BOSTON (CBS) – Be honest – are you trying to avoid year-in-review stories due to the dumpster-fire that was 2020?
I feel your pain. But there’s no denying this was a monumental year for landmark news events, no more so than in the world of Massachusetts politics. So here, if you can stand it, are my picks for the top four local political stories of the year from H-E-double hockey sticks:
#4: Massachusetts presidential candidates flop
Sen. Elizabeth Warren had a turn at the top of the polls in the fall of 2019. But she faltered badly in Iowa and New Hampshire, and was swept away by the unexpected Joe Biden tsunami on Super Tuesday, finishing a shocking third in her home state. Even more dismal – the failure of Rep. Seth Moulton and former Gov. Deval Patrick to ever qualify for a presidential debate, let alone draw flies at the polls. And on the GOP side, former Gov. Bill Weld was unsurprisingly bulldozed by the Trump machine.
Moral of the story: being a next-door neighbor to New Hampshire didn’t count for much this cycle, even as the New Hampshire primary itself proved a non-factor in the outcome. Could this mark the end of the raging Potomac Fever that has afflicted so many Massachusetts pols since the 1960s?
#3: New traction for tax hikes on Beacon Hill
For years, it’s been a given – major tax hike proposals check into the Massachusetts House, but don’t check out. But that changed last March when the House approved $600 million worth of gas and ride-share taxes to help fund transportation improvements. The pandemic crashed the economy before the usually-pro-tax Senate could sign on and the tax package stalled, but look for new revenues to be front and center once recovery arrives, and for tax policy to be a key issue in the 2022 governor’s race.
#2: Unprecedented police reform comes to Massachusetts
Police unions have been a major lobbying force on Beacon Hill for as long as I’ve been covering it. But they got their lunch eaten this year in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the ensuing wave of anger and demands for change. The street protests faded away along with summer, but with the governor, Senate president and House speaker all on board, a substantial reform bill made it through.
It didn’t help their cause that police union leaders argued police brutality and lack of accountability wasn’t an issue here, as if the depredations of bad cops stopped at the state border. No one bought that, and while the final bill didn’t include everything reform advocates wanted, they got a lot, and surely will be back for more.
#1: How we handled the pandemic
All of a sudden in mid-March, politicians who prefer to be associated with good news were delivering the opposite on a daily basis – school closures, harsh business restrictions, cancellation of prized civic events. They’ve been vilified and sued for it – by some. But public support for the excruciating decisions made by Gov. Charlie Baker and others remains amazingly high, as the Massachusetts public took the battle against COVID-19 seriously, masked up and hunkered down.
This story will continue to evolve during 2021, and who knows what the ultimate fallout will be when we go to the polls over the next couple of years. But for now, the pols have the public’s sympathy.
Happy New Year! We need it to be.