Our Opinion: Boston politics beats alternative

Massachusetts voters are happy to elect Republican governors, and to the frustration of those governors, they are pleased to elect Democratic legislators. Governor Baker is the latest to try to figure out what if anything his party can do about it.

After swearing in the new Legislature Wednesday, the governor pointed out to the State House News Service that the Republican Party gained a seat in November's elections and did not lose a seat in a presidential election year for the first time since 1984 (Eagle, January 5.) The governor had to stretch to produce that positive spin, but with Democrats enjoying a 125 to 35 advantage in the House and controlling the Senate 34 to six, that is realistically the best he could do.

Republican chief executives William Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift and Mitt Romney preceded Democrat Deval Patrick, who after two terms, was succeeded by Mr. Baker. Voters appear to like their individual Democratic legislators better than Democrats as a whole, and routinely elect Republican governors to provide a check and balance. By the same token, Democrats' overwhelming numbers on Beacon Hill enable them to veto any gubernatorial initiative, serving as yet another check.

But even during the Patrick era, Democrats didn't run roughshod as a one-party government might have been expected to do. The liberal Governor Patrick battled regularly with the conservative House, which appears to have a better relationship with Governor Baker than it did with his predecessor.

Like his Republican predecessors, Governor Baker has a tough task in building his party in the state because of the unpopularity of Washington Republicans. Massachusetts' entire congressional delegation is Democratic and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took the state. Secretary of State Clinton overwhelming won the Berkshires, and only one Republican, Christine Canning, who ran for state Senate, emerged as a candidate in the five Berkshire or partially Berkshire legislative races.

The Republican governor-Democratic Legislature relationship obviously has its ups and downs, but it generally ends up working because, as Governor Baker often says, he and Democratic lawmakers can "disagree without being disagreeable." This skill is all but lost in Washington, where Congress is routinely paralyzed by spiteful partisan ugliness that goes far beyond issues to the personal and ideological. In Boston, the sausage factory process isn't attractive but the state's business gets done eventually and largely without Washington-style rancor.

Officials from neither party can be entirely happy with the Boston status quo and will try to shake it up in 2018, but with the U.S. Congress back in session we are reminded that Beacon Hill could be so much worse, and are grateful it isn't.


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