, since vigorously walked back): “My party has gone batshit crazy.” 

That sort of comment is not part of the Baker preference for understatement, but it seems to telegraph exactly what he’s thinking. And it doesn’t just come down to Trump’s fact-free demagoguing of everything from immigration issues to election integrity. Baker doesn’t line up with Republican positions on some major issues of the day, such as his opposition to GOP efforts to upend the Affordable Care Act. 

Baker has taken flak for saying he blanked his ballot when it came to the presidential race, but it’s hard to see what sort of sliver of standing that preserved for him within his party when considered in the context of his comments on Tuesday. 

The major elected Republicans who have dared to recognize Biden as the president-elect could caucus in a phone booth (perhaps a fittingly outmoded image given how out of date they are with the Republican Party of today). And Susan Collins, one of the few Senate Republicans Baker seems to embrace, who is famous for her conditional equivocations, might have one leg dangling out of the booth with her comment congratulating Biden on his “apparent victory.” 

Though some have speculated that Baker could shed his party label and win a third term as an independent, there is no sign that he’s planning to ditch the GOP. 

Even the Massachusetts Republican Party, with its full MAGA orientation, bears little resemblance to the one Baker grew up in. But its vanishing membership still grudgingly gives him a vote when faced with a Democratic alternative. Meanwhile, unenrolled voters, now the state’s largest voting bloc, and some number of Democrats seem to have no problem voting for Baker as a Republican — as long as he continues to make clear just how much he’s not actually a Republican in many of the ways that label is now defined. 

In September, Baker even earned an attack tweet from Trump, who called him a “RINO” — or Republican in name only — for having the temerity to express dismay at the president’s reluctance to agree to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election. 

This morning, former Missouri Republican congressman Tom Coleman told NPR he now feels the same way some one-time Democrats used to say they felt. “It’s no longer my party,” Coleman said. “As Ronald Reagan once said about the Democratic Party, ‘I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me.’ I just substitute Republican for Democrat.” 

It would be worth asking Baker if that’s a Republican viewpoint he agrees with. 

MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

The US Supreme Court, refashioned by President Trump, hears arguments in a case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act and cost Massachusetts billions of dollars.

Gov. Charlie Baker slams President Trump for stalling an orderly transition in the midst of a deadly pandemic. He also defends his Republicanism.

As COVID-19 cases at MCI-Norfolk rise to 172, US Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins pressure Baker to decarcerate.

The House rejects a tax amendment as the budget debate opens; Rep. Mark Cusack of Braintree indicates raising revenues won’t work because the Senate won’t go along.

Opinion: A debt collection tsunami is coming and consumers need greater protection from creditors, say Jacquelynne Bowman of Greater Boston Legal Services and Richard DuBois of the National Consumer Law Center.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

BEACON HILL

The Baker administration is ratcheting up its commitment to diversity in state contracting, a sign of the growing clout of the Black Economic Development Council. (Boston Globe

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Political leaders in the Greater Boston area rallied outside Everett City Hall in support of Gerly Adrien, the lone black member of the Everett City Council, who has faced criticism from colleagues for opting to attend council meetings remotely because of COVID-19.  

The Salem Redevelopment Authority selects WinnDevelopment to redevelop two court buildings. (Salem News)

A long-running dispute over the tallest building in downtown Brockton has been resolved and the 8-story Centre Street building is now poised for redevelopment into 55 housing units. (The Enterprise

A majority of Rockport’s all-volunteer fire department threatens to quit unless two administrators are removed. (Gloucester Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Baker administration begins prepping for the second surge and starts planning for reopening field hospitals. “The trends are obviously going in the wrong direction and show no signs of changing,” the governor said. (MassLive)

A look inside the race by Pfizer and Moderna to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. (Boston Globe/STAT)

Alden Court Nursing Care and Rehabilitation Center in Fairhaven appears to be the location of a COVID-19 outbreak. (South Coast Today)

ELECTIONS

Joe Biden called President Trump’s refusal to concede an embarrassment, but he insists the president’s actions won’t impede the transition. (NPR)

The New York Times reached out to top election officials in all 50 states and said there is no instance of those overseeing elections, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, citing any evidence of major issues with voting and the election. A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims of ballot fraud were being cited by top Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, has recanted. (Washington Post)

A Globe editorial slams the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s role in the accusations of inappropriate conduct with UMass Amherst students leveled against Holyoke mayor — and congressional primary challenger — Alex Morse, and calls for new leadership when party chairman Gus Bickford faces reelection against two challengers on Thursday. Here’s CommonWealth’s look at the three-way contest for party chair. 

The state Democratic and Republican parties both face elections for party chair, with Republicans in the state split between Gov. Charlie Baker’s moderate ways and current chairman Jim Lyons’s full Trump approach. (Boston Herald

Stephanie Fattman looks back at her positive campaign for reelection as register of probate in Worcester County and her victory over a long-time aide in the office. (Telegram & Gazette)

Joyce Ferriabough Bolling says the incoming Biden-Harris administration, which owes much to the support and turnout of black voters, is poised to make a real difference in addressing racial justice issues. (Boston Herald

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Cape Cod Sea Camps, a fixture along Route 6A for 99 years, is closing due to COVID. What will happen to the 60-plus acres of prime beachfront property is unclear. (Cape Cod Times)

With the country observing Veterans’ Day, a house for homeless veterans opens in Randolph. (Patriot Ledger

EDUCATION

The North Adams, Pittsfield, and Hoosac Valley Regional school systems are all dealing with new cases of COVID-19, but are not shutting down. (Berkshire Eagle)

ARTS/CULTURE

A statue honoring Mary Wollstonecraft, considered the mother of feminism, is unveiled in north London and features a naked woman emerging from a swirling mingle of female forms. (The Guardian

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal judge has pushed back the start of the corruption trial of former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia and a top aide from January 13 to February 2. (Herald News)

MEDIA

Gannett newspaper websites in the area appear to go through a redesign. Here’s an explainer from the Taunton Gazette.

Umpteen straight hours on the air crunching election numbers have earned MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki his 15 minutes of fame as the Groton native rockets to nerd-chic stardom. (NBC10)  

PASSINGS

Celtics legend Tom Heinsohn has died at age 86. (Boston Globe)