The Democrats, the Real “Big Tent” Party—Congratulations, MA’s Jake Auchincloss! September 13, 2020
For many years, the GOP constantly bragged about being the “Big Tent,” party. The late GOP Reagan/H.W. Bush operative and former RNC (Republican National Committee) Chairman Lee Atwater was fond of using that phrase. He viewed the modern GOP as a combination of blue-collar workers, evangelical Christians, national security hawks, and people who stood for fiscal responsibility all joining under one “big tent” to become America’s dominant political party. Atwater believed that in this “big tent,” GOPers could “house many views on many issues, including pro-choice and anti-choice views on abortion (See thisdayinquotes.com, 11/14/09).” IMHO, the days GOPers could call themselves members of a “big tent party” have long since vanished, if they ever truly existed. The GOP is now the wholly-owned subsidiary of Demagogue Donald, totally anti-choice, strongly anti-immigrant, anti-fiscal responsibility, anti-free trade, and pro-Russian strongman Vladimir Putin (See Stevens, “It Was All A Lie,”2020).
GOP talk notwithstanding, the Democratic Party has always been the real “big tent” party. In 1975, the late House Speaker, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (D-MA) aptly told a reporter, “The Democratic Party is a ‘big tent.’ We are widely diversified (thisdayinquotes.com, 11/14/09).” We always have been. Democrats have been the party of working people from the time of Andrew Jackson in the early 19th Century. Democrats have made room for many of America’s new immigrant arrivals from the Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles, and now the Hispanics and Asians. In 1964, GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater voted against LBJ’s Civil Rights Bill. Goldwater declared that GOPers must “go hunting where the ducks are.” Translation: Southern whites. As a result, blacks, who used to give the party of emancipator Lincoln 30%-40% of their vote, overwhelmingly joined “Team Blue.” Since 1964, no GOP presidential candidate has received more than 17% of the African American vote. In 2016, only 3% of blacks considered themselves Republican (See Stevens, ropercenter.cornell.edu). New England, one of the original strongholds of the GOP from Lincoln’s time, is now basically a “Team Blue” bastion along with much of the West Coast. Yes, a few GOP governors who back moderate views, like MA Charlie Baker, can be elected in New England. However, Baker does not represent the real extremist Tea Party/Trump national gang now “bigly” running “Team Red (See Stevens).” In strong “Blue State” MA, winning Democratic primary contests for seats in the U.S. House is usually tantamount to victory in the general November election. On 9/01/2020, Jake Auchincloss (32) won a crowded nine-way Democratic primary race. He was running in this open-seat race to replace 4th-term Rep. Joe Kennedy III who unsuccessfully challenged 2nd- term Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey in a hot primary race on that same date (CQ 116th Cong. At Your Fingertips, cnn.com, Rogers, A., 9/01/20). Let’s focus on this race.
The MA 4th CD is part of the Boston metropolitan region. After the 2010 census, the Bay State 4th was reconfigured and expanded westward to include towns along the RI border. The newly redistricted 4th starts with Brookline and Newton at its northern tip and that area accounts for about 20% of its population. About 40 miles away in the southern end of the 4th are the Bristol County cities of Freetown, Somerset, and part of Fall River. Connecting these two sections is a corridor with a variety of towns. These towns include Foxborough, home of the Patriots football stadium, Sharon, Wellesley, and Hopkinton. The northern and southern ends of the 4th are very economically different. The affluent northern suburbs of Brookline and Newton suffered very little from the 2008 recession, while the old textile-mill town Fall River was hard hit (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac). In 2016, Newton was ranked 31st by Money Magazine in its list of “Best Places to Live in America.” Newton has a median home price of $1.5 million, with nearby Brookline having a median $1.6 million home price, the most expensive homes in the state.
Originally settled and dominated by wealthy Yankee WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), the Newton/Brookline areas were solidly GOP. As late as 1960, Newton and its neighboring areas were electing a GOPer to Congress. However, demographic change took place in the early 1960’s. The local Jewish populations of Brookline and Newton grew and young liberal-minded families and university-educated people moved into this area. In 1962, at age 29, Greek-American Democrat Michael Dukakis was elected to the MA legislature and Brookline and Newton became Democratic strongholds. Brookline is now 16% Asian American and nearly half its school students are non-white. Mandarin Chinese is taught in a local public- school kindergarten. In the southern areas of the 4th, there are Portuguese Americans in Fall River, Orthodox Jews in Sharon, many Irish and Italian Catholics, and high income and college students in Wellesley. The city of Dover has some WASP Boston Brahmins. The influence of the Kennedy family, the far-right “Southern-fried” GOP, and the new demographic mix helped flip the MA 4th as well as much of this state into the “Blue” column. The most recent Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the Bay State 4th a D+9 score (See Cohen & Cook 2020).
As was previously noted, until he unsuccessfully ran in the 9/01/2020 U.S. Senate Democratic primary against incumbent Ed Markey, 4th-term Joseph Kennedy III was the 4th CD’s Congressman. Joe Kennedy III, is, of course, a scion of the famous Kennedy family. He is the grandson of former Atty. General and Senator Robert Kennedy, the brother of President JFK. Kennedy III’s father, Joe Kennedy II, represented the Cambridge, MA district in Congress from 1987-1989. The 4th CD’s Democratic primary winner, Jake Auchincloss, (AWK IN KLOSS), has both a Kennedy connection and is a descendant of a political upper crust family. Jake Auchincloss’ family tree includes JFK’s wife, former First Lady Jackie Kennedy and author Gore Vidal. Jackie’s stepfather, who married her mother Janet after her divorce from Jack Bouvier III, was wealthy stockbroker Hugh Dudley Auchincloss. In 1953, Hugh Auchincloss gave Jackie in marriage to JFK. Hugh Auchincloss, previously twice-divorced, remained married to Jackie’s mother until his death in 1976 (See nytimes.com, Herndon, 9/04/20, Cohen & Cook 2020, “The Kennedy White House,” Anthony, p. 149, boston.com/news, DeCosta-Klipa, 7/31/20).
Jake Auchincloss’ family tree is also representative of the ethnic and religious diversity found “only-in-America.” Jake’s father, Hugh Auchincloss, is the top deputy to Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His mother, the former Laurie Glimcher, is the president of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Jake’s mother, Laurie is Jewish and Jake was raised in that faith. He had a Bar Mitzvah and visited Israel while in college. He strongly supports a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians brokered by the parties themselves. Jake said that while on his Auchincloss side, these ultra-WASPS ran MA and the country in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, his maternal grandparents, like many American Jews, fled Czarist Russian pogroms (massacres against Jews sponsored by the Romanoff Russian government), to come to America. Jake noted that the Marine Corps provided the upward mobility for the maternal side of his family. In his words, “Imagine that. A skinny Jewish kid (his grandfather) signs up for the Marines during World War II because he wants to fight, and the Marines—fighting a vicious war in the Pacific and short of manpower –decide that this young man is pretty smart, and they send him to college. They took a chance on him. He went on to become a world-famous scientist. His daughter, my mom: the first female CEO of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (medium.com@ JakeAuch/on-background, 10/06/19, jta.org., 9/08/20, Dolsten).”
Jake believes that public service and politics are something to be proud of. On his Auchincloss side, his family served in the FDR and Kennedy administrations. On his mother’s side, it’s an obligation to give back to a country that welcomed a family of poor Jewish refugees and sent his grandfather to college. A graduate of Newton, MA public schools, Jake received his undergraduate degree from Harvard. Imbued with the need to serve, Jake joined the Marines. As a captain, he commanded infantry in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2012 where he led combat patrols through villages contested by the Taliban. In 2014, Jake led a team of elite reconnaissance Marines. His team partnered with Columbian special operations to train the Panamanian Public Forces in drug interdiction tactics (jakeforma.com). Jake was first elected to the Newton City Council in 2015 and re-elected in 2017 and 2019. He chaired the transportation and public safety committee, where he pushed to reform the police and to improve public transportation. Jake knows about healthcare from his mother’s position at Dana Farber and his father’s working for Dr. Fauci. His brother Hugh is a thoracic surgeon at Mass. General Hospital who led teams responding to COVID-19 and his sister Kalah served as Deputy Chief of Staff for two FDA Commissioners. Jake has an MBA in Finance from MIT and has written extensively on state and local policy at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Project on Municipal Innovation (jakeforma.com, timesofisrael.com, Kole). He also worked at a cybersecurity startup and as a senior manager at Liberty Mutual’s innovation lab (timesofisreal.com).
In a nine-way primary, where the candidates were progressive with few differences between them, Auchincloss, was helped by his family’s money and a Boston Globe endorsement. He was considered the front runner and was strongly attacked by the other candidates. Get real! As long as money is required to win and it sure is after the U.S. Supreme Ct. Citizens United opinion, Democrats should be able to use all the money they can get. The Kennedys and FDR came from wealthy families and used their fortunes to run. Should we have barred them from public service? Jake was further pilloried for having once registered as a Republican from 2013-2014 to help moderate GOPer Charlie Baker win the MA governorship. (Baker ran against inept Democrat Martha Coakley, who had previously lost a Senate race to GOPer Scott Brown to replace Ted Kennedy). Jake was, therefore, considered “not trustworthy,” by some Democrats. However,with the exception of 2013-2014, Jake had always been a registered Democrat. Jake had interned for Dem. Gov. Deval Patrick in college and had supported Obama (boston.com, 8/16/20, DeCosta-Klipa). Democrats, are we the true “Big Tent” party or not? Do we want to keep losing by checking off “purity boxes” and rejecting anyone who ever was a GOPer or voted for GOP candidates? Oh yes, some Democrats groused that Hillary was not a “true Democrat” because she once was a “Goldwater Girl.” And look what such grousing put into the White House! I know few if any Democrats who have not sometimes voted for GOPers. I am also acquainted with Democrats who previously have been with “Team Red” but rightfully left that camp. Jackie Kennedy herself grew up as a Republican, but became a Democrat, calling them “far nicer.”
In the end, Jake Auchincloss received less than 23% of the votes in this highly fragmented field and defeated the second-place finisher by just over 2,000 votes. Jake trailed other candidates in the wealthy 4th Boston suburbs. Jake, however, consolidated support in that district’s southern area. Jake’s backing popular Gov. Baker did not hurt him in that area (See nytimes.com, Herndon, 9/04/20). In the 11/2020 election, Jake will face Republican Julie Hall. Hall is a former Attleboro City Councilor and retired Air Force colonel. She is against gun control legislation and supports building a wall along the Mexican border (Vote Smart). In this district and with her Trumpian positions, Auchincloss is favored. Jake Auchincloss must win this district and keep “Team Blue” a truly “Big Tent.”